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Love, Devotion & Surrender – Pta. Tripti Mukherjee, speaks about her institution, her guru and the state of Indian Classical music today

Submitted by on April 13, 2011 – 3:41 am18 Comments
 

Whenever, I see Tripti ji, one beautiful saying of poet Kabir Das comes immediately to my mind,

“Guru gobind dou khade, kaake lagoon paay
Balihari guru aapne gobind diyo batay”

What this translates to is that if both God and your Teacher (Guru) were to appear in front of you, who will you show your first respects too? The poet Kabir says, it will be undoubtedly the teacher, because if not for my Guru, I would not have known of the existence of God in the first place.

Such was the tradition of respecting the teacher in past generations. Today, if one wants to find a similar dedication to a teacher, one needs to look no further then Pta. Tripti Mukherjee. A beautiful singer in her own right and the torch bearer of the Mewati Gharana (school & tradition) she has done a lot to bring the tradition to the US.

This Interview of the Vocalist Tripti ji, digs deep into many areas of Love, devotion sacrifice, and surrender to the cause of music and the dedication to her Guru. I can only say that her words touched me deeply and

Dileep: You seem to have dedicated your whole life to music and the Pandit Jasraj ji’s institute of music, have you accomplished your initial intent and goal?

Tripti ji: Yes, definitely. I remember, it was back in 1993, while we were on a concert tour in the US, that Guruji, Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj ji, received persistent requests from the Indian community, to start a school of vocal music in USA. Requests came from adults who wished to learn Indian Classical music themselves and also wished that their children get an opportunity to learn this classical art form.

Guruji heard the earnest requests and felt that through such a school, the rich culture and music of India would be passed down the generations. He entrusted the responsibility to me and two other disciples.

I still recollect the day when he had asked me ‘kya tum sambhalogi?’. Gure ke agyaan ka paalan hi meri zindagi hai. My life is dedicated to my Guru and to music. I told him I would be happy to teach and that I would like to give dedicated time to teaching. For example, I thought that if we combined classes with our concert tour dates, it would not justify the teaching process. We would have to come to the US, on a dedicated teaching trip.

The ‘Pandit Jasraj School of Music’, as it was called then, opened its doors to students in September 1995, in New Jersey. Initially the idea was that we would take turns and come here for four months each, every year. However, soon it became apparent that, from the students’ point of view, if their Guru changed every four months, that was not a very good idea. We realized that one of us would have to stay back and teach at the school. Due to family and other constraints it was difficult for my Guru bhai and behen to stay here. At that stage I decided to stay back and take full responsibility of the school. This was my Guru Dakshina to my Guru.

The last 16 years have witnessed the evolution and establishment of the Pandit Jasraj Institute for Music Research, Artistry and Appreciation – the Mewati Gurukul. It is registered in the state of New York. We have branches in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Over the years, the institute has imparted music and values to thousands of music students in the US. As the name suggests, the Pandit Jasraj Institute encourages research in music, trains students to be professional performing artists and also hones music appreciation skills. The institute is open to all persons, of any nationality and background. Many of the senior disciples perform in concerts themselves and are also very capable teachers.

So, yes, the initial intent and goal has been amply accomplished.

Dileep: How do you see the younger generation taking the Indian classical music forward? Do you see them redefining structure and traditions or do you think the traditional structure of music will hold well?

Tripti ji: Indian classical music is all about improvisation within the structure of the Raag. It is timeless. Due to its spiritual nature, it appeals even if you don’t understand it. This art can be learnt from a Guru by being in his presence – in the traditional Indian system of Guru-shishya parampara, the shishya or disciple stays with the Guru – the Guru teaches not only the music but he moulds the entire life of his shishya. After years and years of dedicated riyaaz and performance, under the guidance of the Guru, can this art be perfected. The grace of the Guru is very important to reach heights in this performing art.

The Pandit Jasraj Institute is based on the Guru-shishya parampara. The current life-style of the students in US does not permit them to stay with the Guru, like in the traditional model, but to the extent possible, they spend as much time as possible in the Guru’s presence and in the Gurukul. There are a few in the younger generation, who are able to pursue Indian classical music with the required dedication.

Speaking of the younger generation at-large, I feel, due to the reality shows and current state of media, this generation does not feel the need to put in years and years of hard work. They see examples where success, name, fame is very easily accessible today. There are others who engage in fusion music – i.e. use western instruments with classical music etc.

I feel that the traditional Indian classical music stands on a very deep and firm footing and it will withstand the test of time. The younger generation will experiment with it but eventually the original form and structure of our music will hold good.

Dileep: As one of the primary disciples of the highly respected, Pandit Jasraj ji, you seem to have given less importance to carry forward his torch on the concert front, what I mean is, it looks like you have focused on fewer concert performances in the past ? Any reason for this? Is it because you focused on the teaching aspect?

Tripti ji: As we talked about earlier, establishing the Pandit Jasraj Institute is my Guru Dakshina to my Guru. As you can imagine, it was an uphill task for me to do so in a foreign country. This is the first vocal music of its kind in the US. It is often compared to the Ali Akbar College of Music in California. What Ali Akbar College is to instrumental Indian music, Pandit Jasraj Institute is to vocal music.
Running an institute in my Guru’s name was a very huge and precious responsibility. I have dedicated myself to this institute – the amount of time I have given to this endeavor – was required. It had to live up to his name and be a premier music institute.
In the initial days of setting up the school, I would fly back to India every month for concerts. The intention was to focus on the institute, but continue to perform in concerts. However, such frequent trips to India were not feasible from health and economical standpoint. Over the years I have been doing concerts in India, US, Europe. I travel with Guruji for concerts too. But yes, you are right, because my energies have been focused on this institute, I have not been as active on the concert front, as I would have been otherwise.
However, now that the Pandit Jasraj Institute is on a firm footing – many of my senior disciples are now very capable teachers and can themselves perform in classical concerts, I am now focusing on doing concerts again. I have been away in some sense, but I am looking forward concerts now.
I find though, that today’s audience is quite different from the audience 15 years ago. People would attend classical concerts in large numbers, but the situation in India is different now. Bollywood music is popular. People have less patience to listen to classical artists. So, we will see what lies ahead. Music is and has been my life and I see myself performing and singing for as long as I live.

Dileep: But, Tripti ji, do you see teaching and performing professionally clash in any way in meeting goals and objectives?

Tripti ji: No. In fact teaching enhances your own music – in the process of teaching you upgrade your own music. I have had the good fortune that some of my disciples have been so talented and hard-working that in the process of teaching them music that they could grasp and appreciate, my music has grown.

Dileep: It is true that the Gharana’s have played a significant role in shaping up the classical heritage, but tell us about the Mewati Sangeet Parv that you have established, what do you plan to accomplish through this?

Tripti ji: Through the Mewati Sangeet Parv, we wish to bring high quality concerts to the audiences in the US. We will present vocalists and instrumentalists through this concert series. The focus will be to promote and preserve Indian Classical Music. The Mewati Sangeet Parv showcases not only artists of the stature of Guruji, Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj, but also promising artists of the next generation.

I remember, a few years ago we had a team from NY state who was interested in sitting in on a class at the Pandit Jasraj Institute and audit it. After the class they had been very touched and impressed. They said that even though they did not understand the music, they felt that it was of a very high quality and that we should make all efforts to preserve and promote this music.

The Mewati Sangeet Parv will be our way to promote and preserve the rich cultural heritage of India. On that note, we have an All Day Music Festival planned for June 5th. It will feature vocal performances, dance and instrumental music.

Dileep: Tripti ji, tell us what your favorite raga is? What does that invoke in you, when you hear it?

Tripti ji: I feel that for any raag, if you sing it at the right time of the day or night and if you can catch on to its temperament / essence, then it gives unlimited happiness. That being said, Bilaskhani Todi and Bhairavi are my favourite raags. When I sing Bilaskhani Todi, I feel the presence of the Goddess – mujhe maata ke darshan hote hai – aur mere aansu nahi rukte (… and my tears never stop flowing).

Dileep: Well, what you just said, leads me to another question that’s been upmost in my mind.
Do you think performing ragas based on the age old tradition of the time of the day is a good system in the present day?
There is one view that adherence to this format is making afternoon, morning and early morning ragas less sung, which means it is indirectly affecting its popularity, possibly losing out on its treasures, and making them less popular. What are your thoughts?

