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‘There is nothing except the beauty of the nature, the eternity of one note’

Veteran classical singer of the Jaipur gharana, Kishori Amonkar, relaxes at her home in Mumbai.— Photo: Prashant Nakwe  

hrotyanna hita de, priya nako (Give your audiences what is in their interest, not what they like) Jaipur gharana doyenne Mogubai Kurdikar once told her daughter and disciple Kishori Amonkar in Marathi. And this is exactly what 84-year-old Amonkar will do when she takes the stage for a unique concert based on the concept of eight prahars of Hindustani classical music at Shanmukhananda Hall tonight.

“What I should give the audiences is already decided by our elders. When my guru told me that, what did she mean? As an artiste, I will always like it when the audience likes my singing, and applauds. But what ‘hita’ means is show them the truthful form of your art. It is my duty to show this as an artiste,” says Amonkar in a rare chat at her Prabhadevi residence, ahead of the “Eight Prahar” concert, a collaboration between Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, the Durga Jasraj-run Art and Artistes, and classical concert organiser Shashi Vyas’ Pancham Nishad. Amonkar will take the stage shortly before midnight for the concert finale that is likely to end in the early hours of Monday.

Known to be a purist who strictly follows the sanctity of the eight prahars, Amonkar belongs to the lineage of Jaipur gharana founded by Ustad Alladiya Khan, guru of legendary singers like Kesarbai Kerkar, Dhondutai Kulkarni and Mogubai Kurdikar. “The great seers of music experienced the subtle changes in nature and time, and propounded a theory of seasonal and time-based melodies, which if sung or played as per the theory, is expected to create a very positive and serene effect on life,” she says explaining the concept of prahars .

“They are based on the changing notes in nature. Shuddha Sarang should not be sung in the morning. Todi should not be sung at night. Multani should be played between 11am and 4 pm. Why? Because the notes that you recite belong to Mother Nature and the mother should help you,” she explains.

While her contemporaries and younger musicians succumb to market demands and fiddle with these traditional rules of music, Amonkar has stuck, stubbornly, to their sanctity. Unlike others, she refuses to shorten ragas to suit the timings of the concerts. She shuns the glamour, and is known to object when concert organisers or audiences create disturbances during her performances. She only performs a maximum of two concerts a month.

“Once I got invitations for four programmes. My mother said four programmes means four days for one programme as we had to travel in trains for the programme and return. So, 16 days in the month are gone. When will you practice? She told me this only once, and to this day, I have always abided by that. How I ran my household and family with two children, I don’t know. But everything went on smoothly and I never needed any money,” she says, thanking the “abstract supremacy” of the Almighty.

Credited with contributing to the grammar of classical music with her scholarly knowledge, and creation of ragas like Kishori Malhar and Sumedha Todi, Amonkar is busy preparing for the concert and tries to put off phone calls from a relative till “after the 21st”. A mild cough bothers her.

“When you decide to sing a raga, let’s say, Sampurna Malkauns, if I don’t get the darshan of Sampurna Malkauns that moment, then what exists is Kishori Amonkar. I have delved deep into what is Sampurna Malkauns all these years, but you have to get into the lap of the raga, postulate before it, touch its feet. When inner feelings become intense, that’s when a sur is born. The shrutis have to enter and emerge from your throat,” Amonkar says. Shrutis are micronotes between the seven notes which are unique to Hindustani classical music.

“These notes between two surs and their working is the essence of Hindustani music. The concept of shrutis does not exist in any other form of music. The existence of the infinite micronotes cannot be notated. That’s why there are no notations in my gharana. Why do we need this? We try to remain closest to the nature, and keep our art as natural as possible,” says the vocalist, who was honoured with a Padma Bhushan in 1987 and Padma Vibhushan in 2002. Asked if she has any aspirations that have remained unfulfilled in a lifetime of music, Amonkar says, “I feel I have just begun. I have not learnt anything because I still don’t have command over the sur . Because sur is air, and I am made of concrete. When the perfect sur comes out of my throat, this body will disappear. I will die instantly. I pray to God that I die that way. There is nothing else to see except the beauty of nature, the eternity of one note.”

While younger musicians succumb to market demands and fiddle with traditional rules of music, Amonkar has stuck to their sanctity

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 12:06:43 AM |

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