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A young star of classical music traditions
Munish Dhiman  26th Oct 2013

Meeta Pandit

eeta Pandit, today a shining star in the world of classical music, was born into a family of illustrious musicians. She is sixth in the unbroken lineage of the Pandit family of the Gwalior Gharana, and has grown under the tutelage of the giants of Indian classical musicians of the 20th century, such as Padma Bhushan Pt. Krishnarao Shankar Pandit.

Pandit started her musical journey at a very young age. The clarity and natural melodiousness of her voice, coupled with a wide-ranging knowledge of ragas and performances infused with innovation made her shows successful not only on the Indian but international platforms as well.

"To recall when I started receiving music lessons is like asking a baby fish how and when it began to learn how to swim. Music pandits, ustads, disciples of my father, his guru and bandhus, even music lovers, frequently visited our house. The atmosphere there was steeped in music, with people living every moment in tune. So where music was in abundance, remembering a particular day, time or age of beginning is next to impossible," says Pandit when asked about the birth of her interest in music.

A large part of Meeta's early education happened during her school days, when extended weekends or even summer holidays comprised regular lessons by her father and unending hours of riyaaz. "I grew up dreaming of becoming an artist. I knew right from the beginning that I am going to do what I enjoy the most and that is singing. Despite being good at studies, I pursued my passion and today I feel blessed that it has become my profession," she enthuses.

She has stuck to singing despite several ups and downs. "The journey was full of challenges as it is an unusual and unpredictable profession, fraught with problems like irregular income and hours, making it more difficult for a woman. You need to put in hours for the riyaaz and with time, when you begin to succeed, travelling to different places becomes a necessity. At that point of time, the most important and difficult task is for the woman artist is to find a supportive family," rues Pandit. Even today, she says, travelling alone is acceptable for men while on professional tours, but there always is a hesitation in letting women venture forth on their own.

Nevertheless, Pandit has travelled across the globe over several performances. But her first encounter with the microphone and a bare stage remains vivid in her memory. "I was 11 when I performed at a 3-day music festival organised by my grandfather, Pt. Krishnarao Shankar Pandit Prasang at the Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal. It was frightening initially, but as I ascended and saw the audience I felt an immediate urge to perform and eventually the nervousness faded away," she reminisces.

Pandit has, in the past, faced stiff opposition from her guru and her elders, who tried to dissuade her from her choice of profession, for the many reasons that make a career in the arts difficult for a woman. She remained unruffled, however, and has managed to make a place for herself.

Today, she stands at the pinnacle of her musical career, having received several awards, including the Delhi Ratna, the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award, the Bismillah Khan Award, among others. The Public Service Broadcasting Trust and Prasar Bharati have also made a film titled Meeta: Linking a Tradition with Today, in 2005, which documents her life and growth as a singer.

Along with giving recitals, Pandit is currently working on an an audio-visual documentation project called 'Masters of Hindustani Classical Music' for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. She says that she wants to popularize Indian classical music amongst the youth.

 
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