‘Attention, devotion, dedication’

January 25, 2013 12:00 am | Updated 04:52 am IST

Interview Renowned Hindustani vocalist Nandakumar says to be a true musician, one has to be mad about music PRAVEEN SHIVASHANKAR

Nandakumar is a well-recognized name among Hindustani vocalists of the Agra Gharana. The son of noted Carnatic Vidwan Sri Kurudi Venkannaachar, Nandakumar was drawn to Hindustani music from a young age. “I was possibly mesmerized by the creativity that I was able to hear in the renditions of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and other doyens of Hindustani music,” he explained.

“Though at a young age of 13, I could not really understand what appealed to me the most, during later years, I understood that it had to do with the intricate presentations that they gave using their ingenuity, for which there is more scope and acceptance in Hindustani music.”

His father was open to the idea of Nandakumar’s learning Hindustani classical music. However, the real impetus was given when the young musician sang in front of his spiritual guru Mata Sri Rama Devi. She remarked, “You have a voice that is more suited for Hindustani music. You should learn Hindustani.” Nandakumar began learning under Late Pandit Mahendra Kishore. Having been trained for nearly 10 years in the Carnatic tradition he found the transition to Hindustani an uphill task. “I had to struggle to understand the grammar of Hindustani music. I was familiar with maatraas to the count of 12 or 14 only!

He started training me in Bada Khyals, which had maatraas to the proportion of 96. I was totally flabbergasted! It took me nearly a year and innumerable hours of rigorous and disciplined practice before I became confident and comfortable about my capability.”

Nandakumar now had to establish himself as a Hindustani vocalist. He decided to stop performing independent Carnatic concerts and sing only as an accompanist for his father. Before long, as his focus intensified on Hindustani music, he had established himself as a well-known artist of independent standing. He is a B-high grade artist in the AIR and has also discovered a Raag, Madhu Varshini.

“The credit for the raag should be given to Ustad Aamir Khan, who had provided the basic scale. I improvised the raag by adding another Ghandhar to it and named it so.”

Professionally, Nandakumar served as a Deputy Manager with the State Bank of India. No matter where his job took him he found a way to continue his practice, till eventually he opted for voluntary retirement to plunge into music full time.

During one posting to a remote village in Bidar, where Nandakumar was performing during a Shivaratri celebration, a haggard-looking man dressed in tatters came forward and spoke to express his appreciation. Before leaving he handed the artiste a cigarette packet, behind which were written his compliments on a great performance. Inside the packet was a two rupee note.

An infuriated Nandakumar objected to what he perceived as a token of disrespect, till one of the people in the audience pointed out that it was a way of expressing true admiration.

“That day, I realized that the two rupees that he gave me was a lot of money for a poor person like him. But he was so intent on expressing his genuine happiness that the form of expression did not matter to him at all, be it writing behind a cigarette packet or handing me the two rupee note. I have been blessed with such discerning and appreciating audience.”

Vidwan Nandakumar has also trained in the Indore and Patiala Gharanas. He is a veritable treasure house of information about music and its nuances, not just of the Hindustani tradition, which he is passing on to his disciples. “The current generation should put in more effort towards music,” he feels.

“Anybody can learn music, but to be a true musician, one has to be mad about music. While practising a Raag, the complete attention, devotion and dedication must be towards learning that. When one takes up music like a penance, then the divine music shall bestow itself onto the seeker or learner.”

Vidwan Nandakumar believes that such a dedicated young generation would be capable of carrying forward the legacy of Hindustani music.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.