For a young man of 29 years only, Sangeet Chaudhari runs 'Spandan' a music coaching academy with the wisdom of a 92 year old professional. With a grandfather who was a classical singer and a painter, whose paintings still win acclaim and a father who was a music composer, Sangeet seems to have imbibed the creative genes of his elders. "Yes, exactly' replies Sangeet without the slightest of arrogance, ' and I plan to take that knowledge and my passion for music composition to a different level some day'.
Sangeet's father was the proud owner of a music orchestra. An ardent music buff,
he aspired to make a foray into Bollywood but wasn't destined to. One either needs to know the 'right person' to get that much desired break or what we all call luck smile in abundance. For Sangeet's father the road was too tough. His innumerable attempts brought him nothing but frustration and despair. A man of morals, he never desired to take the recourse to obsequiousness. A kidney problem killed the dream he had nurtured for years but the orchestra and coaching classes continued. After having lived on a single kidney for almost two decades when Sangeet's father suffered an attack on that kidney it took it's toll on the family. That was a turning point in Sandeep's life who was then 24 years. His mother was a civil servant and the expenses extremely high. "It was a terrible phase for our family".
Despite being the only child and a son, Sangeet never faced any parental pressure to pursue a specific stream of academics which could promise him a rewarding career ahead. 'I did want to pursue an M,B,A but circumstances clubbed with my own innate musical desires made me opt for a different journey. 'Kids of my age played with toys but I befriended my father's music instruments . It was very natural as I was surrounded by a range of these wooden toys which struck a note of melody in me at a very young age'.
One wonders how young and matured could he have been to understand music? 'Honestly, I struck my first chord on the table when I was but 5 and I composed my first piece of music when I was in the 7th standard' he states as a matter of fact. Unbelievable! 'But it's true' he smiles.
A Parent-Teacher (PTA) meeting in the school called for a little performance and the music piece was a famous track of Dr Zhivago. The young Sangeet assumed the slow track would perhaps make the parents a little drained with ennui and he went on to compose a more lively piece which his Principal fell in love with at the first hearing. Though a big achievement for Sangeet, a few last minute changes in plans did not see his composition blare through the speakers at that funcition. But that was the first encouraging incident for that young student.
When you feign surprise at the four year gap after his graduation, he replies 'I was taken in by modeling and wanted to earn some quick money . I did try my hand at it, but somehow it didn't work', his big eyes reflecting a little regret.
I t is difficult not to empathize with this ambitious and charming man who must have nurtured so many dreams . 'Like my father, I too didn't want to resort to crooked ways, bribe people, pull strings or curry favor for fame and fortune. I had seen my father struggle immensely. He used to work into the wee hours of the morning trying to get perfect his compositions . He was really good but not conniving. Perhaps that moulded me for the better".
Exactly four years ago, when Sangeet's father was quite ill, Sangeet decided to revive the musical notes in their lives. He started giving private tuitions. He took home his first bit of earnings and handed ito his father who was then subsisting on a very lean diet. 'I remember seeing his eyes sparkle at the sight of that first sum of my earnings, earnings from having imparted musical knowledge to someone. That evening, I saw my father actually gulp down a whole meal ."
Like most music enthusiasts Sangeet had always taken to the guitar but unlike others, he mastered it very soon and it was fortuitous that all his students aspired to be the next ' kings of guitar'. So how different were his students from their young teacher? 'As long as one is serious about learning an instrument, it's fine. But most of the students who came to me had a reason, ' he smiles. 'It was mostly to impress a girl or girls . To be seen strumming a guitar has become a fad. When you truly want to master the art of playing any instrument, you work hard towards your goal but if it is only for a temporary reason, it's a sheer waste. At times, a guy's crush is over before he masters the basics and his interest wanes naturally." Being patient with such students could be quite frustrating for anyone but not Sangeet who assesses the seriousness of his students at the very start. 'I do get a sense of their innate interest towards a particular instrument and guide them accordingly ".
Along the way Sangeet has had students as young as 4 ½ years and as old as 75 years old and one can't but marvel at the dexterity with which he has handled them. "It is very challenging and yet not too easy. My 4 ½ year student was a very lively kid. I suggested the keyboard for her to her parents. While I do understand the parent's eagerness for their child to be tutored at an early age, my advice to parents is to give their children some time, some space, let their interests surface and then allow them to make a decision. The 4 ½ year old kid could never concentrate. Understanding music needs to come from within. It is a natural flow. This tiny tot was just not ready for this training. I coached her for six months and then requested her parents to give her a break. My 75 year old student was eager, had the understanding but sadly enough at that age, one's body is not strong enough to control the instrument . There are many genuine music lovers who would love to play some instrument but either they don't have the time or when they do, they don' t have the stamina. Having stamina is a prerequisite but of course, I always encourage all my students regardless of their age".
