The Torchbearers is a tribute to the extraordinary talent and genius of
our master Musicians of today who are rich music tradition of India.
Populated by a plethora of different voices and experiences, the
Narrative will illuminate the readers about this rich art from
and eccourage them to keep the flames of Indian Classical music alive.
Born in 1998, Harsh Meswani is a high school student, residing in Mumbai, India.
He is a budding young musician, born in a business family.
He has two music albums to his credit.
The first is a cover album named Timless and the other an instrumental
album consisting entirely of his own composition, named Trial of Thought.
At an early age, his parents exposed him to indian classical music and
it is this ecpousure that led Harsh to cultivate his love for music.
He is deeply passionate about the cause of promoting Indian classical music
and this book is one of the initiatives towards this cause.
He has also started a website Indian Concert Guide, to provide
Information about music events taking place in the city.
He has two music albums to his credit. His first album, is a cover album named Timeless.
His second album named Tiail of Thought is an instrumental album consisting entirely of his
At an early age, his parents exposed him to Indian classical music and it is this exposure that
led Harsh to cultivate his love for music. He is deeply passionate about the cause of promoting
Indian classical music and this book is one of his initiatives towards this cause.
He has launched Indian Concert Guide, a website which aims at
building an online community of musicians and music lovers. It provides accurate information
about various Indian classical music events taking place in the city.
Harsh is a nature lover who enjoys sports and the outdoors. He plays tennis at a competitive
level and is also an avid skiier.
I was curious when Harsh asked me to write a few words about this book he was writing.
The subject, though near and dear to me personally, appeared to be at the opposite end of the
world that he occupies. He belongs to one of the most successful industrial houses of India and
is being groomed to be one of the pillars of the family’s business.
In order to tackle a subject that goes directly to the root of our culture, one must have a certain
amount of understanding and knowledge of that art form and also the protocols that it invokes. I
have come to the belief that Harsh has the tools necessary to embark on the journey of musical
discoveries. He owes a lot to his parents Bijal and Hital who took great care that all aspects of
art and culture were made available to him and that a deep respect for our tradition was planted
It is vital that our future generations understand the importance of preserving and nurturing our
tradition and culture because that is at the core of who we are and it establishes our identity
and place in the world. In this book, Harsh has attempted to bring to light the bench strength of
Indian music. He strives to show the reader that our music does not stop at a Pandit Ravi Shankar
performance or a Pandit Jasraj Haveli Sangeet or a Kishori Amonkar’s Maliro Pranaam. He in fact
appeals to his contemporaries to discover the extraordinary talent and genius of the young masters
of today who will be the flag bearers of this great music tradition in the near future.
It was as a sceptic that I started to read the opening paragraphs of Harsh’s book. I was surprised
to see how passionate and concerned he was about conveying with clarity, honesty and proper
respect, his conversations with the young maestros. I am happy to say that this attempt of Harsh
is a success. I hope that he reaches the youth of our country and enlightens them with the
wonders of this great musical form.
My parents exposed me to Indian classical music at an early age for which I consider myself
fortunate. Over the years I have come to like Indian classical music immensely and have devel-
oped tremendous respect for both, the artiste and the art form of our country. The art form is
truly unique as it covers various styles of music from Carnatic to Hindustani, from instrumental
to vocal, and also allows improvisation which makes this music compatible with even jazz and
Western instruments to produce fusion music.
Today, this art form faces stiff competition from other forms of music which are increasingly
becoming more commercial in our country and I strongly feel that not enough is being done
to preserve this art form and our rich culture and heritage. The legends of Indian classical music
who have made India proud and who represent India and our music on the world centre stage,
like Ustad Zakir Hussain and many others have done a tremendous job in nurturing the next
generation of artistes and passing on the legacy seamlessly to them. But, unless the youth of this
country takes an active role in embracing and adopting this art form, we will fall short in our
duty in giving Indian classical music its rightful place. Hence, I thought of spreading awareness
amongst the youth and that’s how the idea of the book was born.
