In the world of Indian classical music almost completely dominated by men, Sangeeta comes as a breath of fresh air. She has come a long way from running away from her house after her father objected to her choice of profession.

By Blessing Johnson

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Published: Wed 8 Jun 2005, 12:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:20 PM

“My father was a violinist and he was the one who started teaching me the tabla,” she says.

Watching her playing is pure poetry but not many from her audience is interested in her skill. She's more of a novelty that anything else for her audience. "Not many women go into playing the tabla because the tabla player is always the accompanist and when the singer or the main artist is a man and there is a woman on the tabla, the audience's attention is focused on the woman and not the singer. So the main artists do not encourage women accompanists,” says Sangeeta.

Her being a woman and playing the tabla is both an advantage and a disadvantage, "because when I make little mistakes, people just don't notice them, guess they're busy looking at me rather than listening to the music and the disadvantage is that people just don't take me seriously," she says.

But with her husband Sudhir Kumar who performs with her, she sure has made it as a tabla player. But she does not want to stop at that. “I want to be established as a music director. I've already done a couple of television serials, but nothing more has come my way,” she informs. When asked why not many people are interested in classical music, she says, “Who encourages beginners to take up classical singing these days? I was quite lucky to have received the national scholarship which is denied to many. There's a lot on paper, but you need the right connections and influence to get it,” says Sangeeta, who is presently drumming her deft fingers at the Marcopolo Hotel, Deira.

It is an open secret in the music circles that established and well-known musicians consciously pass on their skill to their children and generally keep it within their family. Playing the tabla is perceived as a 'male' activity but Sangeeta is of the opinion that there is no distinction between male and female tabla players these days. "It's just practice," she says.

Sangeeta feels that musicians need to change with the times and cater to what the people want. “My years of practice has made me perfect my technique and now when I play the tabla anywhere, the audience hears me out for about ten minutes and then enquire whether I'm really playing the tabla or just acting it out to recorded music."

Sangeeta and Sudhir have globe-trotted with their music and have earned accolades everywhere, be it Amsterdam, Australia, Berlin, Doha, Singapore, Bangkok or Dubai. "The media makes stars out of musicians. For example Zakir Hussain hogs the media. We're also aiming for it and have even composed some light music and an album too, but publicity takes a lot of money. If the songs click, it's good for us, if not then everything is down the drain."

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