Devoted to the spiritual

Higher power: Bhuvanesh Komkali is the grandson of legendary vocalist Kumar Gandharva

Higher power: Bhuvanesh Komkali is the grandson of legendary vocalist Kumar Gandharva  

This weekend, a concert headlined by Bhuvanesh Komkali will celebrate the diversity in the divine

Bhuvanesh Komkali was only 13 when his grandfather, the legendary vocalist Kumar Gandharva, passed away. Yet, the memories of seeing him teach and perform are still fresh.

He also recalls his focus on nirgun and sagun bhajans, which have now become a family tradition. Komkali will be presenting this section of his bhajan repertoire at the Bhakti Ibadat concert this weekend. While Aparna Kelkar will render poetry written by female saints, Pooja Gaitonde will perform Sufi compositions.

Musical legacy

“There are different forms of devotional music followed by different people. Some listen to music dedicated to a particular deity, and others listen to music inspired by someone who is formless. Some believe in poetry written by saints, others look at the God within. It’s a fantastic idea to present various concepts of devotional music on a common platform,” says Komkali. Given the time limit, Komkali will choose a select repertoire, with a section based on Kabir’s nirgun bhajans, which consider the divine as formless. “My grandfather is known for singularly creating a new style of rendering Kabir’s poetry. He had distinct thoughts and did plenty of research, and translated them into music,” he says. Among the other nirgun poets, Komkali will present the work of Gorakhnath. The sagun poets (whose work is dedicated to specific icons or deities) will include Surdas, Tulsidas and Tukaram. “Gandharvaji studied all poets in detail. He thought Mira’s poetry had a clear element of nritya (dance) which he didn’t find in other poets. I am only trying to spread his thoughts and teachings,” he adds.

Komkali is the son of vocalist Mukul Shivputra, who also trained him initially. Later, he studied with his grandmother Vasundhara Komkali and Pandit Madhup Mudgal. “I am whatever I am because of Vasundharaji. Till she passed away, she taught me every nuance of Gandharvaji’s music and honed my skills and approach,” he shares. Komkali says the term riyaz (practice) may not be appropriate in the context of Gandharva. He explains, “He didn’t have any set timings for music. Whether or not he had a tanpura with him, he would keep thinking of new ideas and sing through the day.”

Music and technology

Based in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, Komkali spends a lot of time teaching when he isn’t busy touring. “I have some students who visit me regularly but I also do [teach] online for those who stay far away,” he says. For him, teaching through Skype has its advantages and disadvantages, “The good thing is you can teach at any time, and teach anyone no matter where they stay. But there’s nothing like teaching one-on-one. It’s like giving an interview. We can do it on the phone or email, but there’s a completely different kind of joy if we meet in person.” Komkali’s other priority is to spread Gandharva’s music through modern technology. For this, he is creating digital archives of his grandfather’s new compositions and his interpretation of traditional ragas. “It will be a great medium to pass on his musical message,” he emphasises.

Bhakti Ibadat – a concert of devotional music will take place on May 18 at 6 p.m. at Nehru Centre, Worli; more details at

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 5:35:57 AM |

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