PLAYING SOLO Young harmonium player Vinay Mishra credits his musical inclination to the city of his birth: Varanasi. ANJANA RAJAN
Vinay Mishra, who comes from a family of doctors, has grown up surrounded by music. He was born in Varanasi, a city famed for being home to legendary exponents of Hindustani music. There is something in the air and the water of Varanasi, or Banaras, they say, that makes music sweeter than nectar and unforgettable. Added to the good fortune of being born in this city of *rasa’ or the essence of taste, Vinay also had a grandfather and father who loved music.
Taking to the instrument
Vinay, an accomplished harmonium player, started off learning to sing. He also learnt the sitar, and although “the essence of classical music is ragadaari, and the essence of ragadaari is vocal music,” the harmonium holds a special place in his heart. “I always had a harmonium at home. But I used to wonder why one did not hear of eminent solo harmonium players. That’s because till then I had not heard of the great soloists of this instrument, but anyway, it drew me to learn it. I became a disciple of Ustad Mahtab Khan Saheb and his father Ustad Chand Khan Saheb.”After completing a degree in music from Banaras Hindu University, Vinay came to Delhi to pursue his Master’s degree. Now he has completed his M. Phil, specialising in the harmonium, and is hoping to be accepted for a Ph. D to further his research in the instrument.“I have written about at least 20 great players of the harmonium. I discovered a number of lesser known names,” says Vinay.Though his family likes music, no one expected Vinay to take it up professionally. But, says Vinay, “By the time I did my graduation, I knew I had to do this.” Though apprehensive at first, his family soon grew to be proud of him as he got a chance to play as a harmonium accompanist to some of the most eminent musicians in Varanasi’s iconic Sankat Mochan Festival when he was hardly 20.Today, though, Vinay is keen to build a name as a soloist too. Delhi life leaves one little time for practice, he notes. Long commuting hours and extraneous considerations sap the energy. “Your clothes are observed more than your playing,” he quips.But Vinay is enthusiastic. He continues to take guidance from his gurus in Varanasi, besides senior harmonium exponent Appasaheb Jalgaonkar in Pune as well as vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.
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