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Varanasi artistes look to Narendra Modi to revive city's musical heritage

Friday, 23 May 2014 - 11:45am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI
  • varanasi RNA Research & Archives

Veteran artistes from the Benaras Gharana are now looking up to Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi for revival of the glorious musical heritage of the ancient city. 

The city that has produced musicians like shehnai maestro late Bismillah Khan, a Bharat Ratna, late sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar and thumri queen Girija Devi does not have a state-of-the-art music academy. And now Padma Bhushan Devi, renowned classical singer Pandit Channulal Mishra, who was Modi's proposer in the Lok Sabha elections and Khan's family have expressed hope that Modi as prime minister will take interest in reviving the fortune of the city in the field of music. 

"I have been demanding land for music academy in Varanasi since the past 50 years but no government cared for it. I could not get land for the proposed academy. If I was given the land, I would have built a world class academy of music," 85-year-old Devi told PTI. "If there would have been such an academy in Varanasi, I would not have gone to Kolkata," she rued.

She is a faculty at Kolkata-based ITC Music Research Academy. She became the second recipient of Gujarat government's Tanariri award in 2011 after Lata Mangeshkar and is hopeful that Modi will take the initiative to revive musical tradition of the holy city. "I will meet him and talk to him about this," said the legendary singer.

Pandit Mishra also wants a state-of-the-art music academy for the Benaras Gharana in the city which sent Modi to Parliament. "I hope Modiji will do something for the musical fraternity of Varanasi. The city needs an academy where Thumri, Dadra, Hori, Chaiti, Khyal etc. are taught," he said. He also expressed concern over the dearth of talent to take the glorious tradition of Benaras Gharana forward."You won't find many big names in last two or three decades. Artistes learn music in some school or university and then start teaching. They don't practice and learn thereafter. We need an academy in Varanasi to keep our tradition alive so that artistes can do riyaz along with teaching," he said.

Khan's grandson Affaq Haider said there is a need to provide platform to local artistes."We are hopeful that Modiji will take concrete steps in this regard. There should be a grand auditorium in Varanasi which would provide platform to local artistes so that they don't have to depend on cities like Delhi or Mumbai for performance."Varanasi has sent Modiji to Parliament with a historic mandate and now it is his turn to do something for the city," he said.

Renowned folk singer Malini Awasthi, an alumni of Bhatkhande University and a disciple of Devi, said there has been no encouragement for artistes from successive governments but now Modi can change the scenario. "He had chosen an artiste as his proposer, so there is a ray of hope for the music fraternity. He will do something for the literature and music of Varanasi," she hoped. 

"Successive governments of Uttar Pradesh also did nothing for classical or folk music resulting in lack of platform for artistes. There has been a tradition of musical programmes at various temples of Varanasi like Sankatmochan samaroh at the temple, Drupad festival at Tulsi Ghat, Buddha Purnima festival etc, but they are organised by volunteers," she said. 

"Musical tradition of Varanasi is linked to the ancient times of the Pauranik legends. Lord Shiva, who is believed to have established this city, was credited with developing music and dance forms," Awasthi said. She also stressed the need for a music research academy based on 'guru-shishya' tradition where all recordings and documentaries based on artistes of Varanasi should be made available. 


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