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No cost counting for art's sake: Snehal Muzoomdar
- Vijay Shankar

May 6, 2016

Snehal Muzoomdar and Maithili

A professional santoor maestro for more than three decades and a chartered accountant, Pandit Snehal Muzoomdar has several performances to his credit both in India and abroad. In this interview, Snehal talks about his experiences as a performer, teacher, music composer for dance productions and programs, music and dance critic, his second music album to be released soon.

Tell us about your family background and how did you get inclined to music?
My father did his masters in engineering from Harvard University and my mother has studied post-graduation in English and Sanskrit. My mother and my maternal grandmother have been serious students of classical music. My maternal grandfather was a scholar of languages and I was thus exposed to music and literature since childhood. My wife comes from a family of solicitors and she is a doctor in anesthesia. My elder daughter is a doctor pursuing pediatrics and also plays the santoor and my younger daughter is a lawyer.

They encourage, accommodate and at times even tolerate. My mother would get upset if I didn't play music for some days and at the age of 87 too, her facial expression would change, if I strike even one 'besoora' note.

Any particular reason to select the santoor?
Santoor is Persian instrument echoing the serenity and beauty of the valley of Kashmir. It was known as 'shat tantric veena' - an instrument with hundred strings. In Persia too, sun means a hundred and tur or toor means chords. A pair of wooden sticks made from walnut wood is gently struck on the cords to create a delicate sound. It was used as an accompaniment with Sufiana- Kalam, poems of Sufis. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma placed it on the classical platform status. For me santoor was a case of love at first sight (and sound). In 1973, I saw a documentary on Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and was completely enthralled by the melodic and tonal quality of the instrument, creating an everlasting impression on me. I rushed to the music shop to buy a santoor but had to wait for six months to get a santoor from Kashmir as it was not easily available.

As far as the difficulty or ease of playing, one has to remember the words of a famous French musician: "Learn the technique, master the technique, forget the technique." In a santoor, all the chords need to be tuned every time, unlike harmonium or keyboard, where they are pre-tuned. It is like writing your own program every time. Sometimes tuning of santoor takes a long time. Like Bernard Shaw's plays, sometimes the preface is longer than the play.

Your performances both in India and abroad?
Being a rare instrument, people sometimes get confused with other stringed instruments like the sarangi, sitar or violin for that matter. I have also performed with Saraswati Veena maestro Narayana Mani in the program 'Unity in Diversity' combining elements of both Hindustani and Carnatic music, Nevertheless the response is amazing, sometimes people get into a trance and start dancing too.

Your experiences with dance productions and programs?
It all started with a Kathak performance, when a dancer liked my music and requested me to play a tarana. Subsequently she danced to it and it was an enriching experience for me. Since then on special requests, I compose and play for dancers. I have composed for Prateeksha Mehta, Reema Bishnoi, Martha Scott, Rita Seth to name a few. A famous male Kuchipudi dancer also wants to dance to Hindustani music raag with the santoor melody.

What is your take on music as a therapy to cure ailments?
Our classical music has the inherent quality to heal; it is called 'Ruhana Mausiki' (music of the soul). Classical music, either vocal or instrumental has the power to work on the mind and psyche of the listener, hence it heals. It is believed that music can cure psychosomatic diseases.

How do you manage to find time for everything, music, accountancy and writing?
It is all a matter of time management. Music is for the soul, while accountancy is for the bread and writing is another means of communication. I have my regular column with Janmabhumi Pravasi (Gujarati newspaper) known as 'Tir Kit Dha.'

What is the similarity between music, dance and accountancy?
Music forms an integral part of dance, music is the extension of dance and dance is the extension of music, they are inseparable. In music, we have the musical notes and in accounts we deal with currency notes. In accounts there is debit and credit and in music we have the ascending (aaroha) and descending (avroha) order. In music we have to arrive at the 'sum' and in accounts we have to tally the sum total.

In other words fine arts like music, dance, sculpture or acting are priceless and cannot be valued in money or purchased by money, hence there is no cost counting for art's sake. Art is immortal and artists are the representatives of the art forms.

What are your views on dance?
The famous German philosopher Nietzsche said, "I can only believe in a God who can dance." In our civilization, God dances, whether Shiva doing Tandav and Lasya or Krishna doing Maharaas. I believe we are all part of a cosmic dance, a maharaas and the minute we go out of the cosmic rhythm, we are no more.

Recently you have experimented with singers from other genre. In the last couple of your concerts, Shraddha Shridharani participated.
It was very gracious of Shradhha Shridharani who is one of the top ranking singers on the Gujarati music stage to have accepted my invitation. She is a very versatile artiste who excels in many a genre and is a competent composer herself. I have a very high regard for her taleem, taiyari and talent and for something of an artiste in her that goes beyond these three.

Your future projects?
A compilation of my articles will be published shortly. I have also written some books on music, a book on temple music is also awaited, and my santoor album is to be released soon.


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