The recipient of Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur Memorial Award conferred by the Bangalore Kidney Foundation for the year 2013, Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande is a rare combination of talent and intellect. A Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Bombay University for her work at Baba Atomic Research Centre, she is now a full time musician. “It was a difficult choice, opting out of a career in Biochemistry to pursue music full time. After I was awarded the doctorate, I decided to devote my time completely as a vocalist for one year. That one year never came to an end!” However, music was not new for Ashwini. Since her childhood she was exposed to music – her first Guru Narayanrao Datar was from the Gwalior gharana while her mother Manik Bide, an exponent of Jaipur-AtrauliGharana, had received training under Kishori Amonkar.
She had travelled for long hours and reached Bangalore late in the night for an early morning performance, but Ashwini was accommodative; her mild temperament hardly bespoke of her huge musical persona. “I think music is an expression of a musician’s personality. If a singer is lively, you can see liveliness in her performance, and if there is insecurity, even that shows!” offered this sought after musician with a huge list of awards to her credit.
Having been trained under different teachers belonging to not only different schools of music, but also having different styles within the same gharana, how do you harmonise the various influences that you may have imbibed through them?
I feel that it has to be natural process and not something that a musician has to exert efforts into. One of the greatest advantages we had in our generation was the exposure to many legendary singers from various gharanas. During my mother’s time, such exposure was not only limited but also strictly restricted. In the present times, we are more tolerant of the confluence of styles. So, when Kishori Tai brought to the forefront more priority on the alaps within Jaipur gharana, it was well received too. So when you really admire a singer, a part of that style invariably gets absorbed into you.
But from a purist or say a traditional perspective, do you feel such confluences would dilute the unique aspects of a gharana?
I think it is an inevitable development. When all around us, our day-to-day lives have changed; similarly music will also undergo such influences. The generation today is exposed to so much of music that invariably there are different factors which would attract them. They will attempt to adapt these factors into their styles of music, and one cannot restrict such adaptations. The audience too, though not as connoisseurs as during earlier generations, have a fairly broad understanding of music and different styles of renditions. They enjoy versatility of performance. But yes, I must say that the generation today merely listens to lot more music than is necessary instead of creating music.
A forte of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana has been the renditions of rare, aprachalit ragas to use the right term. How has your experience been in exploring them?
I approached my guru, the late Pt. Ratnakar Pai with an intention of learning rare raga, which he definitely blessed me with. However, not all of them became my friends. As a singer, you have a personality and each raga, has its own personality. Unless the two match, a singer cannot do justice to a raga rendition. And I do not perform a raga unless I have befriended it. I may know the technical details of a raga perfectly, but unless I internalise it, I do not believe in rendering the Raag. Singing in ‘sur’ doesn’t mean that you are “sureela”, like wise merely singing a Raag as per its rules does not mean that you have internalized it. Just as I can’t take my friends for granted, I cannot take the Raag for granted. It should converse with me, if I have to render a Raag.
Dr. AshwiniBhide the scientist, the vocalist, the composer, the teacher, and several other roles that you essay in your personal life – which of these attracts you the most?
I don’t think any of these are separate from the other. I could not have been one without also being the other. So they all make me who I am.
I do not perform a raga unless I have befriended it