Tripti ji: Performing ragas based on the age old tradition of time of day is good. But, since most concerts are presented in the evenings, many raags, which are not evening raags, cannot be presented if we follow this strictly. There are so many raags which have been forgotten over time because people stopped singing them. To avoid this from happening to many other raags, today many artistes should be sung at concerts, after informing the audience that a particular raag is not traditionally supposed to be sung at this time of the day, but an exception is being made so that the raag is sung and preserved.

Dileep: Tripti ji, why is it that the rare ragas are being allowed to become rarer. They are disappearing.
What are you doing to keep them alive or to word it better, what should we as a community of music lovers be doing to keep them alive?

Tripti ji: Rare ragas should be sung in concerts, recordings. Audiences should be able to understand and appreciate them. In our gharana, we sing many rare raags such as Gauri, Khat, Bhawani Bahar, Hussaini Kanada and Bhairav Bahar.

Dileep: I am just curious, as an experienced musician, does one still need to practice or do Riyaaz? Does one still need to keep learning and innovating?

Tripti ji: Yes. Riyaaz is done every day. Definitely – one has to keep learning – every day – every moment. I believe in going through life with an open heart – which is open to learning at every moment. Our music is our life- it is all about creation. Nothing is written. Learning and innovating goes on constantly.

Dileep: How do you plan for a concert? How do you choose the raags that will be sung, other than the traditional time based decision?

Tripti ji: On the day of the concert I prefer to be by myself. The tanpura plays in the background for the whole day. No distractions, no phone, so the mind is relaxed and focused. The raag suggests itself – it is as if the raag is present in the atmosphere and it reveals itself. So, the raags for the concert are not pre planned by us. We allow the raag to prompt us to sing it.

Dileep: What is your fondest memory of your guruji?

Tripti ji: Oh, there are so many!
There are two aspects of our Guruji. When he is on stage or teaching us – that is one aspect. The other one is when he is doing everything else – living his life with his family, shishyas, travelling, watching TV etc.In the first one is a world-renowned living legend and a strict disciplinarian. In the other, he is like small child. There are many many fond memories of both the aspects of our Guruji.

Dileep: Tripti ji, Before my one final question, I want to really thank you for this interview, your sacrifice and dedication to your guruji and Indian classical music is unequalled. We all have a lot to learn and gain from you. One last question, are you aware or is there any plans to archives guruji’s works?

Tripti ji: There are numerous recordings. ‘Golden Voice Golden Years’ was released which documents his life and work. Whatever he has taught us through his music and life, we are passing it on to the next generation.

That is our role – to pass on this cultural wealth and these values through the generations.

Thank you Tripti ju, once again for spending time with us.

18 Comments »

  • Nidrita Mitra-SInha says:

    This article is quite informative and eye opening.
    It touched me.
    Thank you for such an interview on Indian classical music and artist.

  • Dileep says:

    Thank you Nidrita, yes, it certainly was a very touching and moving expperience for me too, such dedication and sacrifices are so rare to see in these days.

  • Sabita Kanchinadam says:

    Thank you DileepJi for these frank and curious questions you have asked Guruji Pandita Tripti Mukherjee. Reading Guruji’s response only heightened my love for her. I feel truly blessed to see Guruji week after week and understand first hand what a Gharana is or a Gurukul means and above all what it means to be a Guru. It is one thing to read wiki definitions of these terms but it is entirely different and purer to see someone like Guru Pandita Tripti Mukherjee show it first hand. She has opened up our minds and is teaching us to listen to what is not said, to see what is not shown, to say more by speaking less, and to be fearless in times of uncertainity or in the face of unknown. All by means of her exemplary life that she leads. Jai Ho to Guruji.

    And Thank You DileepJi!
    Sabita.

  • Uma Singh says:

    Excellent article. A true journey of the traditional learning of Indian Classical Music.
    An eye opener to many. We are blessed to get guidance under such a Guru.
    Thank you Dilipji, for the wonderful interview.

  • Nayna says:

    We are really fortunate to have Bade Guruji and Guruji in our life and in our childrens life. We are blessed to be part of PJIM family.
    Thank you Dileepji

  • Reshma Vishwanathan says:

    Thank you Dileepji for doing this interview.

    We are so happy that finally the true “Mahima” of our Guru Pandita Tripti Mukherjee, is being brought to people. We are so blessed to be learning music from a person who is so humble and loving and yet, so accomplished!

    We can only hope that in the years to come we can emulate and imbibe some of her noble qualities in our life! Jai ho!

