East and West; the Twain Do Meet – An Interview with Pandit Sukhdev Chaturvedi
There are few instances where you find a musicians adept at both Indian classical and western music. Pandit Sukhdev Chaturvedi is one such person. Music director, Dhrupad Dhamar and Haveli Sangeet singer, Pt. Chaturvedi’s life has seen many ups and downs in his life. Panditji acquired classical knowledge from legendary Dhrupad singer Late Pt. Vidur Malikji from Darbhanga Gharana. His skills were appreciated by Late Kalyanji bhai, famous music director who later taught him western music. And this makes Pt. Chaturvedi familiar with both worlds of classical and western. Despite his knowledge of about 500 raags, Panditji still believes in learning. He is still waiting for a good opportunity to make a mark in music direction.
Raga to Rock: When did you start your musical education?
Pt. Charurvedi: I feel very blessed as my father, Pt. Hardev Chaturvedi was my first guru and I started learning music under his guidance at the age of four. Later I feel proud to be disciple of well-known dhrupad singer Pt. Vidur Malikji from Darbhanga Gharana. Later when I participated in a taluka level competition, I was acknowledged by the zilla adhikariand Nathilal Sharma, who is himself a legend in playing harmonium and a student of Ustad Amir Khanshaab. He approached and commended and said he would be obliged to teach me Vilambit Khyal and he thought me within 15 days.
I did schooling in Mathura and acquired MA equivalent degree from Allahabad in music and later obtained Alankar degree from Gandharva Mandal in Mumbai. I believe in learning. I have also learnt music from Pt. Ramchandra Mungaji from Brij, S L Kandara of Aakashwani (All India Radio), who is also a well-known violinist. Later when I came to Mumbai I learnt western music from famous music director Padmashree Late Kalyanjibhai.
RTR: How supportive were your parents?
Pt. Charurvedi: My parents were very supportive. My father is my inspiration. My family was not financially sound. It was a very small house with a kitchen and a hall. I used to play tanpura at midnight and would riaz in morning hours but they never complained about it. My gurus used to visit our house and they would help me organize bhaitaks, as we welcomed them open heartedly. These instances show their support and love for me.
RTR: What qualities have you attained from your guru, Pt Vidur Malikji?
Pt. Charurvedi: Late Pt. Vidur Malikji was a down to earth and simple person. It was my Karma, and God’s grace that I learnt Dhrupad from Pt. Vidur Malikji from Darbhanga Gharana through guru-shishya parampara. He was multitalented and even though he was very well known for his Dhrupad gayaki, he also sang ghazals, khayal, thumri, dadra beautifully. His technique of playing tabla would make others think, as he was as good as Pt. Samta Prasadji, the famous tabla ustad from Benaras Gharana. He was not a money-minded person> The fact that we were not well financially never crossed his mind and he kindheartedly gave knowledge. Once he came to my house he took charpai and sat in the verandah under the tree. He never complained about anything.
RTR: When did you give your first stage performance and how was it received by the audience?
Pt. Charurvedi: My father being a singer, I always accompanied him, which was an advantage of being from a musical background. I was never afraid of the crowd and would perform pretty confidently. I instance comes to my mind. Once I accompanied Guruji to Tansen Sangeet Samaroh in Gwalior and did so at a very short notice. Guruji, in his own element, started singing Raag Darbari and was performing beautifully but I it scared me as the bandish, which guruji started was only slightly known to me. But being seated beside him gave me a lot of confidence and I started singing with him, and was later acknowledged by the media. To my surprise after two months I gave my first solo stage performance, which saw a huge success.
My first solo performance was at Bundelkhand Sangeet Samaroh in Jhansi. I started playing pakhawaj and startedlaykari when a thought of Guruji crossed my mind. I sang an unheard laykari, which was received well by the audience. It established me as a good singer.
RTR: You served as a lecturer in KRPG girls Degree College in Mathura. How did that happened?
Pt. Charurvedi: In 1987, my guruji Pt. Vidur Malikji started a dream named Sukhdev Malik Sangeet Mahavidyalaya. The institute was named after my guru’s father, which coincidentally is my name too. Guruji asked me to teach students. I was not ready for the job but Panditji built confidence in me saying that in his absences I would teach students and I had to agree. This institute later got recognized from Pracheen Kala Kendra Chandigarh and I was acknowledged as a teacher.
I was approached by Madhu Seth, then Head of K.R (P.G) Girls Degree College in Mathura. I told him that I am not educated, but Madhu Seth said that relevant knowledge was what mattered and thus I started teaching girls there. Some of my students are now lecturers and some pursue singing as a career. I was lecturer from the year 1990 to 1994. I was also simultaneously busy with stage performance and shows.