Sangeet's personal preference of instruments is that of the 'nylon guitar' a term not too familiar to the ears. 'Yes, I know , he admits with pride 'it is a guitar which has nylon strings which accentuate the sound making it very soothing and melodic and it really elevates me to a different level". This 'nylon-guitarist' also enjoys Spanish music and gets really turned on by Flamenco tunes.
So where does his heart tilt towards, composing or music. 'A very good musician doesn't necessarily have to be a great composer. Musical instruments fascinate me but it is the composing of melodious music that I enjoy the most. I am working on something interesting which I hope will change the course of my life". Seeing my confusion on hearing the words 'music composition' and melodies Sangeet decides to teach me a little bit of his world. "Composing comes in various forms. A person can come with a tune, what we call a 'dhun' in hindi. This is termed as a melody. A musical arrangement is entirely different. It's a fitment of which sound is in sync and how it completes the tune in it's entirety. I used to watch my father do it all the time. He would be so immersed that all else would become oblivious to him. It's been a natural flow from him to me. Nobody can teach anyone how to compose music. It is God's gift. However, learning instruments can bring one closer to the art of composing".
In the recent past, Sangeet had composed the score for a very interesting documentary based on students committing suicides because of miserable marks or failure in the crucial years of their academics. 'it was of a 20 minutes (twenty) duration. I was interviewed on NDTV". Did that augur instant fame after all, it was on NDTV! Surely he would have been noticed. 'No, it was more of a 'blink and gone' case', he breaks into a laugh ' but I was very contented with what I had achieved, however small it may have been'.
Looking at Sangeet, one wonders how his classmates or friends must be sizing him up both in terms of a career and wealth. "Some of my friends are lawyers, some are managers and I guess I am neither. On the contrary, my friends tell me how lucky I am to have pursued my passion unlike them who have had to pursue serious careers for obvious reasons. But I am at peace with myself. I know my D-day will come. One needs money to make dreams come true. I have the talent. Composing the best of music is a dream and I will realize it soon".
And does composing mean being a humming-bird all day, trying to get hold of the right notes all the time? '
'Well, I try to compose sad tunes when I am at a low because that helps me in bringing out the pathos more beautifully. In a week of seven days, I dedicate three days to composing music. I spend time reflecting on what I have done and try to find the gaps, if any. I devote the other days to my students".
Try probing into other matters, and you will find that whatever Sangeet likes is in some way or the other remotely connected to him, to sangeet, to music! "I want to revive acoustic music. That is the 'real' music which people have lost touch with. Today the students who come to me are living in a different world. It's more like a 'pizza culture'. The desire to learn the most happening instrument is based on the craze of the hour. It is a transitory desire. I would love for the common man to understand the depth of a saxophone, double bass, everything in it's pure form. Today, real music has been overshadowed by techno and a myriad other new-age sounds. The real essence is totally absent, lost".
But aren't they still playing to entertain? 'Playing is an artistic work', continues the melodic teacher 'DJ's are not playing real music. It takes a lot to be a true player of real music. This is a profession which requires as much dedication and practice as that of a lawyer, doctor or any other. Like any other profession, it needs sincerity and persistence to achieve and become the best'.
Circumstances have made Sangeet wiser beyond his years. Once you engage him in a conversation, you will hear him come up with the most profound sayings of life per se. Ask him if he is religious or superstitious he breaks into a barrage of words. 'I am religious, not regimental but do remember to talk to God everyday. Superstitious – nah! My diversions include watching some weird comedies, reading books by Osho and on the Art of Living as well. I like doing things which keep me happy. Is there any point in doing something which is not going to keep you happy?'
So what does this passionate music aficionado think of the musical tastes of the 'generation-next'? 'Remixes are sad. The musicians just take the tunes of yesteryears, embroider them and present it to the crowds . There is no harm in being inspired by classics but take the cue and create something original, something of your own". But the crowds love remixes? 'Well, if you keep stale food in front of a hungry being, it will be eaten. But, if you give a choice of stale and freshly cooked food"? You do see sense in what he says.
And where does socializing figure in this very busy man's life? ' I have a few selected friends. I am a fun-loving person and like to mix with like-minded people". And how important is money? 'Yes, I do want to make money but never by crooked means, never'. But the world of Bollywood is full of compromises, paying obeisance to the maestros, sycophancy! 'I don't think A.R. Rahman is a crooked person or for that matter even a singer like KK. They both come across as genuine, honest musicians.
Take him into the future and quiz him on getting his first crore, this man replies 'I would love to go to Spain to learn the flamenco, travel around the world, listen to different forms of music and learn different music cultures. I would love to incorporate the various forms into our Indian forms and create something very different, very inspiring, very memorable. Above all, I would love to set up a wonderful music academy, the best of it's kind'. And that money and fame won't make him go loco? 'I have seen some real tough times. I will never be taken in by money and fame. I will never change for the worse. I would love to share what I have learnt, what I know'.
This musical talk could have never come to an end without questioning Sangeet about his name which strangely enough means music. 'It wasn't deliberate. With my father being a musician and me being the first child, it was just a very impulsive decision to name me so and I sincerely hope I do justice to it'.