  • Dileep says:

    Thank you all for such nice comments. I am humbled by the respect that Triptiji has, and it is heartening to know that the future of Indian music is safe in the hands of all of you, as the dedication, respect and traditions shows. Thank you all once again. I am certainly awaiting her preformance on June 5th. also, thanks to many of you, who wrote me on email. I wish you had posted those lovely comments here, for all to see.

    Also, I really hope we can all bring back some of the rare ragas, and deviate a bit from the rigid time structure, so we dont lose the gems.

  • Lalita says:

    Wonderful and touching interview. Speaks volumes of the utter devotion of Tripthiji and her crusade to spread the tradition of Pandit Jasraj’s music.
    Great Job Dileep!

  • Vijaya Katti says:

    It is always a pleasure to read your blog Dileep.This is such a wonderful and very touching article on our Guru. We are truly blessed to be her disciple and part of Mewati gharana.She is such a down to earth ,humble,loving,caring and inspiring person and we are lucky to have such a great personality as our Guru.

    Thank you Dileep for this treasure.We all are eagerly looking forward for her performance once again on June 5 at all day music festival.

  • Vaishali Patankar says:

    Guruji.Pta.Tripti Mukherjee is indeed the epitome of unfaltered dedication and faith. Thankyou Dileepji for this thoughtful and insightful interview.

  • Sonali says:

    Dileep,
    Thank you so much for this insightful interview.
    Special appreication for the lucid way in which the interview has been conducted to successfully get the essense of Pandita Tripti Mukherjee’s life as an artist,shishya and guru!

    It feels great to have such immensely talented,dedicated torch bearers of Mewati Gharana right here in NJ!Eagerly waiting to hear her live performance soon.

    Best Regards,
    Sonali

  • Uma Vasudev says:

    Reading the interview was a very moving and humbling experience. What a wonderful person…besides ofcourse being a great teacher and performer. Its great Dileep that you have highlighted the unsung song! Any chance of hearing her concert in India? or do we have to satisfy ourselves with recordings?

    regards

    uma

  • Dileep says:

    Thanks Sonali for your comments. Yes, I feel we have kept the torch bearer of Mewati gharana a big secret and really have not done justice in recognizing her achievements and dedication.
    I believe she will be singing on June 5th, so I am looking forward for her concert too.

  • Dileep says:

    Uma,thanks for your comments. I believe she is now in India performing in some places, but I have no information on where she is performing or which dates. Hopefully, someone can throw light on these dates, if they are aware of this.

  • S.K.Das says:

    D/Dileepji,

    Namaskar,

    Pta Tripti Mukherjee is no body but an incarnation of Devi Saraswati herslf. Her voice is divine. It matches with cosmic frequency. Dillepji, I have a request to you. Long back Triptiji sang Geet Govind songs in a dance drama which was telecast on Sanskar TV. Can u request on my behalf to Triptiji that I want those videos of that drama. How to get it and whom to contact? Pls. do this for me. I shall remain ever grateful to you and Triptiji.

    Also will u pls let me know the e-mail address of her. I want to pay my soulful regards to my DIDIBHAI.

    Om Shri Radha Krishnabhyam Namoh

    S.K.Das

  • Dileep says:

    Das ji, thank you for your response and comments. I will certainly pass on this message to har and will also revert back to you on what she says on the availability of the dance dramas on videos. I myself am not aware of this.
    I also apologize but I am not in a position to give her email to you without her permission. I will certainly pass on the request. Thank you again
    dileep

  • Rajendra Kumar says:

    Dear Dileep Ji,

    I am familiar with Tripti Mukherjee’s voice with Geet Govind songs which are telecast-ed by sanskar TV. Yes its true that her voice is a divine thing. I am requesting you to please tell the way how I can get Geet Govind dance drama videos. I am very much attracted to those videos and music. I am awaiting for your reply.

    Thanks and regards,
    Rajendra

  • Mrinal Mehta says:

    Dear Dileep Ji,
    Before I go further,I highly appreciate and thank you very much for feeding information by this interview. I had privelige of listening Pt Jasraj Ji almost 24 years for the first time when he came to perform on 70th birthday of late Pt Ravi Shanker Ji in Pasedena College. Since then I am his ‘ bhagt’. I shall appreciate I you could mail me Tripti Ji contact either phone or email I have lot to ask her. Thanks.
    Mrinal

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