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Padma Vibhushan-awardee Pt Ram Narayan began playing the sarangi at five and is still going strong at 85.

Written by Joyce William John | Published: March 6, 2013 3:08 am

Padma Vibhushan-awardee Pt Ram Narayan began playing the sarangi at five and is still going strong at 85.

One day of learning in school and the rest of his life being educated by the sarangi. Padma Vibhushan Pt Ram Narayan knows what it is to play a different tune. “I went to school only for a day but didn’t like it,so I came back and told my father that I didn’t want to go back. The amazing thing is that he agreed,” says Narayan,who was in the city to receive the OP Nayyar Award on Sunday and shared his experiences on the artistic use of the sarangi by a composer.

Digging into his store of memories,the 85-year-old sarangi maestro says music came to him naturally. “Things kept falling in place from the very beginning as if it was destiny. I was only five-years-old when I laid my hands on a jogiya sarangi that a holy man had left behind at our house in Udaipur. That was how I began,” he says.

His first instructor was his father,who was neither trained in the sarangi nor a professional musician. “But he knew the basics and taught them to me. He’s the man who gave credit to my desire even though his friends and relatives questioned the choice. He used to tell them that one day I would play be on radio,” says Narayan,who later trained under many gurus. While learning,he would devoted 10 hours a day to practice.

From refusing to attend school to picking an instrument infamous for being used by dancers and then rejecting the pressure of becoming a singer like other sarangi players,Narayan has been holding his own for years. He also became the first to explore the sarangi as a solo instrument. “I did accompaniment for a while but stopped because I could not express what I wanted to,” he says. A financial crunch got to him at some levels. “I had to make ends meet so I played for the radio and then the film industry. However,I was firm that I would never give up playing this instrument and turn into a singer,” says Narayan.

With an array of awards and recognitions,the struggle is different now –– to preserve the essence of Hindustani classical music. “People produce senseless noise as music and have added a fresh angle that they call ‘fusion’. To me,it is only confusion that has distorted the real thing,” says Narayan,who still plays the sarangi for at least 30 minutes every day to keep things on track.

The maestro is also passing down his legacy to his students,a group that includes his daughter and grandson. “But I’m learning too. I give some instruction and I learn some. I am lucky to have good students,they will keep the art alive,” he says.

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