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The unforgettable compositions

Mumbai, Dec. 12: Raag Parmeshwari and Raag Tilak Shyam, which Ravi Shankar created by fusing various ragas, remain two of his most remembered compositions, flautist Ronu Majumdar said.

Raag Parmeshwari was a blend of Raag Ahir Bhairav, Raag Bageshwari and Raag Rageshwari, while Raag Tilak Shyam was born out of Raag Tilak Kamod and Raag Shyam Kalyan.

“I think these two creations by Panditji would be my favourite as they are spiritual and truly original. There are others that he created, like Raag Bairagi Todi, Nat Bhairav, and Raag Rasiya, which I think Panditji personally revelled in,” said the Maihar gharana (tradition) flautist.

“His aura was so intense. I looked at him as a part of God. Otherwise, how can a man create such a vast body of music? His background music for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali seep into every frame of the films. He composed (the tune for) Saare Jahan Se Achchha in 1947-48 and it is still sung in every school in the country.”

Majumdar said his tour of Russia with Ravi Shankar transformed him as a musician.

“I had the good fortune of spending nearly a month on that tour. One evening in Moscow, he called me to his room and spoke to me about how I should develop my individual style. That small chat changed my life,” he said.

Begum Parveen Sultana, a vocalist from the Patiala gharana, recalled how Ravi Shankar honoured a request from her husband, Ustad Dilshad Khan.

“My husband grew up with Panditji’s son Shubhendra in Delhi. During a concert in Delhi around 1975, we heard Panditji play Raag Bihari, an uncommon and difficult raga that remains our favourite. So, one day, my husband requested him to play it and he promised he would. He had a fantastic memory for such things and called us to a concert in Mumbai a few days later where he played it live for us,” Sultana said.

“Indian musicians have lost a gurujan (elder) under whose protective umbrella all the younger musicians practised our traditional music. I feel the same pain that I felt when I lost my walidsahab (father),” she said.

Percussionist Ustad Taufiq Qureshi, son of Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, named Raag Bhopal Todi and Raag Maanj Khamaaj as his favourites.“Panditji is credited with bringing several South Indian compositions into north Indian classical music. I thought he particularly loved playing Raag Charukeshi, Raag Parmeshwari and Raag Jogeshwari, all of which he created fusing different ragas. His connect and rapport with my father was unbelievable. Before a concert, they never rehearsed or discussed what to play. They just went onto the dais and plunged into the raga and tala on the spot.”

Qureshi said his elder brother, tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, might dedicate his concert with Pandit Birju Maharaj at Shanmukhananda Hall tomorrow to Ravi Shankar. “Zakirbhai has played with Panditji many times. He was just 16 when he went on a tour of the West, and it was with none other than Panditji. We thought he might cancel tomorrow’s concert but he spoke to Pandit Birju Maharaj and they have decided to go ahead. So, they could dedicate their performance to Panditji,” he said.

Satvik Veena exponent Salil Bhatt, son of Mohan Veena maestro Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt, recalled Ravi Shankar performing at several concerts in Jaipur.

“Panditji was like a family elder. He taught me Raag Nat Bhairav, a Karnataka-scale raga he had introduced to north Indian audiences. It remains my favourite.”

Music critic Amrendra Dhaneshwar said the sitar maestro did full justice to any raga he played. “I love his rendition of Raag Lalit in shuddha dhaivat, which he played at an all-night concert years ago,” he said.