the-south-asian.com June/July 2004
- The world’s a stage
Playing the sitar in Athens at the inaugural ceremony of Olympics 2004 is not the only crowning glory of Gaurav Majumdar’s career. He is also the first and only Indian musician to perform exclusively for the Pope at the Vatican.
For over a year now Gaurav Majumdar has practiced the Nat Bhairavi tirelessly for hours on end every day but there are no signs of ennui on his face. Instead there is a certain radiance as he discusses the raga animatedly.
"It was for a very special occasion," he says with justifiable pride. The special occasion came on June 3 when Gaurav took centre stage in Athens along with renowned American composer Philip Glass and an orchestra comprising 40 musicians from across the globe to mark the official inauguration of Olympics 2004. The celebrations continued till June 20.
"It is difficult to describe the feeling. All I can say is I felt proud, thrilled, honoured and humbled all at once," says Gaurav the first Indian maestro to perform at the Olympics inauguration ceremony.
This lifetime opportunity came to him by default. The original invitation was extended to Anoushka Shankar but she turned it down. It was then that Ravi Shankar proposed Gaurav’s name. "I am thankful to Guruji for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime and also for allowing me to play his composition."
Apart from performing at the inauguration, Gaurav had a packed European schedule. From Athens he travelled to Rome and then to Lyons in France, Thessalonik in Greece and Ravena in Italy. The tour finally concluded in London.
But the Olympics isn’t the only crowning glory in the decade-long illustrious career of Gaurav. He is the first and only Indian musician to have performed live for the Pope at the Vatican.
Apart from Ravi Shankar, he has played alongside Lord Yehudi Menuhin in the famed East Meets West concert and more recently he has collaborated and composed for the English Chamber Orchestra and performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
But the maestro takes you by surprise when you ask him about his most satisfying performance. It’s neither Athens nor the Vatican – and not even playing alongside Lord Yehudi Menuhin. Rather it is his performance at the International Conference on Peace and Democracy in Berne, Switzerland. "I did a great deal of research for the concert and collected quotes of the greats of the likes of Martin Luther King, Einstein, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and based my composition on these quotes using my vocal skills. I gave the performance along with a western soprano. There was pin drop silence and when my rendering was over I got a standing ovation for almost five minutes," says Gaurav.
He credits just one man for most of his achievements—Pandit Ravi Shankar. "I consider myself lucky that Guruji spotted me at one of my violin performances and accepted me as his disciple," says Gaurav who comes from a family of musicians from Allahabad.
But despite his performances around the world Gaurav just has four albums to his credit. "I don’t want to flood listeners with my compositions. I want every album to be special and take a lot of pain over it. That’s why the process is time consuming and also explains why there are just four albums to my name," says the young musician whose favourites are Mozart and the Indian tabla maestro Kishen Maharaj.
This year is going to be eventful as far as his releases are concerned. There are four albums in the pipeline - two solo, one western and the fourth is music to peace. Yes, he says, "This is turning out to be the most eventful year of my career."
Gaurav strongly believes that classical music should be kept limited to those who like ragas and khayals. "It’s not a great idea to impose it on people. However, it is heartening to see more and more youngsters being drawn to classical concerts," says Gaurav, who later this year, is looking forward to a teaching stint in London.
"For me teaching is a very uplifting experience. I actually learn when I teach." No wonder he is the second most favourite shishya of Pandit Ravi Shankar - after his daughter Anoushka.
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