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‘The environment at ACFA is conducive for cultural pursuits’

Dr. Sumit Singh ‘Padam’, Assistant Professor in Instrumental Music at ACFA, Jalandhar goes down memory lane and shares details about his musical endeavours

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Indian classical music is a way of life. Alongside the knowledge of music an artiste is also prepared for life, as s/he learns the values of discipline, commitment, patience, consistent effort and respect for the art form. The same applies for Dr. Sumit Singh ‘Padam’. He is an Assistant Professor in the department of music at the Apeejay College of Fine Arts, Jalandhar. He specialises in instrumental music especially in Sitar. Not only does he embody the values which Indian classical music represents but also seeks to impart the same to his students.  

In a detailed interview, Dr. Sumit speaks about his musical journey, latest works and also gives life lessons to students of classical music. Edited excerpts:

  Please tell our readers about your musical journey?

I come from a music background.  I have inherited it from my gharana (family lineage). My grandfather Shri Sohan Singh Padam, was an excellent sitar player as well as a skilled instrument maker. He made beautiful sitars, tanpuras and dilrubas. He was also a graded sitar artist at All India Radio, Jalandhar.  I am heavily inspired by him. My father Shri Jasbir Singh Padam is also a musician. He plays the Tabla and the Sitar very beautifully. I learned sitar from him. As a child, I used to observe and listen to my father during his riyaaz (practice) hours. Gradually he taught me how to play the tabla. Then slowly, I switched over to sitar.  I am also learning Sitar in the Guru-Shishya tradition as well from my guru Pt Harvinder Kumar Sharma.Pandit. Dr. Harvinder Kumar Sharma a renowned Sitar player and a top grade artist at the All India Radio/T.V. He is the student of Ustad Vilayat Khan Saheb of the Imdadkhani gharana.

In class 11, I took instrumental music as a core subject at school. Then in college, I participated in various youth festivals. I won numerous prizes there. In 2011, I participated in the senior category at Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar. I won the first position there. Next year, I was invited to perform there as a Sitar artist. It felt like a dream come true to me. As a child, I had always dreamt of performing there as an artist.

Soon, I began doing concerts, stage shows and performances. I also participated in many other music competitions in different cities of the nation such as in Prayagraj, Kolkata and Kurukshetra among others. I am also a graded sitar artist at All India Radio and Doordarshan.

I was recently awarded with the ‘Sangeet Ratna Samman‘ by Gandhi Hindustani Sahitya Sabha and Lok Kala Manch in New Delhi. 

You are an academician in the music field. Tell us about it?

 Well, I did my graduation in journalism and music. Then I did a post-graduate diploma in computer applications. After that, I completed my Masters in instrumental music along with MPhil and PhD  from Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar.

As a research scholar, I taught masters music students for three years at the same university. During this period, I published many research papers at national and international level. I have a book as well. It is a biography of veteran sitar artist Padma Bhushan Pt Devabrata Chaudhuri.

Do you compose as well?

I compose a little bit. But, I am more focused on working on the existing Raags. I try out some fusion with them. I also like film music. I have recorded their cover versions on Sitar and uploaded them on my YouTube channel. I have played many popular Bollywood tracks on Sitar such as the song Tere Liye from Veer-Zaara, then Aaoge Jab Tum from Jab We Met. It is sung by Ustad Rashid Khan and is based on Raag Tilak Kamod. Recently, I also covered Arijit Singh’s popular song Main Tenu Samjhawan Ki.

How does ACFA help you as an academician-musician?

I joined ACFA last September but I have heard great reviews about ACFA for a long time. When I used to perform at Youth Festivals as a student, I used to see a great level of participation from ACFA. The music quality in their performances was very high and they also used to win many prestigious prizes. Back then, I used to wonder how they managed all that. But now, since becoming a part of this college, I see that there is a great environment with regard to the cultural activities here. The students are encouraged a lot.

I would like to thank Dr. Arun Mishra (Cultural Advisor) and Dr. Amita Mishra, his wife, for under their able guidance, ACFA has been winning many national level competitions for several years. Students are polished properly here. I am very happy to see that and I also feel very motivated since coming here. I also perform in various intra-college events. Principal ma’am, Dr. Neerja Dhingra always motivates me to perform. I would also like to thank former principal and Pro-VC Dr. Sucharita Sharma for her stellar contribution in culture activities and youth festivals since the past many years. Very few colleges have such a nice environment as ACFA, I say this confidently because I have seen many colleges.

Who are your favourite music artists? Also music sensation Bappi Lahiri passed away yesterday. Your thoughts on that?

 Among Sitar artists, I would say Pt Nikhil Banerjee and Ustad Vilayat Khan Saheb. They are truly the gems of music.  

Also, yes, the news of Bappi Lahiri’s passing away really saddened me yesterday. As a kid, I listened to many of the evergreen hits of his genre, iconic songs such as I Am A Disco Dancer, Yaar Bina Chain Kaha Re.

What life lessons would you give to students of classical music?

A student of classical music, especially in today’s time, needs to pursue the field with a lot of patience. Classical music is an art of patience. So, don’t be in a hurry. Also, practice light music along with it. All forms of music are one.

 I would also say that it is a must that the student respects the Guru, the teacher, who is the source of all learning.  

Tell us about some of your future projects?

I will be recording the legendary song Tu Hi Re by Hari Haran ji on the Sitar very soon. I am also recording Farida Khanum’s legendary ghazal Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo.

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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