Thursday, 16 November 2017

Imrat Khan - Surbahar & Sitar - Music from India Series 10 - LP published in Great Britain in 1969


Here another LP from the Music from India Series, in which between 1965 and 1969 a number of beautiful recordings were released, which were at the time amongst the most easily available recordings of classical Indian music in Europe. Earlier EMI - His Master's Voice had already released a number of other LPs. We had posted recently two by Vilayat Khan from 1962 and 1963.
See here a complete discography of the Indian releases in the British ASD series: 
http://discog.piezoelektric.org/hmvindia/index.php?prefix=ASD
This our 7th LP by Imrat Khan.




Monday, 13 November 2017

Vilayat Khan - The Genius of Vilayat Khan - LP published in India in 1962


Here our last LP - for now - by the great Vilayat Khan. The two Ragas are from the same recording sessions as the ones on the LP with Tilak Kamod and Bhairavi which was released in 1961. In effect it seems that there were two recording sessions, one with Mohammad Ahmad on Tabla and the other with Santa Prasad on Tabla. The Ahir Bhairav here and the Tilak Kamod on the LP from 1961 are with Mohammad Ahmad and the Khamaj on our LP here and the Bhairavi on the LP from 1961 are with Santa Prasad.


These two LPs are amongst the very first LPs of classical Indian music published by the Gramophone Company of India. The EALP series started with the number 1251 (Ravi Shankar & Ali Akbar Khan) in 1960.





Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Vilayat Khan - Music of India - Vilayat Khan - No. 2 - LP published in Great Britain in 1963


The first volume from 1962 we had posted in 2016. See here. On the back Imrat Khan is also mentioned as playing the Surbahar. But this was true only for the first volume.





Thursday, 2 November 2017

Vilayat Khan - