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"KishoriTai Amonkar- A Challenge Unto Herself "

KishoriTai Amonkar- A Challenge Unto Herself

The demise of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar, the doyenne of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana has undoubtedly left a deep void in the world of Hindustani Classical Music. It will take a while for this turbulence to pass and come to terms with the colossal loss.

I find many similarities between my manas - Guru Pt. Kumar Gandharva and Kishori tai. Both were extremely traditional in their musical outlook. Yet with their independent free spirited thinking they created an identity of their own, staying true to the principles of the gharana that they belonged to. These iconic rebels were cerebral articulate musicians who went on to create a unique style of their own through their original approach and sense of aesthetics. Like Kumar ji, Kishori tai too considered the final musical outcome to be more important than the accepted norms/ways to achieve the same. Both had lost their voices for a considerable amount of time which was spent in deep contemplation on music, its nature and its connection with the divine/Nature. Both musicians never played to the gallery and looked at music from a deeply soulful perspective way beyond mere ‘entertainment’. They both had deep conviction in their values and musical thoughts and never compromised on them in spite of relentless and sometimes vicious criticism. They were the only two artists in my opinion who were truly able to reach out to the void at the center of a note. Gifted with unparalleled intelligence and emotionality, both inspired an entire generation of classical vocalists.

I remember the first concert of Tai that I had attended as a young music student. After an ugly public spat with the original organizer, Tai had decided to sing for free for all music lovers in Pune. The entire music fraternity had swooped down that morning at Garware College Auditorium to listen to the Music Goddess. Infamous as she was for her moody temper, Tai was running late as usual. As the hours passed by the scheduled time, the audience grew impatient and restless. Some took tea breaks, some read newspapers and some passed angry comments with nothing much left to do than twiddle their thumbs. But what surprised me was that no one was ready to leave! Everyone waited patiently for Kishori tai to arrive. When the wait became almost unbearable, Tai finally descended on stage with her entourage. I could immediately sense that I was in the presence of greatness and that Kishori tai was no ordinary musician. Dressed elegantly in a saree with the pallu on her shoulder, a big red bindi on her forhead, sparkling rings in her manicured fingers and a dash of light make up, she looked every which way like a Devi (Goddess). As she carefully tuned the swara-mandal, she seemed to inhabit a different realm.

She was aware that the audience was angry at her for the inordinate delay and inconvenience caused. But as soon as Tai struck the first note, the listeners’ pent up anger and irritation simply melted away! As she started the slow exposition of the ragas, frayed nerves were calmed as if someone was lovingly applying a balm on them! Tai sang with her eyes almost always shut and seemed to be in a deep meditative state. She would open her eyes sometimes as she and along with her, the audience would effortlessly arrive on the ‘sam’. Avartan after avartan, Tai’s notes weaved magic and held the audience tightly in her grip.

As the mehfil progressed, the audience was transported to an enchantingly beautiful world. It was a divine serene experience that is truly difficult to express in words. Datta Marulkar (who was then writing Tai’s biography), lovingly insisted that she sing Bahaduri Todi for which Tai relented grudgingly. That was the best Bahaduri Todi I have ever heard in my life! It truly mesmerized the audience and made them sway to the sublime sound. It was that day that I realized the power of music and musicianship. Tai’s music was truly beyond mere ‘entertainment’. Her music had the power to pull at the heart strings of her audience and make them almost hypnotic to the transcendent divinity that she could create.

Such artists can never die; for they shall forever remain alive through their celestial music! It is the turn of the Gods in heaven now to relish in the spiritually uplifting music of the Ganasaraswati whom they recalled from the earthly world.

Pt. Pushkar Lele

Updated : 7 April 2017 5:28 AM GMT
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