What happens when one pursues their dream?
How can a musician give back to their community?
Will you be able to play the guitar after losing your sight?
Where do all these Atypical Talents reside?
Music is a serious affair, it is an art that takes years to master and forever to perfect. One would say, you need all the help in the world, with immense precision, when trying to play the Harmonium, an ornament of Indian classical music, while singing legendary ghazal verses, or playing the lead and rhythm section of the evergreen guitar while adding vocals to it. Or when creating and producing one’s composition on the keyboard, let alone play it in front of a live crowd. Now if we tell you that there are three artists who are blind but have mastered all the musical instruments, from the guitar to the Tabla to the piano and the Harmonium!
Meet Kuldeep who hails from the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Dilip who has performed in 500+ shows, and Ritesh who can play Kishore Kumar’s tunes on the guitar with love. Limitations are only there in our mind and we need to clear them with our hard work and perseverance like these three brilliant artists.
Hailing from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, Kuldeep is not your typical musical talent. While most 23-year-olds would be attracted by pop and rock, Kuldeep finds his comfort in singing ghazals and bhajans. Being visually impaired from a very young age never seemed to affect Kuldeep in the pursuit of his Indian classical dream from the tender age of 3.
In-person, Kuldeep would seem like one of the most humble chaps you would ever meet, but on the stage, he isn’t shy about showing his musical prowess, whether it is on the harmonium or the Tabla. Having taken part in multiple musical competitions throughout his teens, Kuldeep slowly built his confidence and gained significant experience. While he finds peace in Indian classical, when asked to play or sing along any Bollywood song, you would be equally blown away by his performance. According to Kuldeep, music is a form of expression, and his intent for every performance is to spread love and joy to everyone listening.
Coming to our second story, we travel to the hilltop city of Bidar in Karnataka to meet the multi-talented Dilip. Musical production and score composition are some of the most complex tasks from a musical point of view. It requires immense knowledge of different instruments, an ear for the perfect pitch and rhythm. Dilip might lack optical vision, but his musical sight encompasses vastness only some can understand, and his catalogue of over 1,000 compositions is a testament to that.
He has undergone western classical piano training and has passed the grade 5 exam in piano performance. In the Zillas near his hometown Kadvada, Dilip is a household name as he has performed in over 500 shows in his state. He specialises in bhajans and folk music, but his accomplishments just don’t end there.
Dilip loves giving back to the community that helped him grow to be the musical artist today and knows how important it is to do so, hence he has taken part in various social activities, the most significant being running a school for visually impaired children, free of cost, in Gandhi Ganz of Bidar, where he belongs. Between the numerous performances in different Zillas and social activities, Dilip can be found in his studio creating and mixing tunes for his next project.
To end our journey, we meet Professor Ritesh and his guitar. Ritesh grew up in the city of Delhi, and his love for music came at a very early age. He recalls starting music at the young age of 9, taking regular musical classes. Like every guitarist out there, Ritesh’s instrument was the love of his life and he shares a special connection with it. They say love is blind, but can you still love when you completely lose your sight? That might seem like a philosophical question but for Ritesh, that was the unfortunate reality.
At a young age, Ritesh had some complications regarding his sight, which he was aware of. But, until his teen years, it was very minor. Things started going rough with the start of his adolescence when Ritesh lost sight completely. Not being able to see his loved ones, or see his favourite book, or see his favourite colour was heartbreaking. The same applied to his guitar, but music had no boundaries, it didn’t discriminate like us humans do. And, that beauty of music helped Ritesh to overcome this new challenge.
Eventual JNU alumni, Ritesh kept pursuing academia as that is where his professional interest was, but Ritesh’s passion for music never dwindled. Even now, as an Assistant professor at the Institute of Home Economics, Delhi University, he is always ready to perform his next music gig. He specializes in Pahadi folk music and loves playing retro tunes of his favorite Kishore da, or Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
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Until next time,
Your Atypical Buddy!