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Tribute to Dexter Raghunanan

By Surujrattan Rambachan

The untimely death of renowned tabla player Dexter Raghunanan came as a shock to the East Indian musical community. In my humble view Dexter was a very accomplished player and as is well known accompanied the likes of Anup Jalota and Internationally renowned sitar maestro Pundit Mangal Patassar among a range of ghazal, film, and devotional singers across the continents.

I first came to know Dexter when he accompanied me in a Ramayan Yagna in Whiteland in the 1980’s. Later on I had the good fortune to have him accompany me at the Lakshmi Narayana Temple in Houston, Texas.

The last time I sang with Dexter was at the Mandir of Pundit Atma in St Charles about a year ago. I last saw him two weeks ago at the 50th birthday of Rana Mohip at Passage to Asia in Chaguanas. He greeted me with a hug smiled in his characteristic simplicity.

Dexter’s passing untimely as it is is a most important reminder to us that life is uncertain and like the sage Adi Shankaracharya said in Bhaja Govindam life is like a drop of water on a lotus leaf in the midst of a lake which drop is itself unstable and can fall off at any time. So too are our lives. We cannot predict the time nor place when death visits to snatch us away However we do have control over the present , over the moments we are alive and capable of making choices. Not to appreciate this truth will be to cheat ourselves if the opportunity to live fully and happily. Dexter in my view lived fully and happily because his tabla playing was his worship, his devotion, his daily offering to God.

Dexter made a choice to follow his desire to be the best tabla player. This in itself an important quality. As human beings we are given four goals to pursue. Artha or our material needs, Jana the realization of our human potential or to be the best we can be at what we desire , dharma living righteous lives and moksha freedom from Sorrow and the realization of joy eternal.

Dexter fulfilled Kama, his potential through his tabla playing. He was not as concerned with Artha beyond his basic needs. He left a teaching job to be a professional musician. This in itself was a risk. Accomplished East Indian musicians are not generally known to come from outside of India although there are good examples here in Trinidad, Surinam and Guyana. The fact that Dexter was sought after by singers coming to the west to perform is a statement of his commitment to excellence and the respect he had gained.

He brought glory and respect to our East Indian musical fraternity for which like we owe Mungal Patassar, Rana Mohip, Sookdeo Jagdeo, Raymond Ramnarine, Chandradath Singh (our former Ambassador to India) m, Shakuntala Jangbahadoor , Harry Mahabir, Shivanand Maharaj, Prakash Gosine, Kris Ramkhelawan, Anand Yankaran and a host of others, we also owe Dexter a great debt of gratitude.

Dexter achieved his goal of dharma by his righteous commitment to his tabla and wherever he was he was always grounded in religion and religious values. This was his dharma. His moksha was the joy he exuded when playing the tabla.

He wanted to realize this dream and he did. However he was never satisfied with his accomplishments. He wanted always to learn more and with that intent he remained humble though the musical fraternity regarded him as a player who excelled. The reason he excelled was because he was always committed to learn and improve.

Dexter never spoke about himself. He never boasted. He was always complimenting others. He was not a competitor. He had his own style and gave of his best wherever he played. But above all he shared his learning, his skills teaching others and inspiring them to realize their potential. In this way he was a giver not a self seeking receiver. In giving of himself and in teaching others he lived the value of sharing and selflessness.

There is something significant about his passing that should not elude us. When we have the gift of life and a special gift and talent that accompanies it we must also use it to enhance the talents of others. To be selfish with our talents would eventually see us leaving the world in a poorer state because we failed to add value to it by our presence and use of our talents to develop others.

When we leave the world our legacy will live on through the lives of those we have inspired and developed. In Dexter’s case he has done this successfully as dozens of tabla players have benefitted from his magnanimity. What is the use of having a talent that is not shared with others.

The musical fraternity will miss Dexter. We will remember the nod of his head in quiet agreement and recognition of the artiste he was accompanying or the audience which applauded his talents. We will remember his smile and his humility.

May Lord Krishna give him eternal peace and may he live in the hearts and minds of those he inspired in the pursuit of excellence.

MP for Tabaquite
Saraswati Kirtan Mandali (celebrating 50th Anniversary)

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