Taufiq and Shikhar Naad Qureshi. Pic/Sana Sohoni
Born to play
Taufiq Qureshi talks to us about the day his wife, Geetika, delivered their son, Shikhar. “It was the 9th of October, 1996. And after the nurse got Shikhar out and placed him in my arms, the most important thing for me was that his head resembled a percussion instrument. So I told Geetika,’You know, the angle from which I am looking at him makes his head look like a small conga.’ And she said,’What?’ And I said,’Yeah, I think I want to call him Kintou,’ because the smallest conga is called a kintou. So, that’s how he got his nickname, and everybody in the family and most friends still call him that.”
The story goes to show how, in a family that already boasted three of the best percussionists India has ever seen — Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Zakir Hussain and Qureshi himself — Shikhar’s journey into music was almost pre-ordained. But Qureshi says that he never forced his son to play an instrument. He tells us, “I basically let him be the way my father let me be, because he never ever told me as a child that I must play music or learn it from him.
He would just say,’Let him find his way.’ That actually brought out more of an interest in me, because I was attracted to and wanted to explore music on my own. So, I did the same thing with Shikhar. There were instruments lying around in the house, and I would let him feel free about whatever he wanted to bang his hands on. I would never guide him by saying,’You know what, play it like this.’ And that’s how his interest grew too, because he was exploring music by himself.”
While that may be the case, Shikhar tells us that the direction he’s taken with his art is nonetheless a direct reflection of what he imbibed from his dad. “My father is the progenitor of introducing desi influences into western percussion instruments, like the djembe. And that’s what I try and do with my music as well. Of course, at 21, I am only starting out now, and hope to find my own identity at some point. But as things stand, everything I play is born out of what I learnt from my dad,” he says, proving how the apple really hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
A sound name
“Shikhar” is a taal with 17 beats, while “naad” means sound in Sanskrit. So, Shikhar Naad is a double-barrel name that the younger Qureshi has, which means that, along with Kintou, each and every one of his names is associated with music.
Stringing it together
Sujay and Esani Dey
It’s difficult to put in words the amount of emotion that pours out of Sujay Dey’s voice when he talks about his daughter, Esani. To understand it, we have to go back to the late’80s when he arrived in Bombay with only `450 in his pockets, hoping to find his fortunes in Bollywood.
Eventually, Dey became a sessions musician of note, supporting himself and his wife, Romia, in the big city. Then, his first daughter was born, Mohini. Next came Esani. And right from the time of their birth, the 58-year-old was absolutely clear that he would teach his daughters everything he knew about the bass guitar, his area of expertise.
Esani, 18, says, “My dad would put headphones on my ears when I was as young as three, making me hear rhythms that became a part of who I am.” In fact, her inculcation into the art was so quick that she was ready to go on stage by the age of seven. And she hasn’t looked back ever since, playing with the who’s who of Bollywood and a bunch of international artistes even before she’s left her teens.
The key ingredient to her success, though, is her father’s unwavering devotion. “A lot of people tell me,’Your children are God-gifted.’ And I tell them,’In today’s generation, everyone from A to Z is gifted. But as a parent, how much time do you give your children? And do you also think enough about what it is that your child really wants to do?’ These are important questions,” Dey says.
The beat generations
Vikku Vinayakram and V Selvaganesh. Pic/Getty Images
Just like a precious saree is handed down across generations, music, too, can follow the same path sometimes. Take the case of V Selvaganesh, whose journey as a percussionist truly began when his grandfather, TR Harihara Sharma, commanded his father, Vikku Vinayakram, that he be taught the kanjira, a one-hand percussion instrument.
Vinayakram, 76, tells us, “I have three children — Selvaganesh, Uma Shankar and Makesh. And it was my father who decided that Selvaganesh will learn the kanjira, Uma Shankar will learn the ghatam and Makesh will learn vocals at the music school that he ran.” Initially, though, Selvaganesh had wanted to play the mridangam. “It is the king of all percussion instruments, while the ghatam and everything else are sub-instruments. And I didn’t want to be a sub-player. I wanted to be the main percussionist,” the 45-year-old says.
But then his elders in the family told him two things. One, that the kanjira was a dying instrument that the younger generation needed to keep alive. And two, mridangam players were a dime a dozen, so playing it would be less special. “That’s how I made up my mind, and they also told me,’Whatever you do, work hard and you will succeed.’ That’s what happened in my life, and I now find the kanjira to be the best instrument,” Selvaganesh says.
He adds that he has a 24-year-old son, Swaminathan, who is also a musician. And when we speak to Vinayakram about his grandson, the pride in his voice is almost palpable. It’s a sign of how doubly lucky the youngster is to have two gurus within the family, as it is a sign of how sometimes, music is just a generational thing.
The number of musical sons Vikku Vinayakram has
Selvaganesh joined Shakti, a band his dad had played in