You will surely remember that famous ad of Taj Mahal Tea on Doordarshan where curly haired Ustad Zakir Husain’s fingers were relentlessly dancing on Tabla, the beats descended from Tihai to Sam (initial beat of the rythmic cycle) an admirer suddenly called out, “Waah Ustad Waah” to which our Ustad, holding a cup of tea, smiling replied – “arre Hujur waah Taaj Boliye”
Nowadays, a new promising face has arrived in the new ad of the same Taj Mahal Tea, the same long hairs, dashing young persona, but in place of Tabla he has Sitar in his hands. When his fingers rush in the mesmerizing Dhrut Lay (fast tempo) and comes to Sam then only you will discover this beautiful melody was in Keherva Taal
It takes him less than 30 seconds to weave a musical web which will captivate your soul. His fingers run through the strings of Sitar with such finesse that it seems they have been created for each other. A person who was found fit enough to replace someone of the stature of Ustad Zakir Hussain. He is a shining star in the world of music, he is none other than Niladri Kumar.
Niladri Kumar belongs to the famous Senia Gharana. His father Pandit Karthik Kumar, himslef was a renowned Sitar player and disciple of great Pandit Ravi Shankar. Sitar’s melody always echoed at his home. At a very young age of 4 , Niladri started learning Sargam from his father and by the time he was six, gave his first stage performance.
It was not rare for a musician’s child to perform at this young age but what stood him apart was his broad range as a musician. Niladri has this unique ability to adapt to different genres of music. On one hand, he can mesmerize the listeners of Indian Classical music with his exceptional Sitar Playing Skills and on the other, he can stupefy the western music enthusiasts with his Zitar. Yeah, you heard it right. It’s Zitar, an amalgamation of Indian Sitar and western Guitar. Niladri reduced the no. of strings from 20 to 5 in Sitar and added an electric pickup inside the instrument so that it can sound more like a Guitar.
Along with Indian music, Niladri has a very deep understanding of western music also. It would have been difficult for him to express his music through traditional Sitar only. So he invented this wonderful instrument. This Zitar parallels to Niladri’s grasp of music. This can produce the subtlest melodious glides of Ragas and subsequently, its strings can also generate rock and groove of a Guitar. Niladri used this instrument in music composer Pritam’s, Crazy Kiya Re song. Just have a glimpse.
Zitar is an experimental invention of Niladri but when he has Sitar in his hands, his traditional learning becomes evident, he presents his music with full vigour and control. Niladri belongs to that group of contemporary musicians who are more famous in abroad than their own country. He has performed in a no. of Jugalbandis with Tabla Virtuoso Ustad Zakir Hussain.
Be it his concerts in India or abroad, Niladri presents himself with absolute flair and rare finesse. He plays great, looks dapper and speaks well which makes his music even more attractive. Niladri is a brand ambassador of Taj Mhal Tea. He has performed in E- Baithak series sponsored by Taj Mahal Tea.
Niladri’s association with film music goes back to the days of Laxmikant Pyarelal, under whom he started his film music journey. Among the current generation of Bollywood musicians, Niladari has extensively worked with the likes of A.R.Rehman, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Pritam. This song from film Gangster—Na Jane Koi Kaisi Hai Ye Zindagani, the guitarist tune reverberating in this song is actually a Zitar
Niladri has collaborated with a slew of international musicians. In year 2007, Neeladri was conferred Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar by Sangeet Natak Academy. He has also won MTV Immies award for the best classical/fusion instrumental for his album IF.
In India, even today, most musicians adjust their mikes to their comfort before starting their performances but when you step into realms of world music then you will discover that the whole proposition of sound systems has reached very advanced levels. In western countries, latest technology is used for Indian Classical music also.
Nilandri has a huge following in overseas; he knows how to connect with his audiences. Just have a look at this video, how he is introducing Shree Raga to the western music aficionados, just observe, how beautifully he gets into every subtle detail of this wonderful Raga. This Tutorial simply shows his control over his craft.
With such an illustrious career and his undying passion for music, we can only expect him to grow and to win the world over with his art and bring more glory to the Indian Music.
Hats off to this great artist.