Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 31st 2015 Contents May 31, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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"THE YEARLY COMMEMORATION of Indian Ar-
rival brings to mind memories lived, memories in-
herited, and the memories that we are creating,"
said Sitarist Sharda Patasar. "Trinidad offered inden-
tured Indians the opportunity to remake them-
selves and to demonstrate, too, that caste
constraints were just mental bondage. While inden-
tureship was bonded labour, it was no different
from the bondage of caste and taxes that many
were escaping. In this far off land, the promise of
possibilities allowed the imagination to flourish."
Patasar is the daughter of popular musician, Mungal
Patasar. In Trinidad, a woman playing the sitar is a
rare thing and Sharda Patasar has decided to pass
on what she has learnt to others; the majority of
her students are women.
Patasar, who was awarded for her contri-
bution to culture in 2009 by the Hindu
Women's Association, spoke of her
choice of instrument: "I was sent to
learn the piano as a child, but I ran
away from the class after a year be-
cause I didn't like the teaching
method. I demanded that my fa-
ther teach me the instrument he
was playing. There was no turn-
ing back after that."
When Patasar's father began
his university studies in India
in 1986, the entire family
went, so she had the op-
portunity to learn from
some of his teachers.
"This was largely infor-
mal," she explained.
"We had formal les-
sons to prepare us for
the music exams. My
father believes in the
power of the sub-
conscious, so my
tagging along to his
classes, just being in
the environment, was
good enough. If some-
thing caught my ear
and I found it challenging,
I would listen, go home
loved the difficult lessons."
As for Patasar's formal qualifica-
tions, she sat the Prayag Sangeet Samiti's fourth
year practical examinations (1989), the recognised
body for practical exams, but was not allowed to
write the B.A. examination because she was too
young. After returning to Trinidad in 1990, she con-
tinued learning from her father, but has not written
the formal examinations. "I do have plans to do that
at some point, so that I have the formal qualifica-
tions," she noted.
While the musician prefers to play the sitar, she also
plays the harmonium and dabbles in piano but does
not use them for performance purposes. What was
it like growing up with a father like Mungal Patasar?
"That question is an interview in itself," she laughed.
"He was the sort of parent who was always around,
very much of a home-body. As soon as he was done
with a performance, he would come home. He has
no interest in hanging around or socializing. His life
is consumed with music, from the time he gets up
in the morning to the time he goes to bed. He con-
siders anything other than music or philosophy,
Her most memorable moments would be their daily
practice sessions. As for the most valuable lesson
her father taught her, Patasar said, "It would be his
belief in preparation and leaving the results to God.
In my moments of frustration, he's usually the one
I would rant and rave to. He always reminds me,
"Just play your sitar for the love of it. Enjoy the feel-
ing of the 'mast' (ecstasy) of one note. When you
begin playing music for any other reason than the
love of it, or begin comparing yourself to other peo-
ple, you are creating a living hell for yourself. Keep
your blinkers on, keep moving forward, and forget
about what anyone else thinks."
Does Patasar think Indian Classical music is appre-
ciated in this country? "Not on a very large scale,"
she said. However, she firmly believes that Indian
classical is an excellent system of music, particularly
for youths. "The discipline that the music generates
transfers into academics and other areas of life, but
we need to adapt our approach to teaching it and
make it relevant to our society."
Patasar has performed at several prestigious
events, including the President's inauguration
(2013), the National Icons Awards 2013 (with
3canal), the Commonwealth Heads of Government
in Australia (2011) and for the German Embassy --
a solo performance in 2005.
Is enough being done to promote Indian culture?
"No; neither from the state nor within the Indian
community itself. There are those who are doing
their part, but without the proper support, there is
a limit to what we can achieve. We are too caught
up in what provides the quickest income, and rarely
develop systems that will facilitate long-term re-
turns. There is a general lack of awareness about
the range of cultural forms within the Indian sphere,
and this is reflected in the serious lack of research
particularly at the postgraduate level."
Does Patasar have any regrets getting into this
field? "Sometimes I do, because it has been and still
is very challenging, but I have periods when I step
back from everything and look in. I've realised that
there's nothing else that I want to do. The creative
arts is where my passion lies. I tend to understand
others through music. I am who I am because of my
Patasar encouraged, "Do what works for you. Do
not live with the feeling of obligation to a tradition,
unless that tradition sustains you and brings you
emotional comfort. Believe in yourself and your vi-
sion and do not allow societal expectations to dic-
tate how you define yourself as a woman."
"I've realised that
else that I want to
do. The creative
arts is where my
By Bavina Sookdeo Photo by Richard Cook Makeup by Reya Gosein
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