Memoirs of Masters

Tracing the lives and sounds of South Asian musical heroes and heroines (some famous, some not) – and exploring how they saw their music

Profile: Dr. Kadri Gopalnath, ‘benevolent ruler’ of the Carnatic saxophone

Dr. Kadri Gopalnath, the pioneer of Carnatic classical saxophone, sadly passed away in October 2019. He had first found his curious calling at the age of eight, becoming enraptured by the sax after hearing one at his local temple in Mysore. The temple’s band were personally sponsored by none other than the region’s Maharaja, himselfContinue reading “Profile: Dr. Kadri Gopalnath, ‘benevolent ruler’ of the Carnatic saxophone”

Profile: Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Benares tabla powerhouse

Pandit Kishan Maharaj (1923-2008), a fearsomely gifted tabla master, left a firm stamp on the world of 20th-century Indian percussion. Born in Benares, he grew to embody the best elements of the holy city’s famous gharana, blending powerful rhythmic explorations with a sensitive command of the tabla’s melodic, vocalistic capabilities. Born into a long line of musicians,Continue reading “Profile: Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Benares tabla powerhouse”

Profile: Pandit Anokhelal Mishra’s total tabla dedication

Tabla mythology venerates those who cannot be separated from their instrument. It is said that Pandit Samta Prasad practiced so hard that his neighbours could see streams of sweat seeping from beneath his door, and that Pandit Pratap Mishra once played for nine days straight, summoning enough spiritual energy to transform a statue in front ofContinue reading “Profile: Pandit Anokhelal Mishra’s total tabla dedication”

Profile: D.R. ‘Veena Baba’ Parvatikar, musical monk of the Himalayas

Dattatreya Rama Rao Parvatikar (1916-1990), though not one to care much for worldly recognition, left a lasting impression on this earthly plane. Living for years as a monk at the remote Himalayan Badrinath Temple, his music was far removed from the concert stages of the cities, and the urban tempos and trappings that came withContinue reading “Profile: D.R. ‘Veena Baba’ Parvatikar, musical monk of the Himalayas”

Profile: Pandit Ram Sahai, fountainhead of the Benares tabla gharana

Pandit Ram Sahai (1780-1826) earned his place in rhythmic history as the foundational master of the now-famous Benares tabla gharana. When he was a young disciple of Ustad Modhu Khan, leader of the Lucknow tradition, the region’s Nawab (ruler) asked the guru if his seventeen-year-old prodigy would play a recital for the royal court. Khan agreed, onContinue reading “Profile: Pandit Ram Sahai, fountainhead of the Benares tabla gharana”

Profile: Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra and the ‘curious veena’

To me, Dr. Gopal Shankar Mishra (1957-1999) is one of the most underappreciated Indian artists of the last century. He mastered many modes of music in his short life, absorbing an open-minded creative outlook from his father Dr. Lalmani Misra – a musical prodigy who was reportedly appointed as the Assistant Music Director of Calcutta’s Shehanshahi RecordingContinue reading “Profile: Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra and the ‘curious veena’”

Profile: Pandit Lacchu Maharaj, unheralded rhythmic genius of Benares

Many superb Indian classical musicians were largely overlooked by the lottery of the recording industry, and thus have rarely been heard in full solo flight save by a few local devotees and eagle-eared connoisseurs. It’s tempting to place the late tabla master Pandit Lacchu Maharaj in this category – but while his extraordinary rhythmic accomplishmentsContinue reading “Profile: Pandit Lacchu Maharaj, unheralded rhythmic genius of Benares”


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