A classical evening with Pandita Anupama Bhagwat




Music today has become a way of escaping anxiety and classical music tracks are known for their tranquillity. While there are several genres of music, most people nowadays prefer western music over classical tunes. pandita Anupama Bhagwat from Bhilai is among the few Indian vocalists who holds the ability to satisfy a wide audience. She is in Goa to perform at BITS Pilani Goa Campus’ annual classical music event ‘Sursangam’ today. Accompanying her on tabla is well-known tabla exponent from Goa Mayank Bedekar.

Anupama’s journey began in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh where she remembers waking up to music every day. “I used to listen to records of all the great legends of Indian classical music – ghazals and bhajans, which I started to emulate as I grew up,” she says.

Anupama comes from a musical family where her grandmother played the veena, her father the violin, and uncle and aunt the sitar. Although music was not a profession, it was always a passion.

She was formally introduced to music when she was five and started learning the violin and vocals in the Hindustani tradition. “At nine, my uncle was upgrading his sitar and gave me his older sitar to play. I really liked the sound and thus I began my sitar training with R N Verma,” says Anupama.

Her life then took a drastic turn and four years she began training to the next level. “The fact that the legendary polymath and Renaissance man, Acharya Bimalendu Mukherjee was resident in Bhilai pre-destined my musical journey and I commenced my musical tutelage with him,” she says.

For over two decades she took ‘taalim’ in the guru-shishya parampara: “I learnt the intricacies of the Imdadkhani Gharana, which is renowned for its fluency and grace,” she says.

Over the years Anupama has had the privilege to showcase Indian talent on global platforms. She opines that Indian music has always been embraced with lot of respect and interest by all the listeners. “Thanks to legendary musicians of India, who had taken our music to the West we could create spaces in the minds and hearts of people. Music to me doesn’t have barriers.” Her performances garner appreciation from the audience, where people approach her after the concert with moist eyes saying that the music touched them emotionally. “So I have always enjoyed performing on global platforms,” she adds.

Agreeing that the crowd today is leaning towards western music she says: “Inclination towards western music is not the only thing, we find the imitation of western culture in everything. And I feel it is a very temporary state and we can guide the youth to respect our culture and traditions.”

Anupama firmly believes that classical Indian music has its own aura and entertainment, a magnetism to attract the youth. “Very recently I went to an Engineering college for a TEDx talk and I am still getting so many messages from the youth, the students that they were really touched by the music and can’t wait to hear another live concert. I have committed young students who want to make this form of music as their career. This gives me a lot of confidence that if we present our music in its true form, and if we reach out to the younger crowd, classical music has the capacity to attract people, especially those who come with open minds,” she says.

Anupama has also collaborated on World-Music performances at events like the Lotus Festival, Global Rhythms, Cincinnati Choir, in addition to jugalbandis with renowned Indian musicians of other genres. Elaborating about the journey before and after this phase she says: “The journey before was interesting as I was making my base in Indian classical music strong and finding its immense capacities. The journey after collaboration gives me newer directions to reach out to people in a different manner through my music.”

Anupama is known for some spectacular jugalbandis with Indian musicians. Whenever she performs a jugalbandi she has always looked forward for some brave face offs. “A jugalbandi can succeed very well when the artists have a good understanding and when their approach is to bring the best not only by themselves but also from the other artist. And I was lucky to play some such concerts. Of course the challenge in a jugalbandi is to curb one’s flow of ideas to allow the other set of ideas guide you further. It is like enjoying the duet dance as much as the solo dance,” she says.

For youngsters who have been able to identify their passion for classical Indian music Anupama says: “There are no shortcuts on being a good musician. Riyaz (practice) and taleem (Knowledge) are the two key things that will take you to through this journey. It is such an art which gives its rewards, but when and how, we don’t know. So we should focus on our work and strive to be better and set our own standards. I would also encourage them to find their individuality and not merely copy other musicians.”

(The event is open to all.)