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The quintessential thinking artiste

Pt Rajeev Taranath 1932-2024
Last Updated : 12 June 2024, 05:36 IST

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Sarod legend Pt Rajeev Taranath’s mastery was often referred to metaphorically as a vast expanse beyond the reach of mountains by his admirers and disciples. That is perhaps where he has now reached, beyond the familiar peaks and plateaus, into an unending expanse of melody and emotion, to settle at the feet of his cherished guru —  for his life was inextricably connected to his guru Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, himself an extraordinary sarodiya, son and disciple of the celebrated Baba Allauddin Khan.

As one of the foremost proponents of the Maihar Allauddin gharana, Taranath, who passed away in Mysuru on Tuesday, was proud to inherit its rich legacy. The gharana was known for its openness and approach to developing ragas. This is the world into which he stepped, bidding goodbye to a sparkling, secure career in English language and literature. Submerging his intellect, he stood before his guru like a child, with adoration and hunger for learning. His life mission was clear: pursuing ‘Khansaab’s sarod-music and none other’, as he reiterated on every occasion.

Even while lying in the ICU, it was evident that his pain was alleviated somewhat when he was listening to his guru’s music. Just two days ago, drowsy with numerous medications, his swollen fingers still kept rhythm, perhaps to the lines of a melodic bandish or an extempore taan. A brilliant mind of our times, Taranath espoused honesty, pluralism, secularism and compassion as the most enabling values of life. He believed it was the only way to live, a belief shaped by the long artistic tradition of this country. Not many know that he was the president of the Karnataka Civil Liberties Committee formed in the wake of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

A custodian of multiple cultures, the true-blue Kannadiga’s love for the Kannada ethos was anchored by his syncretism. His engagement with Kannada literature and writers, his deep forays into English literature and language, and his exposure to the Western world as well as to multiple Indian languages lent a razor-sharp precision to his own ‘Kannadiga-ness’. At the same time, his music reflected his authoritative style, his deep voice and his robust personality. As a quintessential thinking artiste, his avowed concern in music was to capture “the essence of classical music that knows no falsity or humbug”.

To pen a tribute to the great man is as upsetting as it was joyful to write about his music, his insightful take on art and life and his special relationship with his chosen instrument. A conversation with him was always a treat for it is hard to find people like him who could hold forth on music and literature, the languages, politics as well as cricket with such erudition and relish. It is this love and warmth that he shared with people around him that will be remembered for long along with the soul-stirring strains of his sarod. 

(The writer is a sitarist and author)

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Published 12 June 2024, 05:36 IST

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