How old were you when you first started playing the Sitar?
I was about 3-4 years old when I started learning the Sitar from my Father.
When was your First Public Concert? What is your most Fond Memory of it?
My first concert was at the age of 6 at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. I don't have many memories, but at least the photos show that I was glad it got done without any musical mishap. I was later told, when I was a little older that I was given a 100 Rupee token of love and blessings by an audience member.
Which was your first Album?
"Where Innovation Meets Tradition" was the name of my first album with my father. It was a Surbahar and Sitar duet album. Magnasound later rereleased it as “Together”.
What was your experience to be a student under your Father & Guru Pandit Kartick Kumar since the age of 4? What were some of the most important lessons from him that still hold dear to you?
To answer this question correctly I would have to be reborn to have the experience of not learning from my father and guru and learning from someone else. But I would not want to do that in any birth of mine, since what I learnt from my father will take a few lifetimes to even hope to play and bring out. The way I see it, I consider myself just a small experiment conducted in his Lab of Music where he spent his entire life in Music. His conversations, his habits, his life is only centered on music and musicians and almost nothing else. Those stories and conversations that he has shared have actually turned out to be those precious, valuable lessons of life for me. More than his words the way he lead his own life is the greatest lesson one can learn. Whatever 'Good' you see in me is ONLY because of Him & Whatever are 'the wrongs' that you see are only because of me and me Alone.
What exactly is a Zitar?
Zitar is an ELECTRIC Sitar. NOT a cross between a Sitar & a Guitar. NOT an Electronic or Electrical Sitar.
How many Strings does the Sitar & Zitar have respectively?
My Sitar has 20 strings. My Zitar has 5 strings.
What majorly inspired you to go Electric and create your own instrument?
To answer this in short is difficult but I would try and say that, my urge to reach out to the youth and also to many more people at a larger scale, who would not necessarily be exposed to our classical traditions and give them a glimpse of our great tradition in the language they can understand and relate to was one of the major inspirations behind making the Zitar.
Is it necessary to know how to play the Sitar to learn the Zitar?
Can one begin by just learning the Zitar?
It is not necessary to know how to play the sitar to be able to play the Zitar. In the same way as it is not necessary to know how to play the surbahar to be able to play the sitar. But if you know the Sitar then you can play both the surbahar as well as the Zitar.
Is there really a right age to start learning an instrument?
If you want to pursue music as a career and profession then it is advisable to start learning as early as possible. Like in any profession. Earlier the better. But to just learn a musical instrument there is no age barrier.
Do you feel Youth are rarely inclined towards learning or listening to Classical Music? How can their interest arise? How can this change?
I know for sure that today's youth holds the intelligentsia to understand and decipher what they like or dislike more than their peers. It's just that the communication to them needs to change in a format and language that they can relate to and want to understand. In most cases the hesitation towards classical music is out of ignorance and misinterpretation at times. I am extremely hopeful and positive that with the digital age the reach of this music will be multiplied and the youth will have more choices to make their opinion of what they feel inclined towards.
What is so unique or special about Indian Classical Music?
Can you demystify it?
Out of the 4 Vedas one of them is about music, its power and effects. Indian classical music is probably the only age old science of sonic beauty which has been able to understand and depict the various aspects and emotions that a human being can go through and at the same time give it some basic form for someone to learn it and then try to reach that level to experience those emotions through music. This music has not just the spiritual and emotional connect in our society but also a great science that involves our own body and the nature around it. This answer might seem to mystify things further but the simplest way to demystify it is to absorb this sound without any preconceived prejudices.
The general outlook is that Classical Music is too tough to learn.
How will youngsters be inspired to want to learn this music?
The general outlook is also that Mathematics is too tough to learn. We still have millions learning maths. The general outlook is that computer science is too tough to learn. We are surrounded by computer technology in our day-to-day life by people who learnt this tough form. The general outlook is biology is tough. We have millions of doctors and related professions. Even these tough subjects are taught as elementary forms from basic levels in schools. And then the students master the most complicated levels and they become masters of that. Even music needs to be taught the same way. It might be just a little bit easier and more fun than the other subjects to many. But do our young have this option?
Although considered one, why do you not prefix the word ‘Pandit’ in your name?
The prefix Pandit till a few decades back signified things, which were very different than what it signifies now. Its usage has become frivolous and common. So, I'd rather just use my name and be addressed as that. If need be I'd choose Bandit over Pandit :)
What is that one piece of advice / tip you wish you had heard in your early days that you would like to tell youth now?
I wish I knew that Time moves even faster than light. Atleast it seems so. Make the most of the time at hand. It ticks away faster than we realise.