My road map to learning the Santoor
My tabla Guru – Ustad Ripudhamman Singh Plaha passed away into the lotus feet of Satguru ji in May 2016, at the age of 83. He had emigrated from Kenya in 1960’s. Ustad ji was a jovial and a gentle person who loved life and made all smile and relax in his presence. Whatever I am I owe to my dear Ustad ji who taught me Tabla and classical music to enable me to reach my peak as a Santoor player in being a disciple of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. He treated me as his son and during my school days taught me with love for 8 years or so.
It was the Tabla solo I played in Satguru Jagjit Singh ji’s presence that enabled me to go to Bombay to learn santoor from Guruji. Satguru ji taught me Indian Classical Music in Swar and Taal. He knew so many bandishes and rare Talas. He was my Guru and patron.
I collected music of great musicians like Ustad Vilayat Khan- Ustad Amjad Ali Khan- Ustad Alla Rakha – Pandit Samta Prasad- Ustad Ali Akbar Khan- Pandit Nikhil Banerjee – and musicians of a bygone era such as Pandit Omkarnath Thakur,Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and many other greats. I had not heard Santoor until Ustadji’s son Davinder Singh Plaha called me to his house with a sense of urgency. He wanted me to listen to an LP of Shiv ji. I heard it and silently prayed to Satguru ji to make this great Santoor Maestro my Guru.
Satguru ji after a few months came and after my Tabla solo, told me to hear a special recording which was an LP of Guruji – the second time I heard in a few days. Satguruji had visited my father who had an accident. At the hospital Satguruji asked my father to give his son to him. Without hesitating my father said that I am Satguru ji’s and got the divine blessings. Both of my parents were of musical background having learnt vocal from good Ustads. My father was my inspiration who wanted me to become a Gandharv . We emigrated from Tanzania to U.K in 1968. When we bought our house on the same day my father took me shopping to Southall Broadway. We bought a record player and a collection of LP’s of great musicians such as Pandit Omkarnath Thakur- Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan- Ustad Abdul Karim Khan to name a few.
Ustad ji’s father was a great vocalist of Gwalior Gharana as well as his uncle Mamaji Ustad Uddam Singh. He learnt Tabla from Ustad Jaswant Singh who in turn learnt from Ustad Malang. Later Ustad ji became a disciple of Ustad Alla Rakha.
I am very fortunate and am eternally grateful to all my Gurus.