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Reviving one of India’s oldest instruments Shatatantri Veena my priority, says santoor exponent Tarun Bhattacharya in NY

NITN | @notintownlive | 31 May 2024, 04:12 am

Reviving one of India’s oldest instruments Shatatantri Veena my priority, says santoor exponent Tarun Bhattacharya in NY Music

In a recent musical fusion at TNC, Huntington, New York, audiences were treated to a mesmerizing collaboration featuring young musicians from the Indian Diaspora and Latin America and leading them was India’s global music ambassador Tarun Bhattacharya. 

This unique ensemble brought together diverse musical influences, instruments, and traditions, resulting in a truly unforgettable performance.

At the heart of the ensemble was the legendary Tarun Bhattacharya, one of the foremost disciples of the Bharat Ratna sitarist Ravi Shankar and the only Santoor or Shatantri Veena exponent of the famed Maihar Gharana.

His mastery over the instrument with its roots in Indian classical music, provided a rich and evocative backdrop for the ensemble's exploration of musical boundaries.

Accompanying Bhattacharya was Urjani Dey, a talented prodigy representing the Indian diaspora on vocals and keyboard, bringing her own unique flair to the performance.

Adding to the ensemble's global flavor were South American musicians, from the ethereal sounds of the harp to the soulful melodies of the clarinet and guitar. The ukulele added a distinctive Latin American touch to the performance. The fusion of Indian and South American musical elements created a rich tapestry of sound that transcended cultural boundaries and captivated audiences.

The ensemble included Sam Yanuck on clarinet, Rene Sanchez on ukulele, Tur Ze on guitar and vocals, Tyrone Wisdom and Crystal Chaco on vocals, Courtney and Gerard Fleming on guitar, Hazel Leon on keyboards, and Gina Marchese on harp. Together, these musicians showcased the diversity and richness of their respective musical traditions.

Speaking after the concert,  Tarun Bhattacharya said, “It is my keen desire to reinvent the magic of India’s centuries-old traditional instrument, the Shatatantri Veena. Many of us are ignorant about the fact that the present form of Santoor always existed in this part of the world and is not an import from Central Asia.

"References are found in many of our ancient texts and scriptures, and even the Rig Veda has mentioned the Shatatantri (100 strings) Veena. Somewhere down the line, with several invaders and conquerors from Central Asia and Persia, we lost this art form, and today many credit the instrument Santoor to foreign influences," he said.

"While not denying the influence, we cannot forget our roots, our ancient pristine culture, and the beauty of the creations and inventions that our forefathers made hundreds of years ago. In this Amritkaal, as we bring back our lost traditions and creations, my humble contribution shall be reinventing the Shatatantri Veena,” he said.

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya is credited with inventing and completely changing the style of playing the Santoor, helping musicians play the instrument at a lower octave.

Apart from his experiments with the instrument, he is one of the very few living Indian musicians credited with the creation of a new Raag; he created Raag Ganga a few years back.

Globalizing Indian music and India’s culture through his music remains his biggest contribution to date, but the musician’s dream is to make the heritage Shatatantri Veena a household name again after centuries.

The collaboration seamlessly blended East and West, tradition and innovation. Through their performance, they demonstrated the universal language of music and the power of cultural exchange to bridge divides and foster understanding.

The event at TNC, Huntington, New York, was not just a concert but a celebration of diversity, creativity, and the transformative power of music.

It served as a testament to the boundless possibilities that arise when artists from different backgrounds come together in harmony, united by their passion for music and their shared humanity.

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