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"I always start my concert explaining what I am going to play and finding parallels for it from the West," says Bhattacharya

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Taking the santoor West

Tarun Bhattacharya, the Maihar school's only santoor player, says it will take some time for his instrument to match the popularity of the sitar and the tabla in the West




"Let music be the sanctuary in this age of unrest," says Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya, just back from the US and Canada after an 18-city, 36-day tour.

The tour was, in his words, an extension of that effort, and his commitment to spreading Indian classical music.

Bhattacharya is the only santoor exponent of the Maihar school, made famous by the great Ustad Allauddin Khan, his children Ustad Ali Akbhar Khan and Annapurna Devi, his disciple Pandit Ravishankar, and a stable of illustrious practitioners who learnt from these maestros.

The tour, supervised by the University of Pittsburgh, saw Bhattacharya performing and giving lecture demonstrations at places such as Washington DC, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Tampa (Florida) and Torento (Canada).

"I always start my concert explaining what I am going to play and finding parallels for it from the West," says Bhattacharya, winner of the Excellence in World Music (USA) and Best Critic (Germany) awards.

For instance, he says, jazz has elements it shares with north Indian classical music. "I try to make our music more comprehensible to a Westerner who has come to such a concert for the first time," he says.

Bhattacharya believes in interacting with his audience. That, coupled with his choice of innovative compositions, has earned him a fan following, and friends like (ex-Beatle) George Harrison.

He feels the santoor has a long way to go in Europe and the US before it can match the popularity of the sitar and the tabla. Back home, he has brought it within the reach of all deserving students by setting up the residential Santoor Ashram, where he gives free lessons, food and lodging.

His US and Canada tour came after last year’s condolence concerts (in the US, a month after the Twin Tower tragedy). "When things get too hot to handle, it's best to fall back on music and look within oneself," he reflects.

Tanusree Chatterjee




Published on 14 June 2003




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