23-year-old Sitar player Megha Rawoot fits the bill of being the Gen Next of Indian Classical Music. Born into a family with no musical inclinations, Megha displayed her musical interest when she was just 5 when she was gifted a toy keyboard. To her family’s surprise she played it quite well for a kid with no training.
Megha started learning music in school. At one of the school festivals, she heard the sitar and fell in love with it. She first learned the sitar under her school music teacher Dipti Mishra who introduced her to Indian classical music and motivated her to pursue it.
“Diptiji taught me how music and life are interconnected. She is like my second mother. My parents wanted me to be a vocalist but were supportive of me learning the sitar,” said Megha.
Like most sitar players, Megha too is inspired by Pandit Ravi Shankar and also the Maihar Gharana. Along with Ustad Allaudin Khan, Annapoorna Devi, Megha is highly influenced by Pandit Nikhil Bannerjee.
“I loved Pandit Nikhilji’s style as he would include nuances of gharanas beyond the Maihar Gharana. Though I loved the Maihar style, I didn’t want to be stuck to it. So I started exploring other styles. I was mesmerised by the way Ustad Vilayat Khan would use ‘gayaki’ and ‘gamak’ in the ‘meend’,” quipped Megha.
Sitar and various styles
Music was the subject Megha opted for in college. From a very young age, she had her priorities set. She wanted to pursue music and be a performer. Though a performer’s life is considered unstable, Megha was willing to take the plunge. Megha felt her non-musical background would be a hurdle in her home town of Delhi. She moved to Mumbai in search of a Guru who embraced the style of various gharanas and also explored world music. Her destiny got her introduced to the sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee.
Purbayan, who hails from the Senia-Maihar Gharana, is well known for his multiple Indian classical styles and playing fusion within the realms of Indian classical music. Primarily a classical musician, Purbayan performs his music in-tune with the times. A perfect guru for Megha.
“Purbayanji, my current guru, advised me to picturise the raagas when practicing. As we don’t have written notes for raagas, picturising them helps to identify and memorise it better. He asked me to follow the style of my gharana and my guru but as an artist I need to develop my identity too,” smiled Megha.
Being an audience’s artist
Indian classical music is about discipline. It forms the base of a musician’s endeavour to explore other genres. Its fluidity makes it easier to be incorporated with other genres. Fusion requires careful thought, introspection, and the ability to adapt and adopt other cultures. As an artist, to play fusion, one has to be aware of not just Indian classical music but world music too.
“I play an Indian classical instrument but I should know how to imitate other forms of music on my instrument. I am learning how to bring western classical elements through my sitar. The normal listener doesn’t really know fusion music. If musicians are performing with Indian and western instruments it becomes fusion for them. They don’t know that Indian classical music can be played on a western instrument too. John McLaughlin plays it on his guitar,” asserted Megha.
“A musician has to perform according to the kind of audience. If the listeners are knowledgeable about classical music they might not appreciate fusion. Artists cannot perform according to their fancies. After all an artist is performing for the audience.”