The fact that Shikhar Naad Qureshi, 22, does not play the tabla often comes as a surprise to many. “I did learn the instrument as it was always around me. But since it was around me all the time, I wanted to do something different,” says Shikhar Naad, who chose the djembe instead. Ustad Alla Rakha Qureshi’s grandson, tabla maestro Ut Zakir Hussain’s nephew and multi-percussionist Ut Taufiq Qureshi and Jaipur Atrauli gharana vocalist Geetika Varde’s son, Shikhar Naad plays the rope-tuned, single goblet drum that has origins in West Africa. “But the reason I can be versatile with djembe is because my entire rhythm education is rooted in the tabla. My father gave me the technique,” says Shikhar Naad, who learned from his father Taufiq. Shikhar Naad won the Lokmat Sur Jyotsna National Music Award along with Marathi playback singer and actor Arya Ambekar in a ceremony held last week at NDMC Convention Centre in Delhi.
The award came to Shikhar Naad two days before the centenary celebrations of his legendary grandfather Ut Alla Rakha. Extremely proud of his legacy, Shikhar Naad is aware of the expectations his surname comes with but is grateful to the family for not putting any pressure on him. “My parents never asked me to play the tabla or any other instrument. It was a choice I made, so there was no question of me being saddled with taking the family name forward. I am aware of the expectations people have but I don’t take it upon me to feel the pressure,” says Shikhar Naad, who has performed with Hussain, family friends and ace percussionists Ranjit Barot and Sivamani, and sitar player Purbayan Chatterjee, among others. His first concert was at the age of 15.
Nagpur-based Arya Ambekar, 24, began her career with Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Marathi L’il Champs, where she was the mega-finalist. She has sung in Marathi films such as Balgandharva (2011) and Ti Saddhya Kay Karte (2017).
Instituted by the Lokmat Media Group in the memory of late Jyotsna Darda, who founded the Jawaharlal Darda Sangeet Kala Academy in Nagpur, to provide a platform to students keen to learn music, the award felicitates and provides financial incentive to talented young artistes. The award was instituted in March 2014 on Jyotsna Darda’s first death anniversary. This was the sixth edition of the awards, which had musicians Roop Kumar Rathod and Sunali Rathod, and Shashi Vyas, founder of the classical music label Pancham Nishad, among others, in its jury.
The ceremony concluded with a performance by Nizami Bandhu, known for their renditions of qawwali and sufi qalam.