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A melody for the mind: The story of ‘Sitar for Mental Health’


For sitarist, composer and music producer Rishab Rikhiram Sharma, music has been part of his inherited household legacy, a profession rising up and a medium for his creations. After battling his personal demons alone, Sharma discovered music as his help within the therapeutic course of. ‘Sitar for Mental Health’ is the 23-year-old’s quest in pointing individuals to the psychological well being advantages one can discover within the richness of the nation’s classical music. On Friday, Sharma was in Pune for the second time on his tour with TIFA Working Studio and nrtyaculture, at The Poona Club Swimming Pool.

Sharma talks about his tryst with the sitar, his guru the sitar virtuoso Pandit Ravi Shankar, his struggles with psychological diseases and conceptualising the ‘Sitar for Mental Health’.

An inheritance and a guru’s blessing

Sharma is the fourth technology of the well-known Rikhi Ram household of luthiers based mostly in Delhi. The enterprise began throughout the borders in Lahore in 1920 and was then carried ahead by his grandfather Bishan Dass Rikhiram and father Sanjay Rikhiram.

“It is a generational family business of the art form of making the finest musical instruments, particularly stringed instruments. My father wanted my brother and me to inherit the art and enrolled us on vocal and guitar lessons. His theory was that in order to make good instruments, one needs to be a musician first with tuned ears. Among them, the sitar is one of the most complex musical instruments as its make is very calculated and intricate,” stated Sharma.

Sharma, turned the youngest and final disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. (Express picture)

Sharma stated that whereas rising up, he was a performer and a musically-inclined youngster. Yet, he didn’t maintain the sitar till he was 10. “For my father, the sitar is a sacred instrument to be handled with the utmost respect and care. It was once when I made an attempt on a repaired sitar with the knowledge I had from my guitar exercises, that my father was astonished. He then started my lessons the very next morning. In 2011, at a concert in honour of my grandfather, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan saab asked me to play and I had played his compositions of the Tilak Kamod. A video of the performance on Youtube reached my Guruji’s wife and we were requested to visit him at his Ashram. When he asked my father to make me his disciple, it was like God presented himself to teach me,” he stated.

Sharma, who turned the youngest and final disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar, shared that it was later that he realised the onus of the duty to take the sitar ahead, as advised by his guru. “We had an age gap of about eight decades but he was as much my guru as he was my best friend. He was the strictest teacher and at the same time a jovial person. He asked me to pick up as much as I could. He had told me that I should cater to my generation, a responsibility so big which I have come to realise now as I have matured,” he stated.

Sharma continued his sitar coaching below Pandit Parimal Sadaphal, one of many senior most disciples of Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Music for the thoughts

During the onset of the pandemic, like many artists, Sharma too hit a wall as reside performances began to look out of date. “2020 was when my mental health took a hit but it worsened after I lost my maternal grandfather, to whom I was very attached. I did not go out, just slept and ate. All this while, I did not play my sitar. I felt very demotivated and I was questioning why I was doing what I was doing,” he shared.

Sharma sought remedy and stated that the primary battle was inside oneself, as one may really feel they will get higher on their very own nevertheless it doesn’t all the time work like that. After some periods, Sharma’s therapist steered that he go reside on Instagram and carry out along with his sitar.

“It was in a way a thing which I did only for myself, to hold the Instagram live, even if no one saw. The platform called Clubhouse was also accumulating attention and I soon started inviting people to the performances for one’s mental health. The second wave of the pandemic began and times became dire. I was hosting a live session every single day during the time as people were grieving the loss of their dear ones and dedicating the sessions to them. It was a very minuscule way to help them cope with the loss. It was a lot to go through all at once but I tried to be consistent in showing up for myself through the live sessions,” he stated.

Over time, Sharma’s on-line initiative constructed a group of over 4 thousand and he renamed the routine periods ‘Sitar for Mental Health’ periods. “It was like the sessions were for my mental health but at the same time was helping someone else’s too,” he stated.

Sharma believes that the youthful technology has been disadvantaged of the actual and soulful essence of classical music. He stated that music has the facility to uplift one’s thoughts nevertheless it has been closely slept on. “People do not know how good our music sounds in the right setting. I wanted to curate the setting where the music is presented to the audience with perfection and where they understand the therapeutic qualities that music has,” he stated.

Calling his venture ‘Sitar for Mental Health’ a tri-layered pursuit, Sharma stated that after he had spoken to a few psychiatrists and psychologists, he realized that whereas the sitar could make one really feel higher momentarily, one goes again to their lives, their actuality, and therefore there must be a dialogue created round extreme psychological diseases and reaching out for assist. “For me, the sitar became a therapeutic instrument. But I could not leave it just at that and therefore, to de-stigmatise mental health, I was vocal about my own struggles,” he stated.

Carefully designed, the occasion begins with a mild alap, then a purely classical efficiency whereas the latter half incorporates the enjoyable, commercially recognized songs that persons are accustomed to, stated Sharma. “I take note of the threshold people have for classical music in one sitting. The audience sits through the classical performance and develops an ear for it. Getting exposed to classical music makes them aware and slowly they will start to appreciate it,” he stated.

Sharma is engaged on his album referred to as Navaras, the place every composition is on one emotion. “My favourite is Chanakya, based on Veeraras, one that I perform in every concert. Roslyn, which is among the first lo-fi sitar pieces and of course Tilak Kamod, which is a summary of my first lesson with my Guru, will also be a part of the performance. I try to use the sitar as an instrument but not restrict it to classical only. I expand its potential by experimenting with it as it is a very versatile instrument,” he stated.





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