Arati Ankalikar Tikekar says that sadhana has to be the goal and destination of every sincere musicianDEEPA GANESH
Arati Ankalikar Tikekar is recognised among the leading female vocalists of the country. With the styles of many gharanas shaping her musical idiom, Arati has several national awards to her credit. After her concert for the Bangalore Kidney Foundation recently, Arati speaks about the many forces – within and without – that is part of her musical journey.
Can you recall the point in your life when music turned into a serious passion? When did it become the most important thing in your life?
I loved singing. When I was in school, I sang much better than any other kid in my class. My parents felt I had to learn music. My favourite activity was to sit on the swing in our house and endlessly sing nursery rhymes they taught me at school. Each time I sang them, I kept improvising. Both my parents sang beautifully and loved music, it’s only fortunate that they recognised my love for music.
It was not like I went to a music class, came home and did my own things. With my parents riyaz was a very serious affair. It was gruelling in the beginning, but in the days to come I began to enjoy sadhana. My father always said the greatest joy should be sadhana, and it has to be an end in itself.
By the time I was in college, I decided that music had to be the most important thing in my life. I pursued M.com and took up music seriously. It’s neither my profession nor my career, it is my love. This is how I felt when I was 18 years old. My parents have been very supportive in this journey. Even now when my dad calls me he says, ‘Don’t tell me what concerts you have and how much money you’ve earned. Tell me about your riyaz and your new musical ideas.’ He has always believed that karam hi phal hai.
What were the most enduring forces in shaping your musical persona?
I used to love Kishoriji’s music. But without proper guidance, it’s hard to choose your guru and gharana. When I won the Kesarbai award Phula Deshpande advised that I had to find a teacher who matched my thinking and temperament. I went to Kishori Amonkarji. ‘Ýou have to give me a minimum of 100 per cent, only then will I teach you,’ she demanded an undertaking.
If she started teaching raga Yaman, morning and evening, for one full month we would sing nothing except Yaman. It was so difficult, but at some point the entire world would have transformed into Yaman, and I used to feel like I had become the song itself. This is a state beyond bhava-avastha, the emotional state. It’s certainly not about technique or style. I got this from guruji.
What kind of a guru is Kishoriji?
She is a task master and a very affectionate person. She used to take care of me like a mother. Once I had a sinus attack and Kishori Tai was so worried that she sent a cab for me and took me to the specialist. Till she was sure that I was ok, she was restless. She never expected anything from us except hard work and determination. She was unsparing when it came to riyaz. She was strict, disciplined and never accepted excuses.
Even with her own music there were never any compromises. I used to go with her to several concerts for vocal support. She took a lot of time to tune her tanpura and wouldn’t start till it was perfect. Whatever she did she was true to it. I always felt she was right. An artiste is afterall not a machine. The mind and soul are involved in the process.
Was it intimidating to have a towering musician like her for a guru?
It definitely was. But people around me, especially my mother who is a very strong person, supported me a lot. The first stage is that of imitation, people enjoy it because it is already a brand. Soon, you will feel that the time has come for you to have our own brand. These are challenging moments. Mind has to be tender and non-rigid. I loved Jaipur gharana music, but I also have great admiration for Ulhas Kashalkar and Dinakar Kaikini. A great guru is one who doesn’t insist on a single style. There were different circles in my brain and they got intersected to form my own idiom of music. I got out of the imitation phase.
Have you ever felt less privileged being a woman musician?
I have never had the time to look at these issues. Music has been such an overwhelming force in my life, and it’s a 24-hour job. I have been treated equally in all my roles. I have never felt indebted to my husband and I don’t ever remember asking him whether I should agree to a concert, so on and so forth. We are actually like two husbands, if I can put it that way.
Every concert is a new beginning. What kind of challenges does a musician face?
Musicians want to sing before an audience and gain their appreciation. This is the kalakaar part. The other part in him is that of the saadhaka. He seeks to connect with himself – an interconnectedness between his shareera, buddhi, man and atma. The third part is the human being part. We have to play all our roles with efficiency. If you cannot find a balance between these parts it is going to be an emotional challenge. Music is not for manoranjan but for atmaranjan, it lies beyond the framework of life. It is purification. One has to keep shedding oneself.