As the Sawai Gandharva Bimsen Mahotsav approaches in December, we chat up with Shrinivas Joshi, the Executive President of the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal, as he talks about many things including his fond memories associated with it, rising talent in Indian classical music and why he doesn’t have to do much to attract the youth of the city to such a renowned festival that has completed 63 years.
What’s new this year at Sawai Gandharva festival for our music lovers?
We take pride in sticking to the old. So, this year apart from new artists, there is nothing new. The experience will remain the same.
When was the first time you attended the festival? Do you have any fond memories associated with it?
I’ve been attending the festival since I was born! This musical gathering has been happening for more than 50 years because my father used to organise it. In fact, my mother was pregnant with me when she sang at the festival and a month later, I was born.
As a child, my fond memories were associated with the food stall. After I grew up, I began to understand music and see the musical stalwarts attending the festival. Earlier, this festival was for three nights, and I would be really sleepy in the middle of performances.
The classical Indian music scenario has seen many family tied duos. Doesn’t this make the knowledge of music contained to one family instead of being shared?
It’s not like this anymore. There are people who are teaching others despite having no musical background whatsoever. Classical music requires years of practice and it’s not an instant fix. People who come from musical families are surrounded by this environment. The art is passed down from generation to generation. My father was in fact the first from his family to become a musician despite having no musical background.
The NH7 Weekender festival is taking place just before the Sawai Gandharva festival. What are you doing to build interest in classical music amongst our youth?
We don’t have to do anything. A large majority of our listeners are youngsters. Pune’s social and cultural mix has changed. There are people from different parts of the country and the city is also an IT hub. It has become a global village. Those who are musically inclined are much more open-minded so they will attend rock concerts as well as a festival like the Sawai Gadharva. Nothing needs to be done!
Is it easier for a more commercial music festival to get funding as compared to a festival like Sawai Gandharva?
Since this festival has a history and legacy, we are managing. Earlier there were no sponsors. The expenses are going up every year but we have to keep the ticket prices at a minimum. If a musician has a brand value and if he or she is famous then they will get sponsors. Classical music is on a much smaller scale. This is one of the rare gatherings where the name of the artists doesn’t matter as much as people go for the name of the festival and Sawai Gandharva has that value.
We noticed that are many new instrumentalists and singers. What are the highlights that they are bringing to the stage?
Every year, new artists perform at the festival. Sawai Gandharva is not a business venture. In other festivals, you bring in a very famous musician and you get the sponsorship for it. Here, we try to search for new artists and fresh talent and present them with a new platform. If they gel with the audience, they will become famous. 99 per cent of classical musicians have performed at this festival and earned fame. It feels good to see musicians who were not known rise to prominence. The new artists always bring in a variety because this is not just a Pune centric festival.
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