Rajeev Taranath

It is not easy to encapsulate 89 years of a life encompassing music and literature in a single article. Veteran Rajeev Taranath is today one of the world’s leading exponents of the sarod. The maestro’s life is so intertwined with three stalwarts of the Maihar Gharana—Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi and Ravi Shankar— that if one does not provide them with enough coverage, one would be remiss. They also provide the dramatic twists and turns in his life, of which there are several and are quite extraordinary.

Rajeev was born in Bangalore on 17 October 1932. His father Pandit Taranath was deeply interested in music despite not being a professional musician. Through his father’s efforts, he was exposed to Indian classical music of the stalwarts of the day at an early age. He also began to learn vocal music. He gave his first public vocal performance at the age of ten and performed for the All India Radio before he was twenty.

The maestro has an interesting analogy for his association with Indian classical music. He likens it to the south Indians’ association with curd rice and pickles; to mean that Indian classical music is as natural to him as this!

The first dramatic turn in his life came in 1952 at the age of 20, which Rajeev Taranath recalls: “The most vivid moment in music I remember is the first experience of hearing Ali Akbar Khan, it was electrifying. I was and am a great admirer of Ravi Shankar’s music, so I used to attend every performance of his when he came to Bangalore, the city in which I lived. That particular time, he came with Ali Akbar Khan, who said that he would play the sarod along with him. Before that, I had heard very little of the sarod, and had not heard Ali Akbar Khan play. It was a life-changing experience when he played the first movement on the sarod. That was my moment of epiphany, a moment of total grace. As I was listening, my life changed. Music moved to the centre of the universe. I was hooked and never looked back.”