Close on the heels of captivating crowds in the valley, renowned music composer and legendary santoor maestro Pandit Bhajan Sopori enthralled audiences at Chicago City (USA) to celebrate the US Independence day in the Indian Style. The programme organized by Kashmir Overseas Association had specially invited Pandit Bhajan Sopori for a santoor recital. Panditji is on a month long tour to perform at various States of USA. Pandit Bhajan Sopori has been playing the instrument for more than 50 years since he sowed the seeds for the greatness of the instrument and what is today known as the Sopori Baaj (style), the only style that formally incorporates the essential stylistic nuances of Indian classical music required for the rendition of raagas in their purest form as per the shastras (grammar).
Pandit Bhajan Sopori began his concert with a detailed alaap, jod, vilambit teenttaal, madhyalaya ektaal and drutlaya teentaal in raag Kaunsi Kanadha and followed this up with his own composition in the
same raaga. The sounds of the santoor were suave and soothing, and his treatment resplendent of being a class apart from other exponents. He even made the audience sing with him the bandishes compositions).
Elusive and reticent, Pandit Bhajan Sopori, has given the Santoor the honour and prestige of a complete instrument, bringing it at par with Sitar and Sarod. So much so that he has gone ahead and rendered the
esoteric and erudite ‘ Dhrupad Ang’ on the Santoor with the accompaniment of the Pakhawaj. This has been enabled by a host of notable innovations like attaching of the ‘Tumba’ (gourd) and the ‘Tarab’ (sympathetic strings) , introducing Meend and glides, Gamak, balancing of the ‘Kalam’ (strikers) with ‘boles’, etc. He has thereby expanded the scope of the Santoor as a classical instrument and
formally established the Sopori Baaj in the realm of Indian Classical Music for which he has been crowned as the “King of Strings”. A highly learned person, Pandit Bhajan Sopori, combines a profound
knowledge of music and musicology that has helped him emerge as a versatile musician and a composer par excellence. To his credit he is the only classical musician in the country to have composed music for
more than 4000 songs in almost all the languages of the country and even foreign languages like Persian, Arabic, etc. He has also been the youngest ever composer of the National Orchestra (Vadya Vrinda).
Steeped deeply in the Sufi Parampara and Kashmiri Shaivite thought, by way of his Gharana, and also his own spiritual leanings, he started performing for Sufi Pirs and saints in Kashmir at a tender age. He has since composed the works of most of the Sufi saints like Lalded, Sheikh-ul-Aalam, Amir Khusrau, Kabir, Hafiz Sherazi, Ghani Kashmiri, Bulle Shah, Baba Farid, etc. along with Guru Baani, Shabads, Naats, and also Vedic chants and Sanskrit mantras such as Mahamrityunjaya and Surya Upasna. Many of these Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit phrases have been set to music for the first time. A true son of the soil, he is the very embodiment of all that is Kashmir, and a living example of the true spirit of Kashmiriyat and is hailed as the “Saint of the Santoor”.
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