Melody of two guitars

fine tunes

He was eight when his tryst with the Hawaiian guitar began. Today, Jaywant Naidu is recognised as a very fine player of Hindustani classical music on the Hawaiian guitar. He has also created his own version of the instrument called Jaywant Guitar. And even received a patent for it! Alongside, he pursues his profession as chartered accountant with a firm of his own.

The unusual combination of Hindustani classical music on a Hawaiian guitar, a Western instrument, was pioneered by Brij Bhushan Kabra and Nalin Mazumdar in the 1960s. They used to perform and teach this form. It gradually found a few takers over the next few decades.

For Jaywant, the initiation was at his mother’s initiative. After his birth in Hyderabad, his family moved to Nagpur. He was not very interested in music. “After studies it would be cricket, kite-flying, spinning tops. However, my mother felt I had some potential. She took me to Swar Bitan Academy, Nagpur. I underwent a voice test but did not pass it,” he laughs. So, he was taken around the academy to hear the sitar, tabla and Hawaiian guitar.

Hawaiian guitar

“The sound of the Hawaiian guitar immediately appealed to me,” he says. He enrolled for classes in Hindustani classical music on this instrument under the academy’s teacher SN Mukherjee. The tutelage lasted seven years. Later, his family relocated to Mumbai where he continued his learning under Dinesh Kumar Sampath (disciple of sitarist Kartick Kumar).

In the 1990s, he moved to Hyderabad and began advanced training under B Kishtaiah, a sitarist. “His guidance was invaluable. Until then, it had been more of examination-oriented learning. Kishtaiahgaru taught me the concert module. I learnt how to develop a raga, how to understand and use a variety of thaals from him.”

Was it difficult learning Hawaiian guitar from a sitar teacher? “No. The two instruments have a great deal in common. Actually, there are meeting points among many Indian instruments — like violin and veena, for example.” True. There are indeed many interconnections among Indian musical instruments, and a great deal of convergence between the vocal and instrumental forms in Carnatic music.

In fact, Jaywant’s next teacher K Jangaiah was a Hindustani classical vocalist! “He would sing and I would reproduce the raga/notes on my guitar. He would even sometimes mimic the sound of my guitar to help me understand better!”

Jaywant considers himself extremely fortunate to have had wonderful teachers –– especially Kishtaiah and Jangaiah. “They moulded me with so much care and commitment. I am ever grateful to them. Their rigorous and thorough training made me a concert-level player.” They were very different from some of today’s teachers who are more focussed on fees, he adds. Jaywant gave his first full-length, solo performance at Madras Music Academy in 1996 at Vadhya Madhuri festival. He has since played at Raja Rani Music Festival, Bhubaneswar; YTL Fest, Penang; IIC, Delhi; German Centre, Hyderabad; Raj Bhavan, Hyderabad; and for NGOs like Vedavyasa Vidya Vignana Varadhi etc. He has also been part of concert collaborations with jazz artistes from the US, France etc. “I love the artistic challenge of playing with jazz artistes, as one rarely knows what is coming next — there is so much onstage improvisation calling for much creativity. It is exciting!”

Instrument of his own

During 2005-07, Jaywant began to fashion his own instrument, spending long hours with Kolkata guitar maker Mohammed Arif, to whom he gave his creative inputs. “When several violins are played together in western symphonies, it produces an altogether richer and wonderful tone which I love. So, I decided to have a guitar that produces the sound of two guitars.”

After two years of trial and error, the new 21-string guitar was ready — it has six main strings, three chikari ones and 12 taraf or sympathetic strings.

Last year, he was awarded a patent for it — and it goes by the name Jaywant Guitar. He performs on this and the conventional Hawaiian guitar too. This process also gave him an insight into the hardships faced by musical instrument makers in India. He realised that theirs was a laborious, time-consuming job with inadequate compensation and recognition. “As a result of these problems and official and social apathy to their condition, many of them have no second line of succession.” Jaywant recently presented a paper at the National Education Summit, titled Musical Instrument Makers: The Vanishing Tribe, in which he records his case studies of Bobbili Veena makers of Andhra Pradesh, Rudra Veena makers of Kolkata etc. He offers suggestions for improvement in their condition.

Is it difficult balancing the roles of chartered accountant and performing musician? “Well, I had to pursue education and take up a job as I did not come from a musician’s family. Hence, music as a profession was not an option, and there was no idea of how far I could go as a professional musician. I try my best to maintain a healthy equilibrium.” Well, he sure has made a success of that balancing act.

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