Pandit Shivkumar Sharma,
Senior musician and santoor exponent
There are so many memories. First of all it is still not sinking that Kishoriji is no more. It happened so suddenly. In fact, somebody who is known to me and organises music festival every year had spoken to her disciple and fixed a date for a concert on October 14 [this year]. That person called me saying the date has been fixed and [this] morning I got this news.
I had a very long association with Kishoriji. It started in 1957, when I met her for the first time in Jodhpur, where there was a radio concert. I had come from Jammu Kashmir and she had come from Mumbai. Then I moved to Mumbai in 1960 and we used to meet regularly at concerts; we used to travel together to different cities where [we would be performing]. I felt was that she was an exceptional musician. There are many great musicians, each have their own qualities but Kishoriji was something totally different from the lot.
First of all, what I appreciated in her music was that she was not an entertainer when she came on stage. She was a musician who was deeply into spirituality. Her music was full of spirituality. She didn’t look at the audience. She was engrossed in herself. Sometimes it took her time to start the concert. Once she got into it, she was in a different world and she took her listeners also to a different world. She was not bothered about the things people talked about her. She had her own rules in life. She performed where she liked and she could not stand certain things, like distractions. She was an oversensitive person. At heart she was a very soft-hearted, warm person and very open.
Kishoriji was a person many people didn’t understand. Her level of music even for musicians was something you had to experience. Just now I was in Delhi three days ago. She performed there few weeks back. Once she walked up the stage, nobody would guess her age. There are so many things about her. This gap will not be filled. Although we say, “Duniya chalti rehti hain aur log aate, sab kuch waisa hi ho jata hain”. Musicians like Kishoriji rarely come on this planet. The way she went, she left her body. It’s another indication of a person deeply involved in spirituality. Humare yahan kehte hain ki is tarah jaana achanak, ek saintly quality hoti hai. No suffering. Kishori belonged to a gharana, but her music was her own persona. She created her own identity. She learnt from her mother. If you listen to her mother and if you listen to her, you’ll see that the roots are from there but the interpretation is different. She gave a new meaning to that gharana’s music.
She had a combination of gifts from god; dedication, commitment, total surrender and devotion towards her art form. All this put together was Kishori Amonkar. Once Ghulam Ali from Pakistan came and he was performing at my residence, she said, “I want to attend it. I’ve heard so much about his ghazal singing”. Later she said, “You organise one concert. I will come and sing ghazals. Yeh to main bhi gaa sakti hoon”. We used to compose music for films, myself and Hariji. So once she said, “Mujhe ek film main gaana gavao na?”. I said, “Arre, Kishoriji aap kaha film main gaana gayengi?”. So she said, “Nahi main har kisim ka gaana gaa sakti hoon”.
There are so many memories. I will miss her very much. But she will be there always through her recordings. The coming generations will listen to it and wonder, “There was a musician like Kishori Amonkar”.
Begum Parveen Sultana,
Padma Bhushan awardee, Assamese Hindustani classical singer, Patiala gharana
Two years [ago], all her students wanted to felicitate her on her birthday. They were wondering how to felicitate her, so they asked her and she insisted on getting me. She said, “You must call Begum Parveen Sultana. I am very fond her music and I would like to listen to her on my birthday”. So it was a great blessing from her on me.
When we went to Pune for the event, she publicly announced that she loves my music and it’s very soulful. It’s was a great blessing for me to get such appreciation from a legend like Kishoritai. It’s something very divine. My guru Ustad Dilshad Khan saab, myself and my daughter we all were present that day. She called my daughter and said, “You know you’re the daughter of Ustad Dilshad Khan and Begum Parveen Sultana so you must respect them”. I was so shocked and I had tears in my eyes.
Very often she would phone me and call me for her grandson’s or granddaughter’s wedding and say, “Look I sent you an invitation but I’m calling you so all three of you come, meet me and come to my house”. I’ve been missing her so much. We think god has taken her away too soon. She’s been an umbrella to all Indian classical musicians.
We’ve travelled to the U.S., to France, and many more places. I will remember those moments till my last day. She was a wonderful human being, a good mother, a good wife, a good granny.
I’ve seen her to be so strict to her students. She used to tell them, “Look, I’m putting myself out so you all must learn”. I told her students, “Look Kishoriji is here so whatever you can take from her, take now. This kind of Guru you won’t get again”. These are the memories, which I’m sure, are going to haunt me. Tears come to my eyes when I speak about her.
We shall remember her for her style of singing, her stage presentation, her conduct as a guru. She sometimes corrected her students on the stage too. She was a very genuine musician. There is no doubt about it. Her music was pure and made of her own compositions. She was also very well read and well educated. In whatever she did, she retained the purity in it. Her music was also very pure and divine. That is her music, that is Kishori Amonkar.
I knew Kishoritai for 25 years. I met her first when I asked her to felicitate violinist Pandit D.K. Datar who had received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award. She agreed without any hesitation because she thought his music is pure. I couldn’t imagine that a great artiste like her didn’t have any prior conditions. When people would interview Kishoritai, I was fortunate to conduct her Q&As in public. She let members of the audience ask her questions and trusted me as a moderator. It was an enriching experience.
Kishoritai used to love a person to such an extent, that one can’t even imagine. Once she accepts you as a person [close to her], she would take hold of you. If she said something that you didn’t agree with, you’d still do things her way without realising it. That was spell she cast on a person who was close to her.
When it came to her programmes, she would devote her self to the music and forgo everything else including practical aspects. I have seen her from very close quarters she had the knack of forgetting everything.
It’s a personal loss to all those who have been close to her. She occupied our minds and our psyche and would continue to do so. We cannot believe that she’s no more.
Dr Ashwini Bhide Deshpande,
Hindustani classical singer, Jaipur-Atrauli gharana
My mother was her disciple. I have so many memories of her since childhood and, its hard to tell. She was for all of us like a guiding light, like a lighthouse in the ocean of music. We treated her with a lot of regard and respect. I am blessed she considered me worthy of a relationship. The sun has set over the empire of Indian music. and we will ever remember her like a shining sun.
Hindustani classical singer, Gwalior gharana
I felt that since the late 40s, when the country became independent, a little before that, Lata Mangeshkar’s voice had really won the hearts of the country in popular music. But it was Kishori Amonkar’s feminine voice that made a mark in Indian classical music. Her voice was thin and strong, and her taans were supple. There’s such a huge following to her style of music. She said she wanted to reach the smallest town in the country and make the youngsters relate with Indian classical music. Kishori Amonkar became the symbol of the sweet feminine voice. There was a certain restlessness in her voice, that reached out to the intellectuals. [Which was] beautifully expressed in her voice.
Ustad Rashid Khan, Padma Shri, Hindustani classical musician
We’re very old friends. When I arrived in Bombay in 1963, we used to work in All India Radio and since then we know each other. I used to always admire her and am really shocked to hear of her demise. There was a concert at my gurukul a few months back and she came. I will never forget [how] she performed so beautifully. She wasn’t one of the best, but the best in classical music field. We were very close musically. She created her own style of singing, so she became very popular, not just in India but all over the world. She also sang the title song of the film Geet Gaya Patharon Ne (1964) and it became very popular. She was also a very nice person.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia,
Padma Vibhushan, Indian classical flautist
She has done so much for Hindustani music and India; it’s quite a loss. Being an artist like her is extremely difficult. An outstanding performer is no more with us. We’ve met several times in Bombay, where she came to hear my performances. She was very happy with me. Bahut pyaar diya unhonhe mujhe. We’ll miss her singing and we’ll miss her. We used to sit around and listen to her music. We can find her music now in recordings but to sit in front of her and listen to her music, I will miss that surely.
As told to Deborah Cornelious and Kennith Rosario