Holding everyone spellbound

One certainly has to know every nuance of the raga just like the back of his hand to be able to tell others what nad how one can enjoy music.

One certainly has to know every nuance of the raga just like the back of his hand to be able to tell others what nad how one can enjoy music.  

The mellifluous voice spread its magic over the entire auditorium. The spell was visible enough. And when he asked whether the audience had any questions or liked to listen to more of his music, there was a request for more music.

Kochi was overwhelmed by the genius of Hindustani musician Sanjeev Abhayankar, when he came over to give performances as part of the Spicmacay's recent programmes here. In spite of a high culturally aware audience of Kochi, Hindustani music has only recently become part of its composition. And its charm is spreading.

It was the singer's genius when he drew a visual picture of the raga he was about to sing. Mr. Abhayankar agreed that the audience was more responsive after he told them about the path the raga takes. Even those who have very little knowledge about music could follow this singer in the various moods of the raga.

One certainly has to know every nuance of the raga just like the back of the hand to be able to tell others what and how one can enjoy music. In a very short performance, Mr. Abhayankar simply gave an insight of the depth of his knowledge in music.

And why not, his `career' as a musician started very young. He had given the first stage performance at the age of 11. A child prodigy was born and there was no looking back.

At 33, Mr. Abhayankar is one of the stalwarts himself. Born into a musical family in Pune, his mother, Shobha Abhayankar, had spotted his talent when he was only 3 years old. "What I have heard is that I had sung a full `bandish' of Bhimsen Joshiji without any mistake.''

But the mother did not hurry him with music. At 8 years, when she thought he can understand more, she formally introduced classical music to him. She was his first guru. Later she took him to her guru Pandit Pimpalkhareji. When she herself went to learn from Pandit Jasraj, she wondered whether the great master would take her son under his tutelage. "I had already created some stir in the music circles at that time,'' says Mr. Abhayankar.

The maestro wanted to hear him out and then decide. "On his next visit to Pune, I sang before him he heard me for one and a half hours,'' says Mr. Abhayankar. He was immediately taken in by the guru.

"The only hitch was I had to decide whether I wanted to make music my career. The guru was insistent about it, since I was a good student at school too. But at that time I simply did not know or think about making a career in anything. I could not think beyond enjoying music. I was very confident about my singing too. But, it was my inclination to know more about music that led me to the guruji.''

"My parents avoided my overexposure when HMV offered to cut an LP when I was in my teens. I was in Class IX at that time. I was to join the guruji at Mumbai after my Class X.'' Once with the guru, it was music all day and night. ``The focus changed to whatever the guruji taught me. I went beyond the child artiste.''

Elaborating on the learning years, he said, "Jasraji always takes in pupils who stay with him all through the formative years--a complete guru-sishya parampara. He never takes fees from his students, but they have to always be there when the guru wished so.''

Looking back, Mr. Abhayankar does not feel that anything else other than music could have been a natural choice.

Awards and accolades came naturally to him. The President's Gold Medal in 1990, the National Award for best playback in `Godmother', 1998, the title of Sur-Ratna, Pandit Jasraj Gaurav Puraskar, etc., are some of the honours he has bagged.

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