This is a monologue from the diary of Sandhya Gokhale, who, with actor-director Amol Palekar, hosted a felicitation recently in Pune to honour Kishori Amonkar in her 80th year.
For a while I felt fulfilled, Kishoritai, when you mentioned to a press reporter that “Though I am of their mother's age, Amol and Sandhya are my parents.” Instantaneously, I became aware of my insidious immodesty – “fortunately” I must add! Tai, you have no clue what in abundance you have given to the audience and to me in particular for whom music is an imperative need. Through your immortal musical phrases, I have survived the abstract celebrations of life; have encountered the Freudian “oceanic feeling” i.e. the height of being in love in which the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away, as he stated! Your emotive, though intricate, music is the indissoluble bond with myself! Your ingenious renditions have worked like long anesthesia for me. Thank you Tai for giving all the strength to exhaust the limits of the possible!
It's only out of this pure sense of gratitude that Amol and I thought of felicitating the marvel called Kishori Amonkar who, at 80, is at the apogee of poetics of intensity. You had grieved once “why don't we all musicians come together and sing raga Yaman? So what if our gharanas, styles are different? If the raga Bhava (mood) that Yaman exudes is the same, why don't we all explore it together?” I sensed the hollowness, perhaps helplessness, in your appeal. This was the impetus behind conceiving the idea of Sahela Re, that gathered about 22 artistes on February 12 and 13 in Pune.
Jaiteerth Mehundi of Kirana Gharana, Raghunandan Panshikar of Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana and Prasad Khaparde of Rampur-Saheswan Gharana cajoled raga Yaman through their respective styles. Similarly, Nandini Bedekar, Kaushiki Chakravarty, and Kalapini Komakali presented raga Todi jointly while exulting their distinct individual styles respectively in Jaipur-Atrauli, Patiala, and Kumar Gandharva/Gwalior Gharana. Most were sceptical while a few ridiculed this idea, I must confess. I was a bit fearful of surrounding cynicism; but the enormous ovation that these singers received frequently during and certainly at the end of their performance, attested my intrinsic faith in the concept.
The two days felicitation gala was aptly unveiled with Amjad Ali Khansaheb's raga Zinzoti. The audience, overawed by the first look of the aesthetic lay out of the stage and light design — never seen so far in an Indian classical music concert, soon got immersed into Khansaheb's restrained yet profound performance. Another mesmerising piece was in raga Sarang by Manju Mehta on sitar, Satish Vyas on santoor and Rakesh Chaurasia, the exuberant flautist. Exceeding the limitations of their own instruments, these artistes elevated the afternoon raga through their master strokes. The stirring experimentation of Uday Bhavalkar, an ace Dhrupad singer with celloist Nancy Kulkarni and Bahauddin Dagar on rudra veena was esteemed by Pune-ites. Their poised presentation of raga Bihag etched an unforgettable ambience of the evening.
Yet another achievement of Sahela Re was the immediate patronage given by the ardent audience of Pune to Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna! Delving the cross-sections of Dhrupad and Khayal gayaki, T.M. Krishna confirmed the command over his own style devoid of any gimmicks. The accompanying violinist, R.K. Shriramkumar, and K. Arun Prakash on mridangam were no less than solo performers. “He is so electrifying; I would love to sing with him,” was Tai's reflex! T.M., please note these blessings! But Tai, who will match your Sawani Nat which you started at 10.30 pm? You are simply unparalleled in Indian classical music.
For the first 10 minutes, the audience felt restive with your despotic cough; but as you settled down, the oblivious absorption of all of us in your singing was almost meditative and pure. I wish the young listeners who were not necessarily students of music were turned into addicts of Indian classical music at the end of that day.
The grand finale was crowned by the percussionists. Taal Kacheri perfected by unfailingly humble Vikku Vinayak Ram and V. Selva Ganesh along with his singer-brother Mahesh Vinayak Ram intertwined the margins of rhythm and beat, resonance and furious lilt. Sultan Khansaheb's son Sabir Khan was yet another gem unearthed at Sahela Re. His tender inimitable bowing on sarangi captured the soul of the distinguished ensemble. Sabir anchored himself as a master soloist and also as a capable accompanist who pleased Zakir Hussein and Bhavani Shankar as well. Unending applause received by the tabla and pakhwaj jugalbandi was unprecedented. Zakirbhai's vibrant and buoyant presence, flawless timing, command over his thaap and chaat and many more elements always reflect this maestro's wizardry.
The memories of these two days remind me of Nietzsche's insight. “We possess art lest we perish of the truth.” His insightful description of “the function of art” also brutally attracts me. Music as “something inherently life-affirming even at moments when the drudgery of existence is most intensely felt” is, hence, divine even to my atheist mind. It is this unique possibility of the artiste to transmute his/her pain into art that ultimately gives us the strength to survive the Sisyphean curse. How in our lifespan can all this be redeemed?
The writer is a lawyer, writer and film-maker. She and her husband Amol Palekar hosted an epic Swarabhisheka titled “Sahela Re”.
‘We are very lucky...'
To me personally I think it was a great honour to be even present in the same room as a legend like Kishori Amonkar and therefore performing in her presence was truly unreal. It was really special to be part of an event to honour her. The event itself was conceived of and presented by Shri Amol Palekar and Smt. Sandhya Ghokale in such an elegant and respectful manner wherein all the musicians, each representing the various classical traditions of our country of different generations and who were part of the two-day event, were present on stage to honour Kishoriji.
I had the opportunity to talk to Kishoriji and receive her blessings. In my conversation with her it was truly wonderful to receive her advice on our duty as practitioners and understand her perspective towards the purpose of classical music itself.
In the world we live in, to remain with one's own music and just delve deeper and deeper into it, is not considered a journey but looked upon as stagnation. We are very lucky that we still have among us someone like Kishoriji who is an embodiment of this very journey into the depths of music. Hardly few years in our respective fields and we talk about how we are combining Carnatic or Hindustani ragas with other forms and creating new music. When Kishoriji sings she is not trying to be new but just by being with her music and continuing to submit to it, she has given classical music an everlasting newness and freshness. This is true creativity.
It's not enough if we look at Kishoriji and say, “Wow what a legend”; a real tribute to her will be to try and imbibe her thought process in our understanding of our music, treasure it and respect it like she has. We should not forget that we are all proud of our music only because of such great musicians.
When I asked Kishoriji for her autograph she obliged but added a note that said “Sing for Him, who resides in all.”