I was born in India, to a very distinguished musical family. My father, Pandit Jagannath Jagtap, is a renowned Tabla and Pakhawaj artist, and my grandfather Shankar Jagtap is a well-known sarangi player, singer, writer, and poet. However, music became a passion for me from a very early age, not because my father wanted me to do it, but because I wanted to do it. It is in my soul, and in my blood. I could never, ever, imagine my life without music in it.
With My father Pandit Jagannath Jagtap
My musical talents really began to show themselves from the age of seven, when I’m told I demonstrated an exceptional ability to grasp any element of the musical art and pursue it with dedication. While learning the Sitar, I also undertook simultaneous training in Hindustani Vocal and Tabla. This combination of skills and instruments was essential to my development as a musician because voice and rhythm are the foundation of all musical forms.
“I have played Sitar all around the world and seen first-hand the healing power of music.”
During my training, I vividly remember how my father would wake me up at 3.30 every morning to do ‘Riyaz’, which is the Hindustani word for disciplined musical practice. Quite often, he would ask me to practice Sitar in a pitch-dark room. Because I couldn’t see anything apart from the tiny red glow of the incense stick I used as a timekeeper, the intensity of my focus on the sound of the Sitar was unforgettable. The aroma of the incense stick added to that intensity and made the whole experience feel mystical. I had a direct connection with the instrument’s voice, which helped me to experience and understand how powerful sound can be. By the time the incense stick burned away, I would have practiced alone in the darkness for at least an hour or two. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, this was my first encounter with ‘Nada yoga’.
During my training, I discovered that I was lucky enough to have an aptitude for all traditional instruments and musical forms. However, I didn’t just appreciate learning instruments for the pleasure they gave me, but for the inner strength, empathy, and peace I gained from training within the classical lineage of Hindustani music.
It was during the early stages of my musical journey when I had the great fortune of becoming a disciple to the revered Sitar maestro, Shri Arvind Dighe.
Guru Shri Arvind Dighe educated me in a centuries-old Indian musical tradition called ‘Guru Shishya Parampara’, and our teacher-disciple relationship was a turning point in my life.
“It is wonderful to dream you will accomplish amazing things in life, but nothing is accomplished until you take your first step.”
To describe it as simply as possible, Guru-Shishya Parampara is a system of learning that has its roots firmly planted in the classical and spiritual aspects of Indian music. It is a way to learn music as a development of the inner self, and the bond between Guru (teacher) and Shishya (student) has enormous spiritual and religious significance in my culture. Guru-Shishya Parampara means the passing of wisdom from a succession of Gurus to their Shishyas through oral tradition. Although the ways in which this can be accomplished has transformed steadily over the years, it remains at the heart of my relationship with my own students.
You see, music is not just a series of notes played to work in harmony (or, sometimes, disharmony) with each other. Ithas a spiritual aspect, and a healing aspect, which is hugely beneficial and transformative. After a student has worked with me for a while, they often tell me how much calmer they feel and that they are more in balance with their day-to-day activities. That’s the profound, life-changing effect of music.
In my roles as a musician and teacher, I feel a responsibility to share this wisdom with my audiences and students, so that they will experience music in a more profound and joyful way than they have ever known before.
Although my father, grandfather, and especially Guru Shri Arvind Dighe have been the most important musical influences throughout my life, my journey as a musician has also been shaped by the many other distinguished Sitar artists I grew up studying and watching perform, like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, and many more. I was fortunate enough to hear all these musicians playing from a very young age, and it is thanks to a combination of my father, grandfather, Guru Shri Arvind Dighe, and everything I have heard and learned, that I’ve been able to develop my own style of playing Sitar.
This is also a good place to talk about one other musician I met and was extremely impressed by – George Harrison. Although probably best remembered as lead guitarist of The Beatles, he was a talented artist in his own right, and he enjoyed playing the Sitar very much. He first discovered the Sitar in 1965, when The Beatles’ were filming their second film, ‘Help’, and he often featured the instrument in his songs, most notably ‘Norwegian Wood’, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, ‘Within You, Without You’, and ‘Love You To’. I had the great opportunity to talk with him when he visited the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Europe’s major institution for Indian music and allied performing arts, where I was Sitar teacher and head of department. Mr Harrison was warm and down to earth, respectful of the traditions of the past, and enthusiastic about what the Sitar can offer to the future. He was a great musician who moved the world, and I look back on the experience of meeting him with great joy.
In 1982, I had my debut concert at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, in India. After that, there was no looking back and I’ve now given hundreds of concerts in India, the UK, and abroad. Still, despite the enormous numbers of times I have appeared on stage, I have never lost my passion for performing in front of an audience. It is a connection that always feels unique and powerful every time I play.
“I look back on the experience of meeting George Harrison with great joy.”
During my performing career, I have been humbled to receive some truly wonderful reviews. My playing has been highly acclaimed and noted for its sensitivity, aesthetic appeal, and musical insight. I have been told I have a fine command of technique and can “masterfully evoke” the various textures of the music and its moods. Over the years, I have become particularly known for the innovative blending of Eastern and Western instruments in my creative work.
In 1984, I was awarded a Masters degree with first class by the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, in India, and in 1989 I was appointed as a Sitar teacher and head of department at the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan in London. It was an exciting time, during which I not only met George Harrison but also had the great privilege to perform with my students in front of the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar. We performed a piece in Raga Gurjari Todi, which I composed especially for the occasion.
From September 1991 to March 1992, I participated in a documentary about the Sitar and Indian classical music, produced by the Horniman Museum. The documentary explored different aspects of Sitar playing techniques, and also included two performances of Raga (traditional Indian classical music.)
“Music is one of the most wonderful gifts the universe has given us.”
It’s a great privilege to perform with my students in front of the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar. ( Year 2003 at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan London)
Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh
In 1998, I had the honour of performing at Westminster Abbey in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. I was the first Indian classical artiste to ever perform at the historic Abbey, on the occasion of an Observance for Commonwealth Day.
Since 1998, I have been actively serving as an instrumental music teacher at the Harrow Music Service, teaching Indian music to young schoolchildren (key stages 1,2 and 3) throughout the London Borough of Harrow. It’s a joy to share my musical legacy with the children through the workshops I conduct. In 2004, I was appointed to a leading role in the same service. I am also a registered Sitar examiner for Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, India, a prime institute engaged in education in Hindustani Classical Music and a well reputed examining body in the field.
“Music has a spiritual and healing aspect. My students often tell me how much calmer and more balanced they feel after starting lessons with me.”
Being introduced to Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey
As a musician, I haven’t just performed in live concerts, recording sessions, video demonstrations, and on television and radio. I have also played Sitar in yoga, meditation, wellness and healing retreats, ashrams, hospitals, and hospices around the world, where I have seen first-hand the healing power of music. As a composer, my compositions have been heard all around the world, most notably in the award-winning BBC TV series, Dangerfield.
My musical journey continues…
If there’s anything you’d like to know about my work or the services I offer, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll do my best to reply to your message as quickly as I can.