INDIA ABROAD, JUNE 30, 1989
NEW YORK – Music is an area of endeavor in which youth has come to be appreciated when early talent is found, especially in a rock-oriented world. For Sanjeev Ramabhadran, a 14-year-old student in Guilford, Conn., the talent came early, but his claim to fame has nothing to do with rock music.
Sanjeev, who is trained in Western and Indian classical music, plays the violin, keyboard and tabla, and sings pop and classical songs.
Because his family environment included listening to recordings and tapes of Indian popular music, particularly songs from hit Hindi movies, he grew to know and like that music. Possessed of perfect pitch, according to his father, Ram, a research scientist, Sanjeev started his musical training before he was 6. When he gained command of the instruments, the Hindi hit songs were among those he liked to play and sing.
He played them at Indian community and social functions and was frequently asked if the songs existed in Western notation. They didn’t but Sanjeev decided to remedy that. With the help of a computer, he worked out Western notations for six songs from Hindi films of the 1950’s and 1960’s. With financial aid from his father, he had them printed into stapled-book form. The resulting product was “Hindi Film Hits in Western Notation,” which Sanjeev put on the market at $4 a copy, plus $1 for mailing. He hopes that he can at least recoup the printing cost.
If his experience in performing at Indian events is any guide, he may do considerably better than that.
“Parents were familiar with the songs,” he said in a recent interview, “but their children mostly didn’t know them. The parents wanted their kids to be able to play the music and would ask if it could be put in Western notation.” Among the six songs that Sanjeev has included in his book are “Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki” from the movie “Dulari”, “Man Dole” and “Jadugar Saiyan” from “Nagin”, and “Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din” from “Mera Naam Joker”.
Sanjeev has been interviewed on an Indian cultural radio show over WWUH, the University of Hartford station, by Vijay Dixit, whose vocal renditions Sanjeev has accompanied at music festivals and other events.
“He’s just super, a child prodigy,” Dixit said. “Besides playing the violin, he sings well and plays the tabla well. But one is impressed, too, with his entrepreneurial skills. A lot of people might have seen the need to have Indian songs notated for Western music, but Sanjeev is the one who thought about it, and then did something about it.”
Dr. E. N. Rao, a Hartford doctor who is a Karnatic vocalist, has also heard Sanjeev’s music and calls him a “gifted boy”. Sanjeev credits his facility with Indian music largely to his intermittent training with the Indian musician Ram Phatak, a vocalist who was known in Maharashtra before coming to the United States. “He trained me vocally first and then helped me with the violin,” Sanjeev said.
Despite his musical talent and acquired knowledge, Sanjeev is not planning a career in music. “In music, there is no guarantee of a good income or a stable life,” he said. He is more interested in developing his potentially considerable mathematical and science skills. Being level-headed and articulate, he believes such skill will lead to a “good, stable job.”
Meanwhile, he is filling mail orders for his book, sent to him at 112 Murray Lane, Guilford, Conn., 06437.
* * * * *