Sitarist Partha Bose talks about his career and contemporary classical music
Indian classical music is still perceived by the average listener, and even some aspiring musicians, as something unfathomable. Sitar maestro Partha Bose, however, believes that it’s high time India’s traditional music practitioners demystify the music.
“The great gurus have contributed a lot to the music over the years. But for some inexplicable reason, in an attempt to glorify the music, they gave the impression that it’s very abstract and difficult to grasp,” says Partha Bose, who is celebrating the golden jubilee of his musical initiation this year.
We talked to the maestro—who has won multiple accolades including the Nikhil Banerjee Memorial Award—about his career and musical philosophy as he came down for his first performance in Kerala at Dakshinottar Sangeetotsav organised by Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Paving the path
Even in 2018, Millennials are worried about convincing their parents on the career they want to follow. Now in his mid-fifties, Bose freshly reminiscences the troubles he took as an Economics graduate from the prestigious Presidency College who decided to pursue music instead of going into the family business.
Starting his training at the age of six, Bose says that it was during his teens that the “sound of music lingered even after practise sessions were concluded.” Mentored by Pandit Monoj Shankar of Maihar Gharana—a school of Hindustani music which has bred talents like Ravi Shankar—the sitarist is thankful to the traditional guru-shishya system of education that has brought him where he is now.
“In our days we used to travel with the gurus, understanding the various aspects of performance—from capturing the mood of the audience to choosing ragas—and about developing a personal style balancing tradition and creativity. Over the years life has got busier and students don’t spend as much time with their teachers. But, on the bright side, an enthusiastic student has the luxury to watch their master’s performance on YouTube,” notes the 56-year-old, who believes that classical music wouldn’t survive without effective improvisation.
Striking a balance
Launched into wider classical circles through Kolata-based Dover Lane Music Conference in 1993, Bose has toured the world multiple times including performance at festivals like UK-based Bath Festival and Australia’s National Multicultural Festival.
So what keeps his music distinct and relevant in the contemporary music scenario? “My compositions have been deeply influenced by vocal trainer Ustad Sagiruddin Khan whom I encountered in my early days. Besides preserving traditional elements in the alaap section (the meditative mood at the beginning of a performance), I’ve incorporated Sarod phrases which gives my playing an emotional content,” says the musician, who has shared the stage with prominent figures like tabla virtuoso Pandit Kishen Maharaj.
As a music educator who has been invited to many Western universities for seminars and workshops on the methodology of teaching, Bose laments that the Indian classical community hardly focuses on training a generation of gurus who can carry on the tradition of bringing up talents in the music.