Sitar and tabla master serenades audiences

Andrew Gaug

Accompanied by the tablah, Nayan Ghosh plays the sitar for an audience in Ludwig Recital Hall at the Music and Speech Center. DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

    Kent State welcomed tabla and sitar master Pandit Nayan Ghosh, along with another tabla prodigy, Arup Chattopadhyay, to the Ludwig Recital Hall Sunday. The two have been touring the United States for the past four months playing a mixture of concert halls and campuses.

Ghosh said while touring is fun most of the time, the constant hassle of booking and rebooking flights and lack of sleep becomes taxing after awhile. But it’s not something that he isn’t used to. He’s been touring all around the world since 1974.

While some musicians begin playing in their early years, Ghosh was already performing the tabla in concerts at the age of 4, an act that he said is fairly common in India. In order to avoid burning out at an early age, Ghosh’s father – a tabla player himself – kept him from performing concerts until he was 18, while making sure that he was perfecting the art of sitar and tabla.

Although Ghosh graduated from school and attended college, he said he was sure he was meant to be a musician. After he was finished with college, Ghosh’s father offered to take him and his 17-year-old brother on a tour of the United States, Europe and Canada.

It was on those subsequent tours he took with his father that he said he learned an important lesson.

“Real education starts after school and college,” he said. “Major chunks of my training were learned on those trips.”

Since his early days of touring, Ghosh has come a long way. He earned the title of “Pandit” – which means “master” – because of his expertise on both the tabla and sitar. He has toured the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Far East and in 1998 received the Achievement Award from governor of California, Gray Davis.

Although Ghosh and his tabla partner Chattopadhyay have known each other since the age of 12, it wasn’t until Ghosh saw him in concert a few years ago that he asked him to join him on tour. Chattopadhyay, a tabla player since the age of 7, has accompanied artists such as world-renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar and is a guest lecturer at the University of California-San Diego.

After Ghosh’s tour ends, he plans to return home to Bombay where he is the director at Sangit Mahabharati, India’s leading music academy, and finishing “The Encyclopedia of Music in India” – a work that was first started 50 years ago by his late father.

“Music has been in my family for five generations,” Ghosh said. The tradition of music in their family is being passed down as Ghosh’s son has already performed in public at the age of 2.

Ghosh said that in his son’s school play, the students were pretending to be things such as animals or trees, and his son told his teacher, “I am a tabla player, and I want to play tabla.” The teacher allowed it, and his son was able to give a short solo performance.

Even though his tour is ending, Ghosh isn’t taking a long break from performing. He said he will lead a tabla workshop in London in July, and in August he will play in Crete, which he described as “one of the most scenic places in the world.” Afterward, he plans to play in music festivals in Seattle and Boulder, Colorado.

Showing no signs of tiring, Ghosh said that he gets homesick being away for months at a time. But he said he does feel blessed that he has the chance to meet a wide variety of people.

Contact general assignment correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].