Ramesh Prem «Back

Ramesh Prem was born in Ferozepur & love for music began as a forced diversion. His father, an eminent lawyer who was writing a few books on law, found his noisy children a nuisance. To keep them busy, he arranged for a music teacher and Pandit Shruit Ratan started giving lessons in vocal music to Ramesh and his sister.Ramesh learnt his lessons faster than expected and developed a discerning ear for the intricacies of ragas and different talas, so, in the annual summer sojourns to Nainital, which was a regular feature, a tabla teacher was arranged for him at Nainital. Having learnt tabla, he started playing the sitar and continued playing it for many years.

Then, he listened to Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan, the court musician of Maharaja Patiala, playing the Veena on Lahore radio station. The sound of Veena with its deep resonance pulled him to this instrument like a magnet. He knew this is what he had been wanting to play all the while.He would listen to all the programmes of the ustad, which were quite frequent those days, religiously for about five to six years. It goes to the credit of Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan that Veena was revived in these modern times. Otherwise, it would have died long back. Ramesh moved to Lahore and decided to learn under the tutelage of the ustad. After five years of futile chase for the ustad, Ramesh realised he had to look for some other teacher. At the same time, he did not want to compromise on the choice of his instrument.When he met Mohammed Sharif Khan Poonchwale, son of Khan Sahib Rahim Khan, the court musician of the Maharaja of Kashmir, the ustad told him to pursue sitar, since he found his baaj good on the instrument. But at his insistence, he agreed to teach him playing the Veena.Ramesh learnt playing the Veena in gayaki ang. It was at his insistence that his ustad taught him the meend style of playing the Veena. Then came Partition and he had to leave Lahore, but he brought along his love for Veena.

The desire for further refinement of his art took him toAbdul Walid Khan Kiranewale, who was his sister’s ustad in vocal music. The aesthetic ease and serenity of the Kirana appealed to him, and through his single-minded devotion he learnt playing the Veena in the gayaki ang of the Kirana Gharana. Jawahar Lal Mattoo, another illustrious disciple of Ustad Walid Khan, taught him the intricacies of Layakari, the most difficult and rare patterns of rhythm, like Aad, Kawad, Khand, Rupak, Tipalli, which are often not used by popular performers as they are difficult to master. The audiences also fail to recognise and appreciate the intricacies of traditional gatkari. What they recognise is only faster beats in the Dogun and Chargun style etc. It is for the wizards to enter the arena of intricate gatkari. Prem’s creative mind, not satisfied by mastering the tradition alone, made many innovations in the instrument itself to attain a wider canvas for his musical inspirations.

It takes 10 to 15 years’ single-minded devotion to get familiar with this instrument. Mastery over the instrument takes even longer.

A world ailing with short-sightedness fails to recognise the depth of serenity as well as pitfalls. So, when the winds of change blow, they also remove what is precious and preservable. It is to the credit of the Prems that they have been holding on to this tradition against all odds.

Perhaps, the next generations will get to see this aesthetically designed instrument only through the glass panes in a museum, devoid of its deep resonance, since it is only the touch of deft human hands that makes it reverberate with music.

BackRamesh prem is a devotee of Yogoda Satsang Society of India, he travelled from Bombay to Chandigarh to pay his obeisance by playing his Veena on the 47th mahasamadhi day of his beloved guru, whose blessings, he says, have freed him of his agonies

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