'Without music I would be dead', says Pt. Debu Chaudhuri
|Pt. Debu Chaudhuri|
Padma Bhushan Devavrata (a.k.a Debu ) Chaudhuri needs no introduction. He is one of the finest instrumental musicians that India can boast of till date. He is the major exponent and inheritor of the Senia Gharana named after the legendary musician Tansen. For nearly forty years or so Pandit Chaudhuri has taught at the Department of Music in Delhi University. He has to his credit the creation of several new ragas besides three books highlighting the subtle nuances of Indian classical music.
A quick recap of the early years. It might come as a surprise to many that Debu Chaudhuri was born and brought up in Kolkata in a large family that had hardly any musical inclinations. In this regard, young Debu was encouraged and patronised by one of his sisters- in-law, who was a good singer of Rabindrasangeet. The young boy had his first brush with the sitar at the tender age of four. A major milestone came in the shape of a solo performance in All India Radio, at age14. Since then, there has been no looking back. The initial training was under the tutelage of Shri Panchu Gopal Datta and thereafter under the aegis of Ustad Mustaq Ali Khan who initiated him into the Senia Gharana.
The focus shifted to Delhi, in 1960 when young Debu joined the Delhi University as a lecturer in the Music Department, Delhi has been his home ever since. During his fairly long innings Debuji has given innumerable performances on both radio and television, taught more than a thousand students, delivered lectures in scores of countries around the world including UK, USA, USSR, Germany, and Netherlands etc.
Prof Chaudhuri now has all his hoped and aspirations pinned on his only son Prateek, a talented young sitarist in his own right, with whom he has already given many public performances both in India and abroad. Appropriately groomed by his father and guru, Prateek is gearing up to uphold the traditions of the Senia Gharana for the posterity.
In an interview with National Network of Education
, the maestro outlines his experiences as a teacher of Indian classical music, the prevailing scenario vis a vis the western influences as well as the shape of things to come.What do you think of music as a professional career?
It is not a very job oriented career. Moreover, it is also highly specialised. Anyone who succeeds, succeeds well. Someone who cannot succeed is nowhere. Thus music is highly subjective. Unfortunately, those who are unable to reach the desired high levels of performance are compelled to do things against their will.Are the youth of today inclined towards Indian classical music?
Not very much. On the contrary they are greatly influenced by the West. Television promotes Pop/Western music a great good deal. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR ) as an organization is promoting traditional Indian music. It is fashionable to listen to Pop/Western music. Most people feel they will be downgraded if they listen to Indian classical music.What percentage of university students take up music seriously as a subject?
Look, I will speak bluntly without any sugar coating. It is not even 1 per cent. Most of the students decide to take up music only when they do not get admission in other subjects. Music provides an easy way out for them. Such students confess "hamey to paas hona hai. Degree lena hai". Hardly anybody wants to take it up as a serious profession. 80% of such students lack high quality and indulge in substandard performances. Naturally, the overall standard of performance is going down the drains. Your experience as a professor of music in Delhi University for more than four decades?
I have found that we need to train students to make them more and more aware of the Indian classical music. I agree we cannot make all the people Tansens but at least we can churn out a few Kaansens ( i.e. those with a keen, well-trained ear for music). In the present time we may be able to find only 15-20 young musicians who are really talented and take up music seriously. It is indeed a very sad state of affairs.What is music to you?
Music is my life. Without music I would be dead. My wife is dead.* Every moment I miss her and think of her all the time. Without music I could not have survived.
*( His wife died more than a year ago, after a prolonged battle with cancer) What qualities should a professional musician have?
First and foremost a musician should be a good human being . Secondly, one must learn music from a good guru. Thirdly, he/she must have a sound knowledge of music. Moreover he/she must be whole-heartedly in love with music. He/she must exercise great patience in everything he/she does. He /she should be of a subdued nature letting only music reign supreme.What is the relevance of music in the present day lifestyle?
Music in the real sense of the term has tremendous significance in the lives of human beings even in the present day set up. Music has a soothing effect and is highly effective in releasing tensions, stress and strain. Music is also a form of meditation that helps in the upliftment of the soul and the attainment of tranquility. Moreover, music has an ennobling quality. It helps to foster peace of mind and harmony among people. It helps to transcend communal barriers. You will agree that most of the luminaries of Hindustani classical music happen to be Muslims. Where would you find such an example of communal harmony?What is your message to the youth of today?
The youth of today must learn to respect and regard Indian classical music. It is one of the finest musical traditions that have survived for so long. I exhort upon the youth to turn away from the popular music of the West and instead to focus more on our heritage. Indian classical music can make significant contributions towards national integration and peace. This in turn will ensure lesser violence and lesser killings all over the country. This is the message, which I had wanted to convey through my proposed performance in Gujarat, which did not materialise eventually. Music will help to elevate your souls and help you become good human beings.