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Posted at: Nov 17, 2019, 8:36 AM; last updated: Nov 17, 2019, 8:36 AM (IST)

Act of passion

Delhi-based photographer Inni Singh on shooting Indian classical artistes

Lovedeep Sidhu

Given his innate inclination towards music, chances are that Inni Singh would have been associated with the art even if his family did not run a business that involves the manufacture and retail of musical instruments. Exposed to the soulful strains of the sarod and beats of tabla at an early age, Inni would often overhear conversations with musicians who would frequent their Delhi shop for purchase or repair of the instruments. “That’s when I developed an interest in Indian classical music,” he says.

Despite having joined work at 16 and being neck deep in learning the ropes, Inni would always find time to devote to learning music. “I wanted to learn to play the sarod from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan sahib. But since I didn’t know anyone who could introduce me to him, I would attempt to learn it on my own by listening to recordings of his concerts,” he tells us. To Inni’s luck, his fascination for the tabla earned him the opportunity to be tutored by none other than maestro Rafiuddin Sabri. “I’ve learnt tabla for almost 15 years, and played it during kirtans at gurdwaras,” he informs.

Interestingly, along with pursuing his love for music, Inni kept a steady and keen eye on photography. A busy work schedule notwithstanding, he would often grab his Russia-made Zenit SLR camera and shoot his family and musical instruments. It wasn’t long before Inni started accompanying Rafiuddin Sabri sahib to music concerts in the Capital. “Soon, I started photographing artistes and their performances after seeking their permission. When I liked the results, I upgraded to better equipment,” he smiles. His first shoot included the dance performance of Radha and Raja Reddy at an event in Delhi. Before Inni knew it, he had stepped into professional photography.

“Capturing emotions is what really fascinates me. Be it a musician or a dancer, I love to freeze-frame their expressions while they’re performing and in tune with their inner artiste,” he says, adding that it’s advantageous that he gets to meet illustrious artistes. “However, it’s important to bear in mind that this profession is only for those who have an ear for Indian classical music. Only then will you be able to enjoy the time spent attending the concerts,” he says.

The high point for Inni came when Ustad Amjad Ali Khan took him as his ganda-bandh shagird (a teacher formally accepting a student as his disciple) to teach him sarod. “It was a three-decade-long dream come true,” he beams, adding, “Photographing him while he performs gives me a sense of peace. When I listen to him closely, in his music room or on stage, I feel very fortunate and blessed.”

Inni, who continues to practice at work and at home, asserts that music will always be an integral part of his life, saying, “For as long as I can, I’ll continue to do what inspires me.”

Next, on the business front, his store has initiated a new production line-up of harmoniums. Each year, he also launches a calendar featuring artistes from the world of dance and music — from exponents such as Pandit Birju Maharaj to the younger lot. It’s his ode to his love for art and photography.

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