My initial thought was to describe the richness of Indian classical music to the readers and
flooding them with details, but instead I thought it would be more appropriate if I could feature
today’s artistes and connect them to the youth i.e. connecting the art and the artiste to the reader.
I thought of doing this in more of a conversational style in a question — answer format where
I could capture insights and viewpoints of the various artistes and how they became successful,
how this art form has a lot to offer and what needs to be done to preserve it.
I bounced this idea off Ustad Zakir Hussain who immensely motivated me and encouraged
me to develop the concept further and cover the present day musicians in my book. I quickly
compiled a list of musicians I intended featuring. The list was very long and it would have taken
me a lifetime to complete the book if I were to cover each one of them. So I came up with a
short list of representative musicians who I have aptly called — The Torchbearers.
For me personally, writing this book has been a fulfilling and an enriching experience and I sincerely
hope this book has an impact on our society and the youth, in particular, and motivates them to
appreciate our art form and actively support and help in preserving and enhancing it further.
It was ten years ago I think, when I was sitting in the front row of the Shanmukhanand
Auditorium, a performing arts center in central Mumbai. I vividly remember the scene;
2500 heads staring in disbelief at the stage, where a magical phenomenon was taking place.
On the mandolin was Maestro U Srinivas, electrifying the atmosphere with unparalleled speed
and dexterity. V Selvaganesh was using his tiny kanjira to generate the sound of an entire drum
kit. Shankar Mahadevan’s vocal finesse filled the room with an earsplitting, yet enchanting vibe.
In the center, Ustad Zakir Hussain made playing the tabla seem as easy as tying a knot. At the
time, I didn’t know how blessed I was to witness four musicians of that caliber creating what
I would call the most melodious cacophony.
That concert was just one of many I attended throughout my childhood. I still faintly remember
those nights as a toddler, when I would be ready to sleep in my mother’s arms while the
wizardry unfolded before me. At the time, I had no idea who these musicians were; in fact, I had
no clue what music was! However, I gradually became accustomed to the sound, and developed
a taste for Indian classical music. And after fifteen years of listening to this rich art form, I know
how important it is to be exposed. My appreciation for music gradually translated into playing
an instrument. Being a proficient keyboardist myself,I| know the countless hours that go into
achieving even my level of expertise, let alone becoming a classical maestro! I have immense
appreciation and respect for the dedication and practice required to pursue such a career.
Furthermore, I find that our art form has unparalleled diversity. The sheer variety of instruments,
and the fact that all instruments are compatible with one another makes both Hindustani and
Carnatic music truly unique. Our music can even adjust to Western jazz and fusion! As Indians,
we should also be proud of the fact that our music encourages improvisation, making the art
form richer and more spontaneous. However, despite all this, I believe that Indian classical music
does not get the recognition it deserves. I don’t think it’s fair that commercial artistes hog the
limelight, while born geniuses are not as celebrated. A common phrase goes, "a pop musician
plays 5 chords for 5000 people, while a classical musician plays 5000 chords for 5 people".
While this statement is exaggerated, it does hold some truth. Few people appreciate the
400 hours of practice required to compose four minutes of music. I began to question: do we
really recognize the fact that we have inherited such a rich art form? Is the society conscious
of the fact, all of us as Indians need to play our responsible role in preservation of Indian
If we are to revive this art form, and start an Indian classical renaissance, we must ensure that
the younger generation is exposed from the start. They are the ones who can carry it forward,
and take it to newer heights. As a student, I can positively say that in my peer group, I am yet
to meet a person who has a sound understanding of Indian classical music. I find it unbelievable
that despite coming from such a culturally vibrant country, most of us remain woefully ignorant
towards our heritage. It’s disheartening to see that the vast majority is either unaware, or too
"cool" to appreciate classical music. I have travelled almost all over Europe and most of Asia, and
I am yet to see a society disinterested in preserving their own arts and traditions. I fail to fathom
why something so pure, and so inherent to this country is not a part of our national identity.
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the younger generation lacks interest. It 1s
completely unfair to blame children for their own lack of exposure. Commercialization of music
and marketing has led to a heavy prejudice in favour of the Western world. It is natural that
a 21st century child would be inclined towards what he hears on the radio. I am no different.
My favourite genre of music is rock; my all time favourite bands include Pink Floyd, The Doors
and Led Zeppelin. Even the music I play on keyboards is centered on rock, ambient and lounge
music. But despite being a passionate rocker, I have never veered away from my roots. I consider
myself just as lucky to have heard Pandit Ravi Shankar as Jimmy Page, Ustad Zakir Hussain as
Neil Peart, and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma as Rick Wakeman. There is absolutely nothing wrong
in taking pleasure from commercial music, as long as you have an equally strong bond with
Classical music needs to penetrate much deeper into the Indian audience for it to sustain and
enhance the popularity it has achieved. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to do everything
I can within my capacity to make a difference. When I see an artiste who puts his heart and
soul into what he does not always achieving popularity amongst the youth, I feel pain. I feel a
desire to popularize his rich music to the extent I can. And this desire is precisely what inspired
me to write this book.
Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Hariprasad
Chaurasia and other living legends have played a stellar role in encouraging the next generation
of musicians, mentoring them and at the same time seamlessly passing on the legacy to them.
When I presented my idea to Ustad Zakirji, he not only warmly encouraged me but also advised
me to include artistes from the present generation. I enforced the idea and made a list of musi-
cians covering various instruments in both Hindustani and Carnatic music.
The list was so long that it would have taken me a lifetime to cover them all! 1 apologize to all
the musicians I would have loved to cover, but could not due to time constraints. The artistes
in this book are already established, but have several decades of musical magic left in them.
Therefore, they are aptly The Torchbearers.
When I first embarked upon this journey, it seemed like a daunting task. I must admit, I did find
it difficult to formulate a clear plan to support my cause. But as the number of mesmerizing
concerts I attended grew, so did my desire. I could have easily undertaken the laborious task of
gathering information on these musicians and compiling it all into a book. But instead I thought
it more appropriate to connect the artistes with the audience. I decided that the best way to give
these musicians their own recognition would be by featuring their own thoughts and opinions.
The public needs to hear their voice. Fortunately, | had access through my parents to most of the
musicians I intended to feature. As a result, I planned to conduct an interview with each artiste.
The first artiste I interviewed was mandolin legend U Srinivas, back in December 2013 at a
Mumbai hotel. I wasn’t exactly nervous, as he was a close family friend, but I did feel the usual
starting anxiety. The interview went well, and provided me with the confidence to interview the
next few artistes. But my increasing workload as a student surprisingly made me reconsider the
idea of writing this book. However, the pain I felt with U Srinivas’ tragic death the following
year instilled a new fire within me. I felt a certain responsibility to carry forward his legacy, and
fulfill his desire to promote the music he loved. In one sense, this book is a tribute to his ever-
lasting aura of greatness.
Anyway, I interviewed all other artistes periodically over the next two years. Had I not been
passionate about the cause, it would have seemed like a burden on top of my academic and
sporting schedule. It really was a "challenging pleasure" to adapt to different speaking styles, and
get exposure to various viewpoints It sure was hard work, but the satisfaction of getting things
done far outweighed the effort put in.
Personally, over the last few years, this book has brought out multiple facets of my identity.
Amidst a competitive academic environment, it has been a bit of a refuge for me, as it involves
no expectations other than my own. Along with my tennis and music, it is something I have
undertaken purely out of choice, not compulsion. Therefore, I sincerely hope that this book
inspires you to keep the ship of Indian music sailing. That it instills within you a fire to support
those who practice it. That it urges you to help expose these hidden treasures to our talented
youth. I hope, that you too join me in this quest to keep our culture alive.
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