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Classical Musings: Sitting Down with Arati Ankalikar Tikekar

During her latest recital at the Nizam Club, Hyderabad, Smt. Arati Ankalikar, a two time National Award winner, gave the gathering a glimpse of the world of Hindustani classical music through her renditions of the works of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan, and Smt. Kishori Amonkar.  After the show, we had the opportunity to have a tête-à-tête with her.

How did you get into singing? How old were you when you started?

Both my parents were interested in classical music. They weren’t professionals, but they had a lot of interest in it nonetheless. As a child, I loved reciting nursery rhymes.  It was also during this period that my mother had started teaching me songs as well. I enjoyed singing and would sometimes end up singing even for an hour at a stretch. That’s when my parents realised that I’d quickly be able to pick up even classical music. So, at the age of six, I was introduced to my first teacher, Vijaya Joglekar, who happened to stay quite close to our house. She took me to Vasantrao Kulkarni, my next guru. As my command over music grew, she further decided to take me to my next guru, Kishori Amonkar.

What made you realise that this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

I was always quite studious and sincere, and so I was at the crossroads after my tenth and twelfth grades. All the while, my mother used to pressurise me to study, while my father insisted on riaz, but I enjoyed both, so I didn’t mind the pressure. I was very keen on pursuing math. But when it really boiled down to choosing between math and music, I knew what I really loved to do. In the tenth grade, I finally realised that my calling was just music. Of course, that didn’t stop me from completing my master’s degree in commerce. But, to be honest, the degree was just an obligation that I personally felt needed to be fulfilled- I was already doing music full-time by then.

People often say that one mustn’t turn their passion into a profession, or it kills the whole fun of it. Do you agree?

I completely disagree. I have turned my passion into my profession and I’m loving every minute of it! The major reason for it is that my passion is not just a hobby, it’s a full-fledged art form that requires a lot of creativity. There are four aspects that one must consider before turning anything at all into a career- the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. If your passion does not help you grow in any one of these aspects, then there’s a problem that needs to be attended to. Since all four of these aspects were taken care of for me by classical music, there was no question of boredom or disappointment or the like at all. A hobby has to be wholesome, as classical music is, to evolve into a profession.

You’re from Bijapur. Yet you graduated out of the Jaipur-Atrauli and Agra Gharanas, instead of pursuing Carnatic music. How come?

Bijapur is on the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra, where Hindustani music happens to be more popular, so it was an obvious choice.

You have been in the music industry for a long time. How do you think it has changed or evolved over the decades?

With time, everything takes a new form, a new shape. It can’t be stopped or altered. The music industry in India is extremely dynamic. I don’t see any problem in the way it is progressing. I think the industry is doing great for itself. Yes, there has been a definite transition from classical to pop, but I don’t think I’m a great observer to comment on this, really.

What are your plans for the future of classical music? Do you plan on propagating this art among the masses?

I am really concerned about conserving our unique musical art form. The point isn’t to convert masses and force them into liking classical music. Rather, to make this genre more widespread, and more available to people who already enjoy it, or are potential listeners/performers. For my bit, I am trying to pass my knowledge on to the next generation. I have my own gurukul where I have six students living with me and learning from me. And I would really like to do continue doing so. I firmly believe classical music is the purest and the oldest form of music. Of course, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But for all those who enjoy it, this music has to be made more accessible.