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Famous Musicians of India

Interview: Tabla Maestro Nishikant Barodekar

For a long time, I wanted to interview this radiant and joyful Tabla Maestro, Nishikant Barodekar. I heard him first when he accompanied Rakesh Chaurasia at a concert in Pune. What a coincidence it was! I, my wife Dakshayani, Rakesh ji and Nishikant Barodekar- all of us came out together from the parking area. As Rakesh Chaurasia is a good friend, we exchanged a few words with him. After this brief conversation, Rakesh Chaurasia and Nishikant Barodekar went to the green room and I and Dakshayani to the auditorium!

Mandar and Dakshayani with Nishikant Barodekar
Mandar and Dakshayani with Nishikant Barodekar

At that time, I was unaware of the fact that Tabla Maestro was Nishikant Barodekar, grandson of the great Kirana Gharana vocalist, Smt. Hirabai Barodekar. It took us almost three years to meet in person after the concert that day!

Anyway, meeting Nishikant Barodekar was a totally new experience. Nishikant conveys certain things very clearly- he is humble, calm, devoted to the purity of his art and is well aware of his role in the world of music- not only as an artist but also a person and more importantly, as a teacher.

For almost one and half hour, Nishikant Barodekar took us on a ride, touching various aspects right from music, riyaz, spirituality to his observations about the young generation. Though he hails from a musical family, his musical journey was as tough as anyone else’s.

“For three years, I used to travel every day to Mumbai to learn Tabla from Abbaji (Ustad Allarakha) and come back to Pune. It was after three years of testing, that Abbaji asked me to stay at Mumbai”, humbly Nishikant unfolds the efforts which he has taken to master the art.

Nishikant started learning vocals and had to switch to Tabla due to some reasons. Under the initial guidance of Ustad Ghulam Rasool Khan, he began his Tabla lessons and was awarded national scholarship for three years. After this initial study, later he was accepted as a Gandabandh disciple by Ustad Allarakha.

“Ustad Allarakha was a great artist and had very simple personality. Ammaji (Abbaji’s wife) looked after us like mother. She always ensured that we are not hungry even if we were practicing late in nights.”

In this digital age, where many students of music meet their teachers only through Skype, the point made by Nishikant makes us realise that somewhere, the love and intimacy between Guru and Shishya is spiralling down.

When we asked him about who his favourite artist is or who are the artists he likes to listen to, he opened up his wide canvas.

“I am listening to all the great artists right from my childhood. Hence, there is no comparison. I just learned to pick up good things from each one of them.”

Nishikant Barodekar is a seasoned artist and his contribution to the field of art is significant. He has accompanied greatest of the great artists including Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Vilayat Khannad many many more. He is a teacher passionately sharing his art and knowledge with students. Nishikant also conducts workshops regularly.

“How is your experience with the young students who learn from you?”

“Well, there are lot many distractions which keep them away from focusing”, he tells.

“When we were kids, television was the only entertainment and distraction. Today, life is so fast and there are so many things to keep you away. But in spite of that, due to this, the speed of understanding and grasping has also improved.”

Nishikant Barodekar is a devotee of Satya Sai Baba and teaches Tabla at Music College at Puttapurthi. I appreciate his concern about music and his art which is not limited only to performing in concerts but also stretches to openly sharing his knowledge with students.

Meeting Nishikant Barodekar has left behind many impressions and has given us many things to reflect and contemplate on. He has invited us to Puttapurthi, and we are much excited to see the place and the work which he is doing over there.

After a long chat and filling dinner, we got up. I was a bit upset as hotel management insisted on visitors picking up their plates and keeping them at the washing counter.

“This is very similar to our place (Puttapurthi). Here at least you do not have to wash your plates!” commented Nishikant, with twinkle in his eyes, gauging my anxiety. We came back home with memories which will be cherished for long!

Visit Indian Classical Music Section 

Read Interview with Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia

Read my entry on Ustad Zakir Hussain

By Mandar Karanjkar

Mandar Karanjkar is author, motivational speaker and consultant based in Pune. Mandar works with handful of organizations helping them with strategy, communication and culture. Mandar is trained in Indian Classical Music over a decade. He is a classical singer and flute player.

Mandar has written columns for many reputed newspapers. Engineer by profession, he conducts workshops and delivers talks on subjects as wide as strategy, innovation, online marketing, spirituality, Kabir, Zen etc.

Mandar is a published author.

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