Orchestrating tunes for therapy- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

A music aficionado from Delhi is bound to have heard of the Rikhi Ram Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co. Established in 1920 by Pandit Rikhi Ram Sharma—well-known musical instrument makers in the city—this store at Connaught Place is nothing short of an institution.

Being born in a family with such musical influence, Rishab Rikhiram Sharma was certain about pursuing music from a young age. However, even though he started learning Hindustani classical vocals, his parents did not allow him to touch the sitar. “The sitar, my father said, was a sacred instrument that I needed to learn how to handle,” shares the 23-year-old. This only made Rishab adamant about learning the instrument—he took up the sitar when he was 12 and had the privilege of being the last disciple of Sitar virtuoso, Pandit Ravi Shankar. 

Healing with music  
Like many artists, Rishab, too, had his fair share of troubles amid the pandemic. Rishab’s—he was dealing with anxiety and depression post the lockdown—mental health deteriorated after losing his grandfather in September, 2020. “Not being able to go out and perform resulted in a lot of residual feelings of anxiety and depression,” he recalls. However, in time, the artist realised that music was an important tool to help him solve his mental health issues. It is with this thought that he launched ‘Sitar for Mental Health’ in 2021.

Conducting regular virtual performances on Instagram and Clubhouse (a social audio application), Rishab attempts to fight his own anxiety through this musical project. “I might have started this for my own reasons but people pointed out how my music had calmed them too,” shares Rishab. He adds, “It was a wonderful transaction. I was healing myself by playing while the audience was healing through my music as well.” 

Going beyond virtual sessions, Rishab has also started conducting live ‘Sitar for Mental Health’ shows worldwide, one of which is scheduled today at Studio Ekko. “Mental health is still neglected in India. I came out with my mental health struggle because I wanted people to believe that there was a safe place where one could share,” he elaborates. 

Symphonies that matter
Each show begins with a meditation session with the audience. “I request them [the audience] to close their eyes as they internalise the music. I feel music is best received when one’s mind is empty of all troubles,” shares Rishab. The second-half of this show features classical tunes with a tabla accompaniment. In order to appeal to a wider audience, Rishab mixes pop-culture influences in the show by playing title tracks from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Pink Panther.

The performance (usually) ends with blues or jazz music. “My aim is to make it a feel-good event; not too heavy on classical, not too fusion-centric, so that all kinds of people can enjoy it.” Speaking of the success of the project, Rishab concludes, “With the response I have received, I can see the community growing. The harmonically-rich sound of the sitar is very therapeutic. It stimulates your senses. I believe music therapy is definitely here to stay.”

WHAT: Sitar for Mental Health
WHEN: Tonight; 8:00pm
WHERE: Studio Ekko, 
Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road

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