Pt Yogesh Samsi was in the city last week for the ‘Sangeet Virasat’ event that felicitates remarkable artists every year for their contribution in music. Pt Samsi was honoured with this award for his work in the field of tabla. A duet performance of his, along with his disciple Yashwant Vaishnav, took place too.
Sangeet Virasat was an event held in memory of Mehboob Khan sahab (acclaimed tabla player Ustad Mehboob Khan Mirajkar) and “thus it had to be special”. Says Pt Samsi, “A number of tabla players are invited to play at this commemorative every year and it is a great honour to be able to pay my respects to Khan sahab through my art.”
Speaking of the Pune audience, Pt Samsi says, “It is a perfect mix of audience and the best when it comes to the right kind of appreciation to artists.”
Pt Samsi began learning the tabla at the age of four, from his father, renowned vocalist late Pt Dinkar Kaikini. He took his early lessons under Pt H Taranath Rao, before intensely training under the finest tabla maestro Ustad Allah Rakha Khan, to become one of the most sought after tabla players of India today.
“At the age of nine, I underwent the traditional ganda bandhan ceremony (initiation of learning under a guru) and there my journey began,” he says, adding, “Ustad Allah Rakha Khan,” he says, “was a very demanding guru. With no technology in those times, I had to completely rely on my memory. I faced a lot of challenges but it has been one incredible experience.” Pt Samsi says that his guru turned him into “a thinking musician”.
Pt Samsi, who is trained in the Punjab gharana style of tabla, says that he is a complete follower of the age-old guru-shishya parampara. “I have been trained in this style and I believe that’s the best kind of learning any artist can get,” says the tabla player known for his knowledge of tradition, tonal clarity and aesthetics.
He says that his guru not only taught him the instrument but also the philosophy of life. “My guru and I shared a father-son relation. I try to follow the same with my students,” he says, adding that a few of his students live with him, while some stay nearby so that they can imbibe his teachings. “Our centuries-old art and culture can only be passed onto the next generation if they are living with their guru. There is so much in our culture that we need to know and learn,” he believes.
Western music and fusion
What does he think of the Western music? “I am big fan of the Western Classical music. I think it has got its own rich, deep and glorious tradition and history,” says Pt Samsi, who has been actively conducting workshops and lecture-demonstrations in music institutions in India, USA, UK, South Africa and Japan.
Pt Samsi, however, is not a big fan of fusion music. “I have nothing against it, but I think this phase is very temporary. You make fusion and it will be hit for a while and that’s about it. Classical music is here to stay for a long, long time,” he says, pointing to the fact that our music is in fact older than the classic age.
Future of art and artists
Despite the changing times and attitudes, Indian parents still look at art as an allied subject, not encouraging kids to take it up as full-time profession. “First and foremost, the government needs to wake up. It must step in, make music a compulsory subject in schools and ensure that it gets the respect it deserves,” he answers.
“We also need more gurukuls. They can preserve our culture if the government provides financial support by roping in the corporate sector,” says the artist, who has created a syllabus for learning tabla, designed specifically for teachers in the West. He has also worked on an instructional CD-Rom about tabla, understanding the need for a traditional art to move with the times and has accompanied some of the best musicians like Taufiq Qureshi, Ranjit Barot and Louis Banks.