Hindi Belt Authors

Between note and tempo

Music lovers will enthusiastically welcome the re-publication in Hindi of a seminal study of the various singing styles of Hindustani classical music represented by different, well-established gharanas. The book has been unavailable for a long time and when one searched on amazon.in, one found that only two used copies of its English version were available for ₹10,241 and ₹ 16,241 respectively. Here, we are referring to Vaman Hari Deshpande’s book, originally published in Marathi as “Gharandaj Gayaki” in May 1961. In 1973, Popular Prakashan, Bombay brought out its English translation as “Indian Musical Traditions”. Soon after this, Orient Longman came out with its Hindi version done by Rahul Barpute who was for many years the chief editor of the prominent Hindi daily Nai Duniya and enjoyed a close and abiding friendship with Kumar Gandharva.

However, the book has remained largely unavailable for nearly 45 years. Now, Rajkamal Prakashan has republished it as “Gharanedar Gayaki” under the Raza Pustakmala Series of the Raza Foundation, including material that Deshpande had added to the second edition of his original Marathi book. Dr. Gorakh Thorat has translated the additional sections.

The republication of this book is a major event, especially for Hindi readers, in the field of musicology and one hopes that its English version too will soon be made available. Prof. B. R. Deodhar, the first guru of Kumar Gandharva and a direct disciple of the legendary Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, has a written an erudite introduction to the book. Deodhar stood out among his contemporaries on account of his enlightened, modern views on music and a completely catholic, all-inclusive attitude that was innocent of any petty gharana rivalry or partisanship. This helped Deshpande fend off criticism that he had written the book to establish the superiority of Jaipur gharana as Deodhar, a blue blood representative of the Gwalior gharana, had supported his attempt as it was a completely novel way of understanding, analysing and explaining the intricacies of Hindustani classical vocal music.

Deshpande (1907-1990) was a chartered account by profession. He was initially trained in the Gwalior tradition but later went to learn from great singers like Sureshbabu Mane, the wayward genius son of the Kiranan gharana founder Abdul Karim Khan, and also from Natthan Khan, nephew of the Jaipur gharana founder Alladiya Khan. For many years, he also learnt from Jaipur gharana diva Mogubai Kurdikar and her daughter Kishori Amonkar. His highly interesting profiles of twelve musicians and musicologists in Marathi – Sureshbabu Mane, Natthan Khan, Govindrao Tembe, Mogubai Kurdikar, Bhaskarbua Bakhale, Alladiya Khan, Kumar Gandharva, Jagannathbuwa Purohit, Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, B. R. Deodhar and Bhimsen Joshi– were put together in a book titled “Alapini” and was later translated into English as “Between Two Tanpuras”.

As Deodhar has pointed out, Deshpande combines the practical knowledge of a vocalist with the analytical acumen of a musicologist and thus is most suitable to study and explain the nature and structure of Hindustani music. In my view, he was the first person who used concepts of classicism and romanticism – both are very much in vogue in literary and musical discussions in the West but almost entirely absent in the Indian context – to bring out the aesthetic essence of Hindustani music after making a deep study of its grammatical appearance.

For Deshpande, swara (note) and laya (tempo) are the two basic units of music and a singing style that combines them in the most balanced and judicious manner (preeti-sangam) should be placed at the top of the gharana hierarchy. He underlines the distinguishing features of the Kirana gharana and Agra gharana by describing them as two extremities in the world of Hindustani classical vocal music. While the Kirana gharana places exclusive emphasis on swara and remains indifferent to layakarai, the Agra gharana is solely concerned with laya and taal and fails to pay much attention to swara. All other styles would come in between these two and would differ from one another on account of the way they combine swara with laya and taal. In other words, the proportion of the two in relation with each other in the final version would determine their aesthetic merit. So, their permutations and combinations would offer a glimpse into the process of the formation of a particular vocal style or a gharana, if that style is widely appreciated and gains acceptability.

Although Bonnie C. Wade in his book titled “Khyal: Creativity Within North India’s Classical Music Tradition” claims that Deshpande for his book drew heavily from Deodhar’s multi-volume work “Raga-Bodh”, published in 1947 in Marathi, Deodhar does not say anything like this in his Introduction. In fact, in the foreword to the second edition, Deshpande tries to answer some of the critical points raised by Deodhar. In the world of Hindustani classical music, such openness, intellectual rigour and honesty is not easy to come by.

Deshpande frankly states that all the gharanas are different paths to take the musician to the summit of his creativity. At the same time, he also cautions against gharana orthodoxy or rigidity. His views remain as relevant today as they were when his books were published.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 2:02:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/between-note-and-tempo/article31109331.ece

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