Saturday, June 22, 2024

Soulful strings of sitar spreading mental peace

Must read

In an exclusive chat with The Pioneer, Sitarist and mental health advocate Rishab Rikhiram Sharma, takes us through his melodic journey and how he is using his Sitar to bring out peace for other people.

Tejal Sinha

Mental health is one of the most discussed topics, be it in debates or in raising awareness. Of late, there have been several pieces of research that state that music can lessen the impact of depression and anxiety.

So, today we have with us Rishab Rikhiram Sharma, the brain behind ‘Sitar for Mental Health’, who found a way to bring peace to other people through the music that had given him so much. Hailing from a family of luthiers, Rishab was always surrounded by musical instruments, music, artists, and the whole culture. But at the same time he laughs out loud and recalls how he was not allowed to touch the Sitar, because his father had such reverence for the instruments. “My father used to always tell me “you have to learn it properly, or you’re going to hurt yourself or break the instrument, so once you’re of the age you can probably hold a Sitar (he giggles).” However, “he was fairly liberal with me playing the guitar, so I thought about Indian classical vocals first, and then I sort of moved towards western music and picked up the guitar. I thought it was cool to play, and I was very young at that time, so I got this fancy guitar at that time and got very good at it.”

But, it was a broken Sitar that made his father realise his potential. How? He says, “My dad once received a broken shipment, a return shipment from a customer of Sitar. Broken instruments are never kept by my father. He always fixes them and keeps them for like donations or other purposes. He fixed the sitar and put it on the wall and I was just watching it. It was not too big or small. It was the right size for me as a 10 to 11-year-old kid. It was one of his own creations. I was just watching this Sitar for 2-3 days and finally built up the courage and asked him “Dad this sitar is already broken how much more can I break this (he laughs)’ so can I just try my hands on it and he was like “yeah sure go ahead”. I was very surprised so I picked up the Sitar and figured out ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa’ and in a few minutes I started playing some popular tunes and the song is on the Sitar. He was astonished and so surprised that I was playing all these tunes of the songs and he saw the potential in me and said ‘From tomorrow you’re lessons begin’.”

Rishab is the youngest and final disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar, which he says was his breakthrough, and it was after this that he began taking it even more seriously.

No surprise, music has been like a ‘messiah’ for many of us, be it while being upset, happy, or having any other emotions. And, what could be better than listening to soulful music or a performance that in itself becomes a meditation for us. This, is what Rishab too aims to bring with ‘Sitar for Mental Health’. “I used to always think about how I could use my Sitar and voice to create more noise about mental health and what a human being, in general, goes through. I should be thankful to my friends and support system, who pushed me and encouraged me to go to therapy and take care of myself. I want to be that for other people, because sometimes you know you’re not feeling well and want someone to help you out. So, that was my idea for raising awareness and destigmatizing talking about mental health: join forces with different people who share the same ethos and have shared the same ideology.”

Mental health in the workplace is top of mind for everyone these days. While our understanding of mental health at work is evolving, as is the prevalence of poor mental health, it’s worth revisiting the fundamentals. Supporting mental health in the workplace is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity. Creating wellness solutions to help their employees thrive is the first step. By sharing his own experiences, the Sitarist virtuoso says, “I help my dad with the business. We have also employed people to work with me, and we have created this understanding about mental health. If someone is going through a difficult time, all you can do is be there for them and be understanding, welcoming, and a safe space for them. We have this understanding that if someone is going through something, it’s completely fine if we take an off day, or even if they do not want to do anything, that’s totally understandable. I understand what we go through, everyone has their own battles. As an employer, artist, or colleague, you can be there for them, and I can offer some Sitar music (he laughs) in my free time.”

Youngsters these days have shown immense love and inclination towards Indian classical music. And, so, we wanted to know what the scene was in the sitar community, and he enthusiastically shares, “In India, I think there’s this huge community of not just players but also listeners and appreciators of Sitar. These events and collaborations, I believe, have paved the way for many artists to pursue international collaborations and have simply placed Sitar on the map. There are communities not just in India but around the world. It really feels like one big family, and they always talk about “gharanas” and different schools of playing, how we do things differently and how I think of us as “gharanas”. We’ve had all the gharanas under one group, and I feel our business ties all the “gharanas” and communities together, so I have never felt divided. Signing off the conversation with his biggest coping mechanism, he said, “It’s been ever since I started playing sitar. Every time I had a bad day at school, I would just come home and practise it out and let my emotions flow and express them through my music.”

- Advertisement -spot_img

More articles

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article