He moved back to India after living in the US for over a decade. There, he continues to teach and spread his love for music across the globe. But you see music is just one of his passions. He is an ex-Google engineer, an innovator, someone who loves psychology, who loves to write, someone who is deep thinker, the list goes on and on. That night I met him on Google hangout to learn about his music journey and to help me answer some of my own questions around passion and following your heart etc. I had a series of questions prepared for him but soon the conversation took on a life of its own. I lost track of time listening to his magical story and his insight around passion and vision…
Meet Sandeep Ranade, a Hindustani Classical Vocalist of the Mewati Gharana. He has been studying music since age 4 and his gurus include Padma Vibhushan Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj, Late Dr. Shobha Abhyankar and Mrs. Anjali Joglekar-Ponkshe.
Sandeep’s aaji (grandmother) first recognized the spark in him when he was just 10 days old. Apparently, he would cry for a long long time and only stop when she started some good classical music and thus at age 4, he started learning music from Mrs. Anjali Joglekar-Ponkshe, aka “Anju tai”. Through a series of interesting events he met his other gurus Late Dr. Shobha Abhyankar and Pandit Jasraj and continued his music journey.
He started learning music from Anju tai when he was 4. For a young Sandeep she was a great teacher. He was a curious kid and would ask Anju tai a million questions and she would patiently answer them to her capacity but she never stopped him. In his own words “This is how a teacher should be, one who fuels your curiosity without bringing any conformity. Share everything you know openly.” Sandeep trained with Anju tai for around 10 years and then she suggested him that he find a senior guru.
How Sandeep met his next guru? Is it a story of coincidence, a story of strong desire or a magical one or perhaps synchronicity at its best? Before talking about that, let’s talk about a pivotal event that happened in his life around his 16th birthday, that Sandeep says still defines his life today. On that birthday, his parents gifted him a set of 3 cassettes of live concerts of three muscal legends of that time. The first was Pandit Jasraj’s Ragas Bhairav, Lalit and Bhairav Bahar. Right then and there he decided that he wants to learn this music. At that time, he had no idea who Pandit Jasraj was, about his aura, his contribution to the field, nothing. Second cassette was Pandit Kumar Gandharva’s Raga Malkans and 6 exquisite compositions of his own creation. The third cassette had Ustad Amir Khan Sahib’s legendary Ragas Malkans and Marwa combination. Sandeep says, “The gift of music is invaluable, but to get these 3 legendary recordings from three legendary masters of the art is momentous! The more I learn, the more I am humbled by their remarkable genius.”
Two days after his birthday, Sandeep had participated in a small competition in Pune. As it turns out Late Dr. Shobha Abhyankar who herself was a student of Pandit Jasraj was one of the judges that day. Sandeep had no idea who she was or about her work. But her feedback was so accurate and insightful that he was overcome by a strong desire to ask her to be his Guru. He didn’t know if she teaches music but he followed his inner voice and walked up to her and asked her if she would teach him. And thus he embarked upon the next phase of his musical journey with Shobha tai. As he’d find out later that day that Anju tai had recently started learning from Shobha tai and was planning to take Sandeep to meet Shobha tai that very week. Coincidence or destiny? 🙂
By now, Sandeep would get up at 3 AM in the morning, do his riyaz for hours every day and then attend college and complete his homework, etc. He continued this routine even during his engineering and masters at Johns Hopkins University. During this time his curious mind was trying to find ways to optimize this riyaz where he can improve the coverage and also make this riyaz efficient. Eventually he developed NaadYoga (Yoga for voice), a system of practice which is complete and efficient, that shrinks 10 hours of riyaz into just one hour without compromising the quality and outcome. Sandeep says, “This is based on a combination of vocal anatomy, pranayam, yoga, kundalini techniques, neuroscience, discrete mathematics, learning theory, combinatorics, graph theory, and principles of software engineering”.
Listening to live concerts and interviews, Sandeep realized that riyaz is a lifelong process. Masters of the art continue riyaz as a lifestyle. Even in front of live audiences, they are not afraid to make mistakes, to push the envelope further and truly be spontaneous in every moment.
He shared with me some interesting memories of these legends. To me, the message these legends give us is – love what you do, immerse yourself in it, keep the fear of failure aside and constantly push the boundaries for yourself. You are competing against yourself and no one else. And since you love what you do, it is not a chore for you.
This was just a start of his beautiful journey …. The more I learned the more I wanted to know …
In 2004, Sandeep won the Vedic Heritage Music Competition that took him to New York for the final round where Pandit Jasraj was one the judges. Before announcing the results Panditji asked Sandeep to join him in the green room, with other judges. Sandeep sat at Panditji’s feet. Panditji put his hand on Sandeep’ head and his blessings are with Sandeep even today. Sandeep says, “I did not need any other award than this”.
In another magical turn of events, Sandeep started training with Panditji. In 2009, one early morning Sandeep’s phone rang and Panditji himself was on the phone. He summoned Sandeep to come and visit him in Berkeley, California. For next two days, he spent entire days learning music from Panditji. Panditji even asked Sandeep to perform with him at a private concert. Sandeep describes this experience as ‘out of this world’. Sandeep had wanted to learn from Panditji right from the moment he first heard him sing, but never imagined that this fantasy will one day become reality!
Sandeep’s life reminds me of the famous quotes, “ When you really want something, the universe conspires to make it happen” and the “Luck favors the prepared”. He attributes all of it to having a clear vision, a strong will, believing in yourself and following your heart. He gave me several other anecdotes of his life from getting into the right jobs to meeting his sweet wife Meghana. On one side it may sound magical but Sandeep believes that “Luck is not a magical ability or a gift from the gods. Instead, it is a way of thinking and behaving”.
In the next blog post, Sandeep shares his insight into vision, passion and sadhana … Stay tuned….
Links to Sandeep’s work –