Music all around her

For music: Komkali’s first solo performance was in 1993

For music: Komkali’s first solo performance was in 1993  

The celebrated devotional vocalist Kalapini Komkali wants to explore nirgun and sagun poetry in her performances

As a child growing up in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, vocalist Kalapini Komkali was always surrounded by music. Her father, the legendary Pandit Kumar Gandharva and mother Vasundhara Komkali, would practise all day. “I often wondered why they would spend so much time over music, and even asked my mother to stop,” she recalls. “Much later, I too got involved.” Komkali will give two performances in Mumbai this month: this evening, as part of the Bhakti Dhaara festival festival organised by Sangit Mahabharati at the Nehru Centre; then later this month, a solo recital at the Udayswar series presented by Pancham Nishad.

Bhakti Dhaara, a two-day festival, dedicated to late tabla maestro Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, also has a Sufi qawwali presentation by the Chand Nizami Group this evening, and a performance ‘Soordas’ by Shekhar Sen tomorrow.

Komkali will be accompanied by Vishwanath Shirodkar on the tabla and Seema Shirodkar on the harmonium. “I shall render both nirgun bhajans and sagun bhajans,” says the vocalist. “Both have a different approach. In the former, one makes his own clothes. In the latter, both the singer and listener combine to make clothes.” Though nirgun poetry is normally associated with Kabir, Komkali will sing other poets like Gorakhnath, Dharamdas, Machindranath and Devnath. Among sagun poets, she will render Meera, Soordas, Tukaram and Tulsidas. “Meera’s Krishna is different from Soordas’. Tulsidas’ repertoire is much more than the Ramcharitmanas. I will try to bring out these various aspects,” she says.

The Udayswar concert on January 21 will focus on morning ragas. Mandar Puranik will be on tabla and Niranjan Lele on harmonium. Says Komkali, “It will be a different experience as the venue doesn't have amplification. I think is quite challenging as we are so used to microphones but while practising we don't use them. I look forward to the experience.”

Incidentally, Komkali started learning music pretty late. Her brother Mukul Shivputra was also into music. “Initially I would get bored listening to music all day,” she recalls. “Kumar-ji's students would come so they practised all the time. Yet, in that environment, I picked up the nuances subconsciously.” Most of her training came from her mother. “I would initially hesitate to sit with Kumar-ji who was known to be very strict,” she says. “He would pull up students who committed mistakes. Eventually I accompanied him on tanpura.”

A speciality of her lineage is the use of folk music from the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. “That's something I learnt seriously, besides Kumar-ji's approach to bhakti music and composition. His thematic concerts like Geet Varsha and Triveni were very popular and I got to learn a lot from the way he worked on them,” she says. Komkali gave her first solo performance in 1993, a year after her father passed away. Today, besides shows, she also actively gives lecture demonstrations across India. Also, she’s a trustee of the Kumar Gandharva Sangeet Academy. Kalapini Komkali will perform this evening during Bhakti Dhaara at 7 p.m. at Nehru Centre Auditorium, Worli; and in Prithvi Theatre, Juhu on January 21.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 4:20:56 PM |

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