Friday Review

The lustre of versatility

Prabha Atre Photo K. Murali Kumar.

Prabha Atre Photo K. Murali Kumar.   | Photo Credit: K_MURALI_KUMAR

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Dr. Prabha Atre tells it is her ability to look at music with open eyes that explains her multi-hued creativity.

The internationally-renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Dr. Prabha Atre entered the 81st year of her exceptionally creative life. It was an ideal opportunity to interact with her as ‘Swaramayee’ in association with the Government of Maharashtra, celebrated her birthday with ‘Sahasra-Chandra : Swara-Nritya-Prabha’ a Music and Dance Festival, based on her compositions, at Mumbai’s Ravindra Natya Mandir this past week.

Excerpts from the conversation:

You are a professional vocalist of Hindustani classical music trained in the traditional way of Guru Shishya Parampara. What had been the source behind your versatility as a thinking writer and composer apart from being a successful and sought after Hindustani classical vocalist?

Yes, I did receive my training in classical music right from my childhood under the traditional Guru Shishya Parampara. I also know the notion that this system of music education discourages questioning and commands complete surrender; but I was lucky to have a Guru like Sureshbabu Mane of Kirana gharana, who not only trained me as a vocalist but also let me grow independently.

Did you find your Guru to be a strict teacher? What was his methodology?

Yes, he was a strict disciplinarian. He would not let me learn new ragas at will.

You would be surprised to know that he taught me just one raga, ‘Yaman’, for four consecutive years, but then it opened my ‘Jnan-Chakshu’ (the wisdom eye) to deal with any raga with equal profundity.

Usually the writing on Indian music is done mostly by theoreticians and not by practising musicians.

It is still rare to find a woman vocalist, who has authored eleven books on music. How did you manage this, along with a professional career as a vocalist, a teacher, an administrator and a programme executive at the AIR?

My strong educational background and academic interests helped me look at music with open eyes.

My association with the All India Radio (AIR) as assistant music producer, with the SNDT Women’s University as Professor and Head of the Department of Music and also with ‘Swarashree’ recording company as producer/director; exposed me to the world of Indian music through and through.

This multifarious exposure offered me a broader perspective of various aspects of music and music making.

It enriched my understanding, stimulated my thinking and gave me insight in terms of skill, technique, content and expression as a vocalist and vision as a writer.

I have also been a student of law hence I always kept questioning myself why this and why not that? My inquisitive and analytical nature too instigated me to write on music related subjects with new point of views.

You are also a prolific composer. In how many genres you have composed and what inspired your multihued creativity?

As far the variety of my compositions is concerned, it is because I love all kinds of music – from classical khayals to thumri, dadra, chaiti, kajri, geet, ghazal, bhajan to Marathi natya-sangeet and bhava-geet.

As a result, I’ve tried to compose in all these genres. I’m deeply obliged to all those vocalist friends who presented my various compositions in Delhi and Mumbai as their blessings.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 11:18:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/The-lustre-of-versatility/article14426000.ece

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