In sync with taleem and tradition

The path to a performance career in Hindustani music has not always been smoothly paved for women. Facing obstacles in an originally patrilineal gharana system, including widespread disapproval of women performers in the public gaze, the strides made by the women who went against the grain established significant precedent for those who came after. This Sunday, Legacy a day-long festival organised by First Edition Arts will feature three female Hindustani vocalists hailing from three different bastions of the tradition: Apoorva Gokhale of the Gwalior gharana, Dr Pournima Dhumale of the Agra gharana, and Pratima Tilak of the Jaipur gharana. This line-up is noteworthy in its selection of uncompromising artists who seek to create thoughtful, honest, and moving music without smokescreens of show or fanfare.

Tilak comes from a lineage of esteemed female gurus, Kamal Tambe and Kausalya Manjeshwar, who are disciples of Jaipur-Atrauli maestro Mogubai Kurdikar. While Tambe pursued music in the professional arena, Manjeshwar did not have the same choice. “She never pursued music as a profession, because it was not seen as a very respectable profession in those times. Though she was very learned and sang in public, it was never professionally,” Tilak recounts. As a member of the next generation, Tilak received the full support of her family and gurus when she decided on pursuing a career as a musician.

The personal significance of a women-only festival is not lost on Tilak. “All the generations before us fought so much and stood up against so many odds. It’s only because of this that our generation and the next generation are getting such platforms and opportunities, and a better understanding from society.” Dhumale’s Agra gharana lineage relates a different narrative for women in a gayaki that has been perceived as male dominated. Dhumale explained, “There are just a few female vocalists in this gharana. This context becomes more important for me, to present the Agra gharana on women’s day. At the same time, I would like to try my best to wipe out a misconception about the Agra gharana. Though it is male dominated, the gayaki (musical style) is not masculine. When I’m presenting a gayaki , I’m just an artist, not a male or female. The temperament of the gayaki depends on the temperament of the raag being presented.” Dhumale first trained under her mother and renowned musicologist, Dr Sulabha Thakar, followed by a 20-year tutelage under the late Agra gharana veteran Babanrao Haldankar.

She expressed her concern for the decreased representation of the gharana in the current musical circuit. “The Agra gharana is a little bit left behind nowadays, as compared to Jaipur, Kirana or Patiala,” she explained. “Agra gharana singers of today’s generation should introspect...we should look at the reasons why we were left behind and move ahead without compromising our gayaki , such as the nom tom alaap , which is a such an exclusive feature of the Agra gayaki . We should polish these precious facets and try our best to bring back the glory of the Agra gharana, whether as a male or female.”

As a torchbearer of her gharana, Apoorva Gokhale takes pride in preserving the content of her legacy with authenticity. She has received training from her grandfather, Gwalior master and prolific Guru and composer, Gajananbuwa Joshi, followed by tutelage under her uncle Madhukar Joshi. “I feel that people are not coming to listen to me. They are coming to hear those who have preceded me in my lineage, my tradition, the taleem I have received, and many have heard my gurus as well. I want my guru’s presence highlighted in my performance,” Gokhale said. And while Gokhale acknowledges that the number of women in the field are comparatively less, she feels that quality of music trumps gender as a point of discrimination. “If you have something to give and it is pure, people will appreciate it. People will listen to you whether you are a woman or a man,” she shared.

“Ultimately, the content should win over the marketing. Though this takes time, it will, and I’m sure of that. Organizers and connoisseurs should be wise enough to respect content above other qualities,” Tilak said.

Legacy, will take place at the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture on Sunday, March 4 from 10 a.m.; more details at

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 6:24:59 am |