Sydney celebrates Pandit Suman’s birthday

Pandit Ram Chandra Suman:  A life in rythm

Pandit Ram Chander Suman, a well know tabla player of Sydney turned 80 on April 1 this year. Sydney classical community, Sarod player Adrian Mcneil and Pandit ji’s disciples have come together for a concert to celebrate the maestro’s contribution to the Indian classical scene by organizing a concert for him on June 30.

Pandit Suman arrived  from Fiji in 1980 having lived there since 1968. Panditji was trained in Kathak style of dance by the well known teacher and Guru Chiranjilal.

Born in Mathura Pandit Suman says, “I had no interest in normal studies and was always loitering around musicians and was always curious to follow them around. And that’s why I hardly studied up to year 7 and left school. My uncle Lokmanji saw my talent as he helped mould me towards classical music and dance. I was very lucky that at the insistence of my uncle with my family that I learnt tabla and Dholak from renowned tablist Champalalji.”

Pandit Suman recounts, his time in India, in Delhi which moulded him further as he lived near Bhartiya Kala Kendra which was ‘hardly a kilometer away’ where he would walk every day, sometimes to and fro a few times from his home because that’s all he was interested in as a budding young musician.

“Soon I got a scholarship but due to pressure from up I gave up the scholarship for a girl who needed it being from economically backward status. I had no choice as I felt empathy and just said ‘yes’ without realising that it was going to affect my own progress. But God has his ways of paying back as I was offered another scholarship when Bhartiya Kala Kendra realized my potential and commitment to art.”

“That’s when I learnt classical Kathak from Shambhu Maharaj ji – uncle of famous Birju Maharaj. I also learnt during that time Pakawaj from Prurushottam Dasji. I used to love the sound of Mridangam played by him and used to see a student bother him a lot with his stubborn attitude to do what he wanted. I decided that I will learn Pakhawaj myself and challenged the student that in two months I will be ready. I paid six rupees fees on the spot to Pandit ji and hired him as my teacher. And in two months I had mastered Pakhawaj. I used my fingers in a unique way that the sound produced was different and unusual and they were all impressed.”

“And in 1965 I played for Dager Brothers and went on and played with many leading artists of the time.”

The story of the journey of Pandit Suman does not end there as he came to Fiji in 1968 at the invitation to perform in a cultural program organized by Air India.

Says he, reminiscing his days in Fiji, “There somehow I was stranded without money when a well known lawyer A D Patel sensed my dilemma and  saw my talent and offered me a job of Fine Arts teacher at Vivekananda School. He also asked me to teach Hindi to the students there and tabla too.”

Pandit Suman also performed for Prince Charles in 1970 when he was invited as the chief guest at Fiji’s Independence Day Celebrations as he wrote a national song on Fiji ‘Hum Fiji Bhoo Ke Baal Laal’ and a Krishna bhajan ‘Mathura nagari ke jaage bhaag’. “Me and my students got a whole 10-minute performance,” remembers Panditji.

“At times we were invited by quite an active Indophile community in Australia who were great lovers of classical music. I was invited by Nancy Grover and Paul Gibson and Guy Madigan of Kangaroo Music Group quite often and these trips helped me tremendously with my finances as my salary in Fiji was not enough though I was one of the highest paid teacher there.”

Pandit Suman was finally roped in by Nancy Grover who sponsored him to come to Australia and finally find his home and roots here. He already had a following and Pandit Suman was always available to perform as an accompanist on Tabla with leading artists coming from India.

“I have played for Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Ashok Roy who was living in Sydney and more recently Anoop Jalota in few of his concerts. Also many students have learnt Tabla from me some of them having graduated to their  arangetram performance. Kishan Jeyandran is one such students – other two are one studying to be a doctor – Yankaran Kantharaju and an American Chris Fields both o fwhom have earned quite a good name.”

It has been a long journey for Pandit ji who has contributed to the classical scene of Sydney, staying young forever, as he says his entry into ‘81st year’ of his age has not stopped his enthusiasm and that he practices tabla everyday and still tutors some who are his regular students.

“I am surprised that first they celebrated my birthday at The India Research Centre, Macquarie University – Pandit Ram Chandra Suman: “A Life in Rhythm” and now another one on June 30.”

“Besides tabla in between I make sure that I walk three times a day and always eat light. Gardening and growing vegetables is what I love doing in my spare time – now in winters it is Methi while in summers my garden is full of beans – round and flat white beans, karela, chillies and fruits such as mangoes, guavas and loquats. If you don’t find me in my music room then come and look for me in the garden. I am always there.” says Pandit Suman with a smile of a young man having spent his life in rhythm totally.

 

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Posted by on Jun 28 2012. Filed under Community, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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