'No longer possible to be your guru's replica'

Dulcet note

Born into a family of musicians, it was natural for vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande to acquire musical traits. “Music and musical education became internalised, and practice was as important as school home work. When I passed the Sangeet Visharad (music degree equivalent to a Bachelors degree) I was 16. I had no idea about the depth of our music, or what Gharana music (vocalists belonging to an established lineage) was, or about the journey upon which I had embarked. Had the world of music and my mother not encouraged me, I might never have become a professional musician,” says Deshpande.

But the switch from a career in Biochemistry as a doctorate holder to full time musician took many years despite her early success and noticeable achievements, including winning the President’s Gold Medal at the All India Radio Music Competition in 1977, and performing with sitar exponent Pandit Ravi Shankar. 

Known for the modern genre of classical singing – Khayal, which comprises a repertoire of short songs (two to eight lines) as part of ‘Jaipur-Atrauli’ Gharana, Deshpande has travelled extensively as part of music conferences and Sangeet Sammelans. “We no longer live in a world where we can insulate ourselves totally from the dominant influences of our times. A performance is improvised and it’s no longer possible to be your guru’s replica, or a totally original musician, as we absorb and get influenced each day,” says the Mumbai-based artiste.

As a mentor, she has regularly participated in lecture-demonstrations on Hindustani Classical Music in various schools, colleges and sangeet sabhas and believes that the younger generation is willing to learn. “Unlike the widely held belief that classical
music is dying, the younger generation seems initiated and interested to learn and take it up. In fact, I would go a step further to say that irrespective of so many options, the new generation is still choosing classical music,” Deshpande tells Metrolife on the sidelines of the recently held HCL Concerts’ Swami Haridas-Tansen Sangeet Nritya Mahotsav.

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