Padma Vibhushan Pandit Ram Narayan’s role in Hindustani classical music cannot be overestimated, given his efforts in elevating the sarangi to a solo concert instrument. He attained national and international renown, recording numerous solo albums and performing to full houses, having developed his own style of playing the instrument in order to give full play to its vast range of expressions. Excerpts from an interview:
You’ve received so many accolades that it may seem unfair to ask this, but which ones are special to you?
All the awards and accolades I have got are important to me. However, the Bhimsen Joshi Lifetime Achievement Award and the T Chowdiah Award are special because these are in the name of fellow artistes.
What would you call your single greatest achievement?
Just that I succeeded in bringing wide social acceptance and respectability to the sarangi, which was dismissed as an instrument used in kothas. The fact is that the sarangi had been used for centuries in India as part of temple music also but, somehow, it fell into obscurity. I fine-tuned and experimented with my technique for years and now, I feel very happy to hear people say that it was because of me that a much-neglected musical instrument had its rebirth.
You daughter Aruna and grandson Harsh play the sarangi. Are you confident about the future of the instrument?
I know that all those that I taught, including my family, will do their best to preserve my legacy. I’m hoping that those who are interested in learning how to play the sarangi will go to my students, so that the tradition can continue. However, I won’t say that I’m entirely confident about the sarangi’s future. Who’s to say that it won’t, once again, be neglected? We have done it before and we are capable of doing it again, and that’s what I’m worried about.
“Meet the Maestro: Ram Narayan” is at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai, at 6.30 pm