Pandit Ramprasad Sharma was a great trumpet and violin player. More than 2000 of his disciples are musicians in the cine world today. He is the father and teacher of the fabled Music director Pyarelal, and has also been a music guru ranging from teaching notations and playing techniques to some pupils, to everything they know in music to the rest. Panditji has been a guru for an overwhelming number of people ranging from slum dwelling children to great masteros.
A few names would be Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshksar, Uttam Singh, Surendra Sodhi, Anu Malik, Zarine Daruwala, Mahavir Prasad, and of course Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Even Naushad, C. Ramachandra, Abdul Halim Zafar Khan and Faiyaz Khan have to different extents learnt certain notations/techniques from Panditji. There are many big names from the world of classical music as well.
He was a complete music director, researcher, composer and arranger with an in-depth knowledge of all known musical instruments, their notations and playing techniques in Indian as well as western styles. Leave alone meeting, rarely does one ever even get to hear about someone like this. Above all, he was noble, humble, selfless, extremely caring and always bore a burning fire within himself to impart knowledge to everyone around him without any catch to it. The article was compiled for Kalaranjan (Page 2, Thursday, 5th October, 1995), a supplement of ‘Sakal’, a Marathi Newspaper in Pune, India, by one of his disciples, Ustad Faiyaz Husein a little after Panditji‘s demise in 1995.
Just read the news of Ramprasadji’s demise in the newspaper. This bitter reality of missing him is of course excruciating, but more painful than that was to bear the pain of the loss of such a great artist. So the least I felt I could do was to introduce people to a bit of his greatness.
Many may not even know that there was someone by the name of Pt. Ramprasad. The reason is that he never stepped into the world of popularity. He was a very good trumpet player. Though he stepped into Mumbai’s film world as a trumpet player, his personality was basically that of a devoted musician artist. So he could never get along easily with other commercial musicians and artists. Consequently, he had to step out of that world. Then he had to face days of starvation. That was also when he took up the challenge of not surrendering to his current fate. He started to teach playing the violin to his son Pyarelal, whose name as everyone knows, eventually became the most popular one out of all Indian Film Music Directors. Pyarelalji was merely 5 when his training started. At the age of 9, Pyarelal was introduced to the world of film music. Pyare even starred in Shobhna Samarth’s (mother of Nutan and Tanuja) film “Hamari Beti” as a small Violin Player. He stunned the whole film world with his skills.
Pt. Ramprasadji has deftly played trumpet solos in many Hindi film songs and film background scores. “Suhani Raat Dhai Chuki” rendered by the late Mohd. Rafi also features Ramprasadji’s trumpet play that touches the heart as much as Rafi’s voice does. One of his pupils named Mahavir Prasad was an artist of very high caliber. His performance can be witnessed in the song “Patli Kamar Hai, Tirchi Nazar Hai” from the film Barsaat. Unfortunately Mahavir Prasad passed away at a rather early age. At that time Ramprasadji brought home his 11 year old son, taught him how to play and placed him on the road to success in spite of his own condition being so much low down. He made his own children experts in playing different musical instruments as well.
Ramprasadji was interested in molding players who could make use of the techniques of ‘meend’ and ‘gamak’ in western style violin playing. Well known names of Violin players in the Cine world today such as Surendra Sodhi, Kishore Sharma, Uttam Singh (Music Director: Dil To Paagal Hai fame) have all learnt from him. Big names from the world of classical music have learnt the notation system from him. Some more names would be Naushad, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Abdul Halim Jafar Khan, Zarine Daruwala etc. But his desire of being a renowned music director was not exactly fulfilled. Pyarelal however fulfilled this desire of his.
I wish to explicitly state one of Panditji’s proud accomplishments for which he should have been presented with some award of honour. He never charged anybody for teaching how to play the violin. Not only this, he has made groups out of slum dwelling children and turned them into deft players of an instrument as difficult as the violin. Not one, not two but definitely more than two hundred such children have learnt from him and have moved on from rags to riches! In the cine music world, in almost every song recording there were at least a few musicians who have learnt from Panditji. And there still are!
My father P. Mohd. Hussain Khan was in Bombay in 1966. He sent me to Pt. Ramprasadji to take lessons on western music on the violin. I became his disciple by paying just a token amount of Rs. 11 as Guru-Dakshina. After going to him and hearing Pyarelalji play the violin I started to understand the quality, richness and the ____ prowess of the instrument. Although it has just 4 strings, all the music of the world can emerge from it. This instrument that could touch and interact with human feelings would be played so very well by Pyarelalji! When Latabai’s song was played on the violin, one would feel as if she herself is singing. When I was learning from him, he used to praise me in front of Pyarelalji, and I was overwhelmed. He has always treated me with respect. Whenever we went out together, without fail he used take something for me making me feel all the more hesitant. I always thought at that time that when I grow up, I should do something nice for my Guru. Then I was rooted in Jaipur All India Radio, and this wish of mine remained unfulfilled.
On my return, ‘Arun Music Class’ had organized a three day music conference in Pune’s Balgandharva Rang Mandir in 1985. At that time I got the opportunity to honour him. Pt. Ramprasadji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal had all attended the function without any reservations. I feel a great sense of satisfaction that I got this chance to honor these great people in ‘Punya Nagari’ itself. (Pune is often referred to in literature as ‘Punya Nagari’ meaning the city of virtue). Laxmikantji while speaking on this occasion stated that “Panditji was an institution by himself!” This is was a perfect picture of the fact painted by Laxmikantji in just one word.
Panditji created a lot of players (musicians). All his children are acknowledged players of different musical instruments. When I used to hear Ganesh Bhaiiya’s Violin playing I the pathos used to affect me. I used to get into depression and feel as If I should never hold the violin ever again. Such was the vigour of the artistes that he contributed to the cine world. I wish that the notes generated by them remain filled all around for ever. He was an outstanding composer, an outstanding arranger and a very noble human being as well.
Pandit Ramprasadji had his own unique style of teaching. It was not just a repetition of the western style of playing. He had devised his own technique too. First he used to mahe the student practice tempo. Then he used to write Cover croche, cover semi, cover and other terms, and he used to get it read from students whilst giving rhythm himself using his feet. Panditji used to introduce students to lessons of notes and pitch only after the former part was well understood by them. He used to mahe his students practice for at least 7 to 8 hours. Some students used to get bored and attempt running away while learning. So Panditji got a 15 feet long iron chain made. He used to hold one end of the chain and the other end used to be fastened to the student’s leg. This only brings to light the fire burning within him to teach and spread his knowledge.
Pt. Ramprasadji had great respect for music Director K. Ghulam Haider a lot. Panditji used to garland the latter photograph every Thursday without fail. Once, when asked about it, Panditji said “Ghulam Haider was very optimistic about the general progress of artistes (musicians). He used to keep on saying that each one of my musicians should have a vehicle of his own”. The same principles were retained by Ramprasadji as well as Laxmikant Pyarelal. Many needy and old artists used to get a chance to play in their recordings. Any student who stepped into Panditji’s school
Since I was born in a family of music, I had the privilege of observing great artists from close proximity. I got to learn singing from my father. I got advice from Amir Khansaheb. I had the good fortune of learning two ragas from someone as great as Amaan Ali Khansaheb. But Pt. Ramprasadji was the only one who pined to impart education.