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‘Goddess Saraswati came to Earth in the form of Lata ji’

Dr. Vivek Verma, veteran music teacher at ACFA, Jalandhar, pays a tribute to India’s Nightingale and her musical legacy

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Dr. Vivek Verma, a senior music teacher in the Apeejay College of Fine Arts (ACFA), Jalandhar campus recently hosted a tribute session for departed legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar. In a wide-ranging interview, Dr Verma, who has been teaching music (vocal) to students at ACFA for more than 16 years, reminisces about his musical journey, shares his experience of being a PhD supervisor and offers key lessons to students and music aficionados. Edited excerpts:

 Who was your Guru in the field of music?

My father, Prof Chaman Lal Verma. I was trained by him. Actually, I am associated with Gharana, so I learned music from my father. He was the chairman of Himachal Pradesh University and the Dean of Performing Arts as well. So, we had an environment of music at home. I have received all my training from him. My father is also an excellent composer. He has supervised the PhD of more than 200 students of music. So, one can say that I have received music through my family heritage.  

 At what age did you start learning music?

I started learning music very early in life, from childhood to be precise. I come from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Shimla has always attracted a lot of music artists. Some came for a performance or to deliver a lecture while some came to simply travel as well. Many music educationists from all corners of the nation would also come to Shimla as research scholars. We always made sure that the artists and educationists stayed at our place. So, I was fortunate to listen to many great musicians at home such as L K Pandit ji from Delhi. This was how my interest grew in music.

 Please tell us about your musical career?

I began my musical career as a vocalist. There were many refresher courses in Shimla and many artists came for the same. So that really inspired me when I was a Masters student in music. In fact my PhD was based on the impact of refresher courses in music promotion. In 2019, I received my D. Litt. (Doctor of Literature) in music. There are very few people who have received the same in music. At ACFA, only Professor Amita Mishra, my senior in the music department and myself are the only people and perhaps even the only people at Punjab to receive this prestigious degree.

Do you compose?

Yes, I do compose. I have composed many songs and Ghazals.  I also have a YouTube channel and an Instagram page for my creations.

As a musician and an educationist, how has ACFA helped you to pursue your passion?

Our main duty as an educator is to teach music to our students in the best possible way. Unlike other colleges, we at ACFA have a Guru-Shishya (teacher- disciple) tradition.

I actively participate in the concerts that happen at ACFA. I have also participated as an individual artist at the Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, an international music festival that happens at Jalandhar. I have five books and various research papers on music. I am also a supervisor for three PhD scholar students.  ACFA, in particular the principal Dr Neerja Dhingra, has always encouraged everybody to pursue their talents. Sugandha Mishra, Anadi Mishra, Kapil Sharma, his script writer Manoj Sabharwal, Akhil Pasreja, Gurnaam Bhullar were all ACFA students. They participated in the youth fests and all of them were national champions in the same. ACFA has always encouraged me to put my best foot forward. I would like to thank cultural director Dr. Arun Mishra for that. He is a father figure and he was the one who brought me to ACFA. He has a very innovative approach towards education.  I also want to thank Pro-VC Dr. Sucharita Sharma. She has always promoted me on various events. She motivated me to perform Ghazals at the Glory awards in Delhi.

Please tell us about your riyaaz (practice) schedule?

I am in the riyaaz mode always since we are teaching the entire day. But individually, I practice for about 1-1.5 hours in the morning and then come to college. Once in college, I am again engaged in riyaaz with students.

Which musical instruments can you play?

I can play the Harmonium, Keyboard and Guitar fluently. I can explain the knowledge of taal (rhythm) through these instruments to the students. I don’t say that I have a mastery over them but I can play them very well.

You organized a tribute session in honour of Lata Mangeshkar and Jagjit Singh today. Please tell us about the same?

Lata ji is a legendary figure. A song sung by her instantly became eternal. No one has seen Goddess Saraswati but I believe that the almighty had sent Goddess Saraswati to Earth in the form of Lata ji. She gave an occupation to so many people who became inspired to be musicians after listening to her.  A wave of sadness spread through the nation as one got to know about her heavenly abode. We at ACFA gave her a tribute by singing some of her iconic songs. The students, and I, performed her iconic songs Rahen na rahen humGaata rahe mera dilAjeeb dastan hain yeh and Ek pyar ka nagma hai.  

 Also, it was Jagjit Singh’s birthday. So we paid homage to him as well. I personally follow Jagjit Singh more as an artist. We sung some of his iconic songs such as Tum ko dekha toh yeh khayalTum itna jo muskura rahe hoTere baare mein jab socha nahin thaHosh walon ko khabar kyaMain nashe mein hoonKoi Fariyaad and Hey Ram. He had such a depth in his voice that whether it was a ghazal or a devotional song it touched the heart of the common man. He popularised ghazal for the common man. Earlier ghazal was very tough and heavily classical such as in the era of Begum Akhtar. Jagjit Ji’s songs were understood by the common man. It was sung so simply but that in itself is very difficult. That is the beauty of Jagjit Singh.

What are your next targets in the world of music and education?

 I am working on fusion music at present. Highly classical music isn’t appreciated by today’s generation. So I am trying to create a fusion with western music in order to make students interested in some popular Raags. I am also working on some Ghazals of mine.

 What advice would you give to students and lovers of music?

I always motivate the students to perform and provide them opportunities for the same. They must build a good voice culture and become good in composition. I would advise them to have patience in this field and keep alive the Guru-Shishya tradition. Unless they have respect for the teacher, they will not be able to learn anything. The musicians who don’t learn the art in depth are unable to last long in the canvas of music. In-depth learning always goes a long way. Therefore patience in music is a must. This is my observance that the simplest thing is often the toughest. For example, SA Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA, the Sargam is not focused on by the students. They instead focus on raags and film songs. But basic taalim (learning) is to first have a strong hold on the Sargam. The basics build a strong foundation of one’s art.

Arijit Roy is a trainee correspondent at Apeejay newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]

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