The Young Sopori

Keeping his family’s tradition alive, young music maestro Abhay Rustum Sopori mesmerized local audiences with his compositions at controversial Zubin Mehta concert. Syed Asma talks to the heir apparent of Kashmir’s music family.

Abhay Rustam Sopori
Abhay Rustam Sopori

Beethoven’s Leonore III Overture, Haydn’s trumpet concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is what Bavarian State Orchestra played in the much-hyped Zubin Mehta’s show in Garden at Shalimar early this month. It is all alien to Kashmir and its people. In the 90 minutes show, the only interesting part for the natives was a seven minutes composition, Haftrang-the seven colours.

Haftrang was composed by AbhayRustumSopori, the youngest son of PanditBajanSopori, the Santoor maestro of Kashmir. In the concert, Haftrang was played by the Bavarian StateOrchestra along with the 15 musicians from Soz-o-Saaz, a music ensemble formed by Abhay. Of these,14 were Kashmiri and one was from Delhi.

Feeling proud that Zubin Mehta, one of the world’s renowned music conductors, conducted his composition the young Sopori says, “I worked on the seven minutes music structure for a few days and sent it to the music legend (Zubin Mehta).”Abhay had thought Mehta would improvise on it but to his surprise, Mehta approved the first draft.

“Though I had worked very hard on it but I thought maybe it would not satisfy the legend of his stature,” Abhay says. “According to me, the seven minutes composition represented absolute Kashmir.”

After living the moment of his life, an excited Abhay says, “It is a great honour for me that Zubin Mehta conducted my composition and I along with my musicians shared the stage with the legend and Bavarian State Orchestra.”

For this concert, Abhay and his father were approached by the German Embassy in July this year. It was their (embassy’s) idea to include a music piece from Kashmir, Abhay says, “Our names were recommended to the Embassy by state and my father chose me over him to share the stage with Zubin Mehta.”

Abhay, a soft-spoken young Sopori represents the 9th generation of musicians in his family. The family hails from north Kashmir’sSopore town famous for its apples. His grandfather and music Guru, PanditShambooNathSopori, had migrated to Srinagar many years ago where Abhay was born.

A management and computer graduate, Abhay is currently living in Delhi. After completing his B. A and M.A in music, he is presently pursuing PhD from Pracheen Kala Kandir, Chandigarh. “The research work will hopefully get completed this year,” says Abhay.

Right from his childhood, Abhay received training in music from his grandfather and father, besides he opted for an academic course in music.

“The responsibility of taking the legacy of Sopori’sforward and the expectations of people is binding me with music and inspiring me to do something new,” says Abhay.

Counted among renowned young Indian classical musicians, Abhay has already performed with many international music stars like Haj Younis, a Moroccan Lute player, and Malcolm Dalglish, an American music composer. Both music concerts were conducted in Delhi by their respective embassies.

In both the concerts, Abhayperformed as a Santoor player and not as a conductor as he did recently in Shalimar with Zubin Mehta. Ehsaas-i-Kashmir was his first performance as a music conductor.

Besides, Abhay has performed as a Santoor player, both solo and along with his father, all around the world.

He says he is the youngest recipient of SangeetNatakAkademi’s first UstadBismillah Khan YuvaPuraskar, 2006 and state award, the highest Civilian Award of the State of Jammu &Kashmir in 2011. He also received Juenjo Korean International Heritage Award, 2005.

Abhay has composed music for a few films as well that includes an International Award-winning film Ziyarat (California, USA), a National Award-winning film, BUB  and a film sponsored by the Government of India on Mahatma Gandhi called Mahatma.

Abhay says he has worked on many projects but the song Aao Kadam Badhayai  changed his life and helped him to make his name. The song was composed in 2005 for raising relief funds for the Kashmir earthquake victims. It featured some of the renowned Indian classical musicians and became a musical hit in J&K during that time.

Abhay has also been a visiting faculty at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst, USA).


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