Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee

Category Instrumental | Tags Sitar Surbahar

Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee is revered for his extraordinary command of the sitar and surbahar, with many counting him among the world’s leading exponents of both - at age 22 veena maestro S Balachander described him as the ‘sitar artist of the century’. He first started learning from his father Pandit Bimalendu Mukherjee, an eclectic musician who studied under sitarist Enayat Khan as well as a plethora of singers, beenkars, percussionists, and sarangi, esraj, and sursringar exponents.

Budhaditya achieved success early, winning various competitions while also pursuing academic work (he graduated with a first class degree in Metallurgical Engineering, and it is said that he barely made a key exam on time after flying straight in from a performance). In his youth he sought to replicate the distinctive sound of Ustad Vilayat Khan (“my goal, the shining star, and the sun in whose ambience I too wanted to bathe”).

He began to tour internationally, and holds the curious distinction of being the first musician of any genre to perform in the British House of Commons. Always seeking to broaden his musical vocabulary, he is considered to be the first sitarist to capture the intricacies of tappa vocal music - a semi-classical style derived from Punjabi camel-riders replete with fast, distinctively angular melodies, typically depicting the emotional outbursts of a lover.

He has customised his sitars using his engineering knowledge, and brings new imagination to playing them with a fine-lens command of the Imdadkhani gayaki ang (singing style). He is seemingly uninterested in self-promotion, and prides himself on musical self-control, not allowing his near-unrivalled speed to distract from the underlying shape of a melody (“speed in sitar music is an incidental decoration, not the core on which aesthetics of sitar music stands”).

A stellar performance career has not prevented him from living out a strong commitment to teaching - he is among his gharana's most respected gurus, with students including Dhruv Bedi and Gagandeep Hothi. He has also held academic positions in Rotterdam and Venice, and tours the world, enrapturing audiences of newcomers and old connoisseurs alike.

"Then came the realization of responsibility. When that hits you, it feels like an earthquake opening up the ground below you and that you might be falling straight into the earth’s core...However, my sitar recognises me. And that’s what I live for."

• Darbar Player: If short clips aren't Budhaditya’s full-length version of Raag Lalit on the Darbar Player. We’re a small not-for-profit, and filming, editing, and hosting cost money - so subscribing costs $5/month, which we hope is an excellent price for such a wealth of unique music.

—Also see Living Traditions: 21 articles for 21st-century Indian classical music, our new series exploring how music with ancient roots continues to innovate in a fast-paced, interconnected modern world. Expand your appreciation!

Darbar Arts & Heritage believes in the power of Indian classical music to stir, thrill, and inspire. To find out more, get the Darbar newsletter, explore our YouTube channel, or sign up to the Darbar Player to watch extended festival performances in pristine HD quality.

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Founded in 2006, Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust (Darbar) believes in the power of Indian classical arts to stir, thrill and inspire. Through digital connectivity, shared experiences and enrichment we ensure that one of the finest art forms reaches the widest possible audience.

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