This year’s WOMADelaide program offers a wide spectrum of talent and variety, with Hindustani Vocal Virtuoso Meeta Pandit certainly being no exception.
Festivalgoers will be fortunate enough to see her bring her famous Indian classical music to the stage.
Meeta has been described as the true heir of the Gwalior musical gharana, being the grand-daughter and disciple of Padma Bhushan Pt Krishna Rao Shankar Pandit, the doyen of Northern Indian Classical music in the 20th century, and the daughter and disciple of legendary Pt L K Pandit.
She is the sixth in an unbroken lineage of a two hundred year old tradition, but she is the first woman in her family to become a musician.
Having visited Australia twice before to perform at Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney Convention Centre, Meeta is excited to be coming back this year for WOMADelaide to play music and to cook some Indian food.
“It’s a beautiful venue and there are many wonderful performers. I hope to spend some time listening to the artists and meet them,” she says.
“I am so happy and honoured to be a part of that. Not only am I excited to perform Indian music in front of the audience there, but the most beautiful part is the variety of audience and the cultural scene that is there makes it so vibrant. I am excited about the program, the Taste of India and looking forward to cooking!”
Having played in some of the world’s most impressive venues, Meeta is keen to perform in a different setting.
“The normal setting of Indian classical music is, we have everyone sitting cross-legged, which is the traditional style; but this is going to be a different experience with the audience standing up,” she says.
Despite this difference to the more intimate settings, Meeta believes her music will be communicated to her audience in the same way.
“With technology being so good, we are able to transmit the music in the most faithful manner,” she says.
“Even to a larger audience, they are able to create that atmosphere everywhere. The fact that this music can be presented to an audience with thousands of people there is very beautiful and important.”
Meeta Pandit has mastered the two styles of singing; Khayal and Tappa, also proving her excellence in the styles of Tarana, Bhajan, Thumri, Sufi, as well as cross-cultural music.
“The importance is about the tradition. It is very beautiful if it happens to be in a family and where there are successes and unbroken lineage where the next generation also feels inspired to take up that art. I feel very honoured to be part of that very long tradition,” she says.
“What is really humbling is how my ancestors in the 1700s, invite the tradition and start making the style so popular that is still today one of the most heard and most popular classical music style. But it is also a great responsibility to maintain that tradition and add creative elements because, for any art to survive and to flourish, it is extremely important to revitalise it.”
To challenge herself and to add creativity to her music, Meeta has collaborated with musicians in other cultures and styles.
Combining her traditional, classical style with jazz from Parisian musicians, Meeta proved her versatility and courage as an artist.
“I had the opportunity to be an artist in residence in Paris where I collaborated with jazz artists. That was really an eye-opener for me. I was quite new to the west, but it was very beautiful,” she says.
“Indian music is based on melody, the west is on harmony. There are rules of the scale and within those rules you are able to explore and lay the landscape, as you would like to. I also did a collaboration with piano and saxophone and I absolutely loved it. I love stringed instruments. I also like piano a lot. I like the saxophone but that becomes quite overwhelming!”
As well as performing her classical music and collaborating with artists, Meeta teaches a range of students, imparting her deep knowledge and experience of her craft.
“I teach a handful of students. We call it a guru-shishya parampara, which is a tradition where the master, the guru, teaches the student one to one. I have about ten students a year and they are from all parts of the world. Sometimes they come to me in Delhi, or sometimes I have higher level students who take training from me via Skype,” she says.
Incredibly gracious and humble, Meeta Pandit’s extensive career is one to marvel at; she feels very fortunate to be bringing her wealth of knowledge, creativity and musicianship to WOMADelaide, 2015, but we are the lucky ones to receive her.
“It’s been a wonderful journey for me. I started very young and I have been really blessed with love from people all over different parts of the world; spreading Indian music, spreading the beauty of our heritage and our culture. I feel really honoured to come there,” Meeta says.
Book your tickets to WOMADelaide 2015 here.
Story by Libby Parker