'The language of music unites all'
A global face in Hindustani classical music, Pandit Bhajan Lal Sopori believes that music is respected by everyone irrespective of their nationality.
A big name in the Hindustani classical music, Pandit Bhajan Lal Sopori, who has enthralled the world with his mesmerising Santoor, is now all set to steal the show with his son Abhay Rustum Sopori on the occasion of 'Delhi Classical Music Festival' being held in the Capital today. Millennium Post chronicles the stories of the 'King of Strings' and his early life musical journey with son Abhay Rustum Sopori, his live performances worldwide and his music academy SaMaPa, which works as a catalyst to healing many people.
How did your musical journey begin?
The saga began from the year 1953 when I was only five years. I was invited to give my first live performance in Srinagar auditorium. Later, in 1954, I was delighted to be a part of a children's show which was aired on the radio in Srinagar. Performing at the Durgiana Temple in Amritsar in 1959 was also a memorable moment. Gradually, I delved into the technicalities and nuances of Santoor. And eventually, I was able to introduce my own style – Sopori Baaj.
You were 10-year-old when you gave your first performance at a conference? How did you manage to create magic at such a tender age?
(Smiles)… I belong to a family of music. My family has played santoor for over six generations. In addition to inheriting the quality from my father and grandfather, blessings of my loved ones especially Kashmiris was bestowed upon me.
How does it feel to perform alongside your son?
It brings tears of joy along with pride when you see your child blossom as an artist. It was absolutely an out-of-the-world experience to give a live performance with my son Abhay in the year 1995 at Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi. Over the years, Abhay has grown in stature as an artist.
You are both, a santoor maestro and a Guru. How would you differentiate yourself in two roles?
As a Guru, my teachings to my students are always imbued with a sense of honesty and dedication towards one's work. Above all, one must have faith in God. Never give up. Sacrifice your life if required to accomplish your mission. My grandfather and father ingrained such values in me. On the other hand, I find myself in paradise while I perform.
Your music academy SaMaPa aims at healing jail inmates through music; creating a bonding between them and the society. How does your academy meet these objectives?
SaMaPa is just not a music school, but a relaxing agent as well. It was established keeping in mind the active promotion of classical music, especially among jail inmates. I remember the memorable moments spent with the prisoners. The bright smiling faces of the prisoners the moment we begin music is all I can see. Therefore, music is the best healer of pain. I have attempted to break the stigma attached to prisoners in society, through music. My son and I decided to bring out their musical side. I was amazed to see them composing ghazals of Sufi tradition and have always tried to encourage them to realise their untapped potential, pursue their interests and showcase their talent to society.
You are considered as the 'cultural bridge' between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. How do you think music links all cultures?
I firmly believe in the fact that India stands as a unified nation when we talk about its own culture and music. The language of music unites all regardless of regional differences as our culture is our pride.
Which nation you think is most welcoming in terms of music?
I have taught music to students of Washington University in the US. Also, I was invited to perform in European Parliament in Brussels. My performances have been broadcast in India which was seen by Indians and audiences of Belgium, Norway, Egypt, England, Germany, Syria and the US. I have noticed that music has no language and knows no boundaries. Most importantly, respect, love and devotion are the three prime factors needed to appreciate music. If you love and feel the music, it can be understood by everyone irrespective of their nationality.