Musician Abhinav Arora’s upcoming show in Bengaluru is a political commentary on all things love
A PhD in Musicology, Abhinav was only 14 when his financial conditions pushed him into the world of ragas
Hindustani music, once gatekept by gharanas in India, is a medium to express deep emotions for musician Abhinav Arora, who will be in Bengaluru this weekend for his ghazal mehfil, Nazam-E-Mohabbat. A PhD in Musicology, Abhinav was only 14 when his financial conditions pushed him into the world of ragas and now, he has found solace in everything from classical, semi-classical and Sufi music. A self-taught artiste with no musical background, Abhinav had a rather heuristic approach towards the classical art form. Ahead of his performance in the city, the artiste spoke to us about his introduction to hindustani music, what brings him peace and his source of inspiration.
Tell us about your early musical influences.
The introduction of music in my life was interestingly very spiritual. Nobody in my paternal or maternal family is into music. However, when I was 10 years old, my mother got associated with a spiritual organisation and a spiritual guru, Ashutosh Maharaj, and asked me to sing a bhajan in front of almost 50 people. After that, I started learning with some local teachers but because of the paucity of money, I could not train from a renowned guru at that time. I learned music by listening to legends like Jagjit Singh, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Hariharan.
At what stage did you decide to pursue hindustani music as a full-fledged career?
At the age of 14, there were some unfortunate incidents and circumstances because of which my father lost all of his business and we were financially tormented. I had to professionally start performing through a spiritual organisation. They would take me to different cities where I would learn different languages, different kinds of bhajans and folk songs alongside the technicalities of music and sing to different instruments. That really helped me gain a holistic approach to music.
They say hindustani music is an ode to love and devotion?
Music is an art for m where all kinds of emotions can be expressed. Love and devotion are one of them. When I am singing, I associate an emotion or a life experience with the song. It is very rare that I sing a song that I don’t relate to.
How do you maintain the balance between vocals and instrumental music in your sets?
No matter how much you rehearse at home, when you go on stage, you can’t predict what is going to happen, it’s a very spontaneous and improvised art. I believe in collaborative music-making where people with a similar passion for music come together.
If not music, what do you do to bring yourself peace?
When your passion becomes your profession, it sometimes stops giving you peace because you are always concerned about the technical aspect of it. As an escape, I love to travel and explore new places.
Do you think more people appreciate hindustani music with the advent of social media?
Social media is definitely a medium with potential because it’s a way to reach larger audiences. It is a great medium to promote the art form. Anybody, irrespective of background, can promote their talent and it is very inclusive that way. But when the audience is not aware of the nitty-gritty of music, they observe different kinds of things like clothing and the presentation, taking away the art form’s relevancy.
How has the response to your music been in Bengaluru?
In Bengaluru, I have seen one of the most evolved audiences. They received and enjoyed my music when I came in January. I did almost three shows and one workshop here and received an overwhelming response.
What can we expect from your performance this weekend?
I have created a new set list and I will be bringing new perspectives to my show. I look forward to a collaboration where both my audience and I can share a good time. My set includes songs that are a political commentary on love.
INR 650. April 22, 7.30 pm onwards. At Shoonya, Centre for Art and Somatic Practices. RSVP is compulsory