In a chat concerning the legendary Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande made his music and philosophy come alive
It is a problem to introduce Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande. Even if it sounds tame, right here is an try: son of famend musicologist Pt. Vamanrao Deshpande, Pt. Satyasheel is a musician, musicologist, composer, author, music collector, and curator. Founder of the Samvaad Foundation — that has over 8,000 hours of archival recordings of Hindustani classical music and three,000 items of unpublished music materials — Pt. Satyasheel is the disciple of the redoubtable Pt. Kumar Gandharva. He has intimately studied the music of and interacted with main Hindustani musicians, who had an in depth relationship together with his father and usually visited their dwelling. Uniquely inventive, with an uncommon imaginative and prescient and eclectic style, Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande is a kind of uncommon musicians who can discuss music as competently as he can sing it.
Suranjan Trust, Thane, which works for the promotion of Hindustani music, lately organised the primary episode of ‘Insight’, a research of among the recordings of Pt. Kumar Gandharva by Pt. Satyasheel. “I am not here to give a final opinion,” he started, “but I want to discuss the merits (guna charcha) of this extraordinary musician’s music.” He recalled the “multiple influences” of music in his personal life: Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Suresh Mane, Mogubai Kurdikar, and several other different musicians frequented his dwelling, giving him the chance to take heed to their music intently. But why did he select to review below Pt. Kumar Gandharv? “They were all great musicians, phenomenally talented. It was possible to understand their music, whereas Pt. Kumar Gandharva’s music was unpredictable, not something that one understood easily. I decided to learn what I did not easily understand,” he defined.
He moved to Dewas, stayed there for a few years, sharing the classroom with the maestro’s son, Pt. Mukul Shivaputra, and his spouse, Vasundhara Komkali. Speaking concerning the ‘ashtanga’ of the khayal kind — the instruments of improvisation — he spoke of it as showing in a sequence within the music of every nice musician, an adherence to the foundations of the shape. Pt. B.R. Deodhar, who had nice regard for Kesarbai Kerkar’s music — “every mehfil of hers was so exciting that the listeners would be in a kind of trance when they dispersed” — additionally recognised a sample, a similarity of method in it, mentioned Pt. Deshpande. Not that Pt. Kumar Gandharva didn’t deploy instruments of improvisation, however he by no means turned them right into a template. It got here spontaneously together with his inventive overflow. “In the 60s, I have seen my guru sitting with his book of bandhishes almost every single day, thinking, revisiting, reinterpreting them. In his revisits, a bandish probably began to speak to him,” recalled Pt. Satyasheel.
Taking this ahead, Pt. Satyasheel performed a khayal rendition in Behag and added a narrative to it. He remembered how throughout one in every of his visits, the good Pt. Vasantrao Deshpande had rendered this. Singing it precisely the way in which Pt. Vasantrao had, he spoke of the immense potentialities of his voice. However, on listening to the putting rendition by Pt. Kumar Gandharva, one couldn’t disagree with Pt. Satyasheel’s phrases that “he used to work in very great detail on each bandish and none of his contemporaries did what he did. It was haunting…” It certainly took extraordinary braveness for a musician who lived amongst different legends to sing with out the predominance of the ashtanga.
Kumar Gandharva’s music was ‘dhun pradhan’; by his music he looked for his self and his music. Critics felt he seldom adhered to gharana guidelines. “But if you listen to Gwalior gharana music before it was formalised by musicians like Pt. Krishnarao Pandit, you notice that what became a rule later was never in practice by earlier musicians,” mentioned Pt. Satyasheel.
Pt. B.R. Deodhar obtained Kumar Gandharva to review the shastras and he was a “paramparapriya”, however not as soon as did he propagate his aesthetics. “That was how he sang, something that had emerged from his own engagement with music. He took the music of Pt. Deodhar futher, he improved and refined it.” As the recording of Raga Kalyan performed, Pt. Satyasheel turned the viewers’s consideration to the phrase “yaar…”, and remarked, “he is searching for gandhar and rishabh, and this is in a concert that has about 800 people!” He defined the affect of Ustad Karim Khan and Ustad Fayyaz Khan on Kumar Gandharva’s music and identified parts within the recording which can be paying homage to these masters.
Ramakrishnabua Vaze was one other stalwart of the Gwalior faculty who influenced Kumar Gandharva. “There is a three-minute recording of him rendering the famous ‘Sakhi Mukha Chandra’ (raga Khambavati). Panditji had heard him live, so when he sings this piece he captures Vazebua in spirit and not in mere imitation. Vazebua was old, and sang short phrases. Panditji could easily sing taans, but he refrains from it, since he’s trying to relive Vazebua as he understood him.”
Kumarji believed within the repetition of phrases over and over. In one recording, the phrase ‘Mandarva mein’ was sung over 25 occasions, in several methods. “It’s easy to label artistes. But a more mature approach is to understand their artistic process,” mentioned Pt. Satyasheel earlier than enjoying a Bhairavi tarana and tappa that Kumarji sang at Sawai Gandharva Festival in 1977. “You will not find the cascade of ‘dhirdhirdhirdhir’ in Kumarji’s rendition. He did not believe in anything cosmetic. Every phrase was internalised.”
The presentation not solely sensitised listeners to the inventive strategy of the inimitable Kumar Gandharva, however mentioned the music of different musicians of his occasions and earlier. The conversational mode saved the listeners hooked until the final.
The Bengaluru-based journalist writes on artwork and tradition.