Next in our segment, ‘Music from the Valley‘, we feature the santoor maestro Abhay Rustom Sopori. Regarded as the youngest classical musician to compose and conduct orchestras, folk music and Sufi ensembles, he was born in a family with a 300 year old legacy of Santoor players. Abhay learnt music under the watchful guidance of his grandfather, the legendary Santoor virtuoso and music composer Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori and from his father Pandit Bhajan Sopori. A graduate in Management and Computers with a Master Degree in music, Abhay inherited a profound sense of music from his famed ‘Sufiyana Gharana’ of Kashmir.
“It was my father who created this culture, am just reaping what he sowed,” smiled Abhay.
Creating Fusion Music with the Santoor
The ‘Sufiyana Gharana’ is known to incorporate various genres of music with the Santoor. A prime example of it being, Abhay’s father, Pandit Bhajan Sopori, who is credited to have brought the orchestra culture to the valley.
“The sanctity of the instrument should be maintained. You cannot have five solo performers randomly. You have to fuse the music in a manner that is appealing yet maintains its character,” asserted Abhay.
He is clearly not bemused by the musicians who do not maintain the cultural characteristics of the musical genre while experimenting with their music.
“Nobody can stop anyone from experimenting but at what cost and till what degree, that line you have to define” quipped Abhay.
The Sopori family legacy
Abhay has carried the legacy of his family in propagating and promoting the Indian culture globally. He has been instrumental in bringing the youth of the valley together through music. His initiatives have helped in creating music awareness with the youngsters thus bringing more recognition to the art and culture of the country.
“I have been selfless just like my family, maybe it’s a family problem,” laughed Abhay, adding,
“I have been blessed unlike others so I decided to do something about this disparity. My father told me there is no turning back and also that revolutions do not take place in palaces but by working at the grass root level.”
Working with Zubin Mehta
Abhay has had the honour of being the only Indian contemporary composer whose composition “Haftrang”, has been conducted by the legendary music conductor Zubin Mehta. ‘Haftrang’ which is a tribute to Kashmir, was performed by the Bavarian State Orchestra from Munich, together with Abhay’s Kashmiri ensemble. Abhay also had the honour to be the first Indian composer & conductor to share the stage and conduct along with Mr. Zubin Mehta.
The music academy – ‘SaMaPa’
SaMaPa (Sopori Academy of Music And Performing Arts), a non-profit organisation, is Abhay’s initiative which organises concerts for musicians who despite the talent are unable to bag shows.
Artisans are fading out and so are the instruments. According to Abhay, an industry needs to be developed to ensure that our rich music legacy does not fade into oblivion. The development of the industry will provide employment for these artists and artisans and will generate an overall interest in music. Abhay has worked on a music policy with the state government and has proposed to introduce music as a subject from primary level.
“The vision forward is important and it has to be clear. Apart from this there should be unity among the musicians. No policy can work without it,” opined Abhay, adding, “The hunger should for achieving more in your music rather than just performing more. Someday, the ‘I’ in a musician will die and what will survive is your music legacy and contribution.”