Indian classical needs support to sustain itself: Meeta Pandit

New Delhi: Gone are the days when classical art flourished under the umbrella of the royal and loyal patrons. Vocalist Meeta Pandit, scion of the prestigious Gwalior gharana, says artistes today are dependent upon people and the government for their survival.

Granddaughter of Pt Krishna Rao Shankar Pandit and daughter of L K Pandit, Meeta is of the opinion that India needs a solid structure for the sustenance of the various classical art forms including music.

"Earlier, the traditions in various art forms flourished due to people who had finer taste and also had the money to spend. The artist would not have to do anything other than pursue the art. Things have completely changed now.

"The royalties have been taken over by the people of India and the artistes are dependent upon public performances, corporate companies, the government, foreign tours and the internet. Even recording companies are very less. A diverse country like India needs a solid structure for sustenance of classical art forms," Meeta told reporters.

Art itself has undergone changes, said Meeta, as artistes have to cater to the taste of the audience.

"We cannot separate art forms from social changes. Today without even attending a concert or buying a CD people can listen to any artiste around the world. People have a variety of music to choose from. When the audience changes, so does the artiste because both feed off each other."

Meeta said even the audience have changed over time as there is a difference between today and the times when her father used to perform.

"These days we have to perform to a heterogeneous audiences. But in his time the concert-goers were much more informed. They knew the nuances of what is being sung. The audience would even point out if the artiste made any mistake. It developed a sense of responsibility in the artiste."

Bursting onto the music scene in her teens, Meeta is sixth of the unbroken Pandit line and the first female musician in her family. She said it is her love for the art that has made her follow in the footsteps of her illustrious father and grandfather.

"I am not trying to keep any tradition alive. I love the music I perform. For me it`s not a tradition which needs to be carried forward. I am only doing what I love and my passion happens to be my profession. I think people who are keeping alive the traditions of classical music all over are doing it out of love rather than any pressing need to keep it going."

Meeta also said following traditions blindly will not lead a performer anywhere. Training in classical music must be infused with the artistes own creativity to take the art form to a new level.

"Following a tradition or a gharana is an individual choice. Also, a copycat cannot become a good performer. It is a creative art form after all and copying one`s guru does not amount to creativity. You learn the tradition in depth and take out something of your own from that. There is a different dynamic to creativity which comes from people who have been trained well in tradition. It takes art to a certain level."

Having performed in various cities in the Europe and the US, Meeta said people there have immense respect for Indian classical music. She has even collaborated with Dutch tabla-player and producer Heiko Dijker on her latest album `The Luminance Project`.

"It`s quite amazing to see people in the Europe and US who are fans of Indian classical and are dedicated learners or listeners. The Millennium concert held in Paris, a 24-hour raag concert, got packed audiences who were all Europeans. I have conducted workshops where we had German, French and Swiss people learning Indian classical music.

"I have even collaborated with jazz artistes. My recent album with Heiko Dijker is a mainstream work, consisting of love songs in pure brajbhasha, with elements of pop. It`s a very contemporary album," Meeta said.