Music emanates from the green room. Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar is taking a break in between his show. With an expression he is so famous for—wide-eyed and a child-like smile—Shankar is training his instrument. One of Shankar’s pupils gets up to give him a much-needed back massage. It was an unusual moment that commanded to be framed. A suave lady, with a Nikon camera in her hands, doesn’t waste a minute to get her shutterbug going. The photograph is now a part of Musicsapes, a coffee table book by Shobha Deepak Singh. It’s a compilation of 200-odd photographs she has taken in the last 30 years of her tryst with performing arts. The black and white photos add to the nostalgia.
“Music is in my DNA,” the director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra says. She recalls how as a six-year-old, she would sway to the music played on the stage. She would often doze off out of exhaustion and curl up on the chairs, only to be awakened with eminent musicians performing at her home. A trained musician, Singh started capturing photographs at a time when photography wasn’t a trigger-happy occupation. Before Musicscapes, Singh’s photographs found a place in Dancescapes and Theatrescapes, both published by Roli Books. “These aren’t my last. Thousands of photos are waiting in my archival folders for the future generations to discover,” she says.
Dynamic singer Kaushiki Chakraborty is known for her thumris and khayals. Her infectious smile never leaves her face, especially when she performs. At one of her shows at Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi seven years ago, the singer was photographed in a rather sombre mood, making it one of the rare photos.
Amjad Ali Khan
At one of the many packed performances, photographers were jostling for space to get decent photos of Amjad Ali Khan. The Sarod virtuoso’s wife in her attempt to safeguard him from being distracted won’t let anyone go near the stage to take a better photo. This photograph was taken swiftly from the side of the backstage. Khan’s jovial face was captured well against the spotlight.
Taken at one of his last few shows before his demise in 2006, this photograph is a living example of Bismillah Khan’s ‘sufi’ nature. His old, but firm fingers on the shehnai represent his ability to invoke emotion from an instrument he became synonymous with. A slight tilt of his topi, crisp white kurta and a pullover peeking through his sleeves add a rare character to this frame. From his calm, almost thoughtful facial expression, it seems he probably knew what the future held for him.
In one of the rare photographs taken a couple of years before she passed away in 2008, Shanti Sharma is seen with her eyes closed, her deft fingers trained on the taanpura, touching the epitome of musical musings. A teacher, vocalist and composer, Sharma was known for her remarkable voice, polished sargams and tans. Her singing had a hint of sadness that tugged at one’s heartstrings.
Known for her perfect singing in varied genres like khayal, thumri and bhajan, Kishori Amonkar is an intense musician, something that is well-captured in this photograph. Her changing expressions were always in sync with her music. Taken at one of the concerts, Amonkar’s talking eyes and a mild disapproval on her face make this photo special.
This photograph, taken two decades ago, is from the days when flutist Hariprasad Charausia was at the peak of his illustrious career. It’s a reminiscence of the days when he would play with a heavier flute holding it upright. He might not be actively playing anymore but his music has the charm that a few could match. In this photo, his intense look is in sync with the emotions he feel for his music.
By virtue of being one of the most animated (and photogenic) of all musicians, Ustad Zakir Hussain’s shows stir a photographer’s frenzy of sorts. After a few ‘not-so-great’ shots, this was clicked from the stage, albiet from behind. The result was, this photograph not only did capture Hussain’s emotions, but was also dramatic.
He is known for his spontaneity and innovations in his music. During one of his performances, Pandit Jasraj was particularly in a playful mood. Captured at the right moment, this photograph encapsulates one of his many facial expressions he is known for.