How Pt. Arvind Parikh Kept the Vilayat Khan Style Alive

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Pt. Arvind Parikh, who is 95, has trained students from around the world to preserve the Etawa Imdadkhani style

Pt. Arvind Parikh, who is 95, has trained students from around the world to preserve the Etawa Imdadkhani style

Distinguished sitarist, erudite musicologist and devoted guru, Pt. Arvind Parikh, who turns 95 on October 19, carries on the legacy of his guru Ustad Vilayat Khan. Decorated with Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and his prestigious “Akademi-Ratna” as a member of SNA for his contribution to the world of Hindustani music, he is also respected in the business world as a pioneer and Dean of India’s Logistics Industry.

Born in Ahmedabad into a business family with cultural leanings, Pt. Arvind Parikh learned to play many instruments until inspired by Ustad Vilayat Khan, which he first listened to on the radio, decided to learn the sitar of the Ustad, maestro of the gharana Etawa Imdadkhani. The most senior gandabandh shagird (a ceremonially initiated disciple with the knotting of the sacred thread) of Ustad Vilayat Khan; he spent six decades with his guru, absorbing deep insights and analytical perspective from Vilayatkhani baaj, his guru’s distinctive style. No wonder he is hailed as the torchbearer of this famous gharana, carrying on the tradition with missionary zeal.

Pt. Arvind Parikh with his guru.

Pt. Arvind Parikh with his guru. | Photo credit: Hindu Archives

Pt. Arvind Parikh is a source of strength and hope in the current scenario where a lingering fear permeates Hindustani music that if someone does not take care to rekindle their ancestral values, this art may cease to exist as it does. ‘did. Arvind Bhai, as he is affectionately known, lives by these values ​​and tries to instill them in his followers.

He has been teaching students (including this writer) from India and abroad for several decades. He straddled the two worlds of music and business with extreme ease. Today, he trains more than 50 students in sitar, surbahar, shehnai, violin, santoor, rudra veena and vocal music.

As President of the ITC-SRA Western Region, Pt. Arvind Parikh has conducted many enriching national and international seminars on different aspects of music, musicians, musical instruments and luthiers, including the one that he conducted from 1991 to 2019 at the National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, in association with Music Forum and the Musicological Society of India. He organized and hosted monthly baithaks at his residence which featured prominent musicians from different lineages. Originally held as a private party for the benefit of his followers, these enlightening conversation-demonstrations have become so popular that the Baithak series is now available on YouTube.

Sharing knowledge is his passion and he has been invited by many musical institutions and universities. One of his PowerPoint presentations, The Glorious Tradition of Etawa Imdadkhani Gharana, is also available as a book he wrote. No wonder it is called “the one-teacher university”. He has recorded hundreds of traditional compositions from his gharana for the archives of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA) and AIR for the benefit of students, scholars and music lovers. A large repository of this treasure has also been recorded for his followers and downloaded to their cell phones for immediate reference. In recent years, it has adapted to online teaching methods.

Pt. Arvind Parikh has designed a unique pedagogy to transmit the heritage to his students with the desire to perpetuate the Gharana tradition. There are also special Talim sessions for his followers who have not embarked on a performing career but need musical knowledge. And he does it all for free. The annual Guru Purnima festival held in different cities where his students live is an opportunity for him to assess their progress. He invites eminent musicians to attend their performance. After listening to each student, he sends his comments.

His series of Raag-Vidya video recordings are an invaluable guide to the grammar and aesthetics of a raag. In each video, the raag-vistar logic is meticulously explained by him. Then there is series on varieties of single raag like ‘Malhar ke Prakaar’, Todi ke Prakar, Sarang ke Prakar etc. ‘Sitar-Guru’ (CD-ROM) released by Navaras Records, UK, was the first user-friendly interactive audio-visual application conceptualized by him to illustrate various aspects of sitar training and performance. The pedagogy also includes the instructor’s manual/trainer’s manual, what’s new in palta, etc. Then there is a DVD on the intricacies of the sitar. Even on WhatsApp there are features like “Musical Queries” where students raise their music related questions which he answers and explains in Talim sessions.

An ideal guru, Pt. Arvind Parikh expects nothing but a commitment to the art from his followers as a guru-dakshina.

The Delhi-based critic writes about Hindustani music.

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