Remembering My Father – Late Pt. Balaram Pathak

Since I was a kid, I have always been inspired by my father to learn and delve deep into learning Indian Classical music. He was my first guru, who passed on me this powerful and profound knowledge of music. He realized that something that was of such significance and worthy of being passed on, he looked for me and my three elder brothers. I learned this art very early in my childhood. We were genuinely interested in learning and absorbing this beautiful piece of art. Barely did I know the concept of guru-shishya (Master-disciple) Parampara (uninterrupted tradition) was something that I learned from my father. Guru-shishya tradition has a profound spiritual connection. He explained to me as a child the significance of this tradition.

When looking at him perform, I was able to see how easily he would render rare and difficult ragas with admirable fluency. I saw him mesmerizing the audience with his scintillating pieces of work curated by his various compositions. His performances dazzled the onlookers and created an atmosphere of admiration and high esteem in the minds of true music lovers. I had been going around with him since the age of 15, attending concerts and his live performances. 

It was so beautiful to see him receive such a huge amount of love and appreciation from spectators globally. Soon I realized what I needed to do for the rest of my life – which was to play and impart the same knowledge of music that I had received.

My father was a renowned sitar player and is a fluent player in surbahar. He also had been the voice of Hindustani classical music. He made a huge impression on the great musicians of his time with his charming face and rare display of artistic excellence. In later years, one review truly summed him up: “This great musician was also a great man.” His mischievous and laughing eyes, through which a childlike purity filters, as well as his simplicity and unaffected manners, are as eloquent as his music.” 

Back in the day his authentic style, complete control over rhythm, and clarity of tone, combined with his perfection and precision in raga rendition, created a distinctive blend of originality and novelty. He is credited with his unique invention of “Raag Bhadur Shastri”, dedicated to our late Prime Minister Lal Bhadur Shastri. Based on his extensive and erudite research of the Carnatic (South Indian) and North Indian styles of music he had made immense contributions to classical music by way of his compositions and introductions of new Ragas like Latangi, Charukeshi, Sanmukh-priya, Amrit-versa, Bakra-madhama Tori, Mukhari, Lilawati, Ahiri, etc. (biography, 2012)

He influenced many sitar players and received recognition from many great musicians of his time because of his unique style. It is impossible for me and the country to forget his magical display of art. He raised me very well and gave me the wings to my dreams and ambition. May my father remain immortal through his teachings with his stupefying presence in the world of traditional Indian classical music.

Here’s to a genuine attempt to pay tribute to my father. I cannot even come close to his shadow in playing sitar, but my heart doesn’t know and I couldn’t stop myself from sharing this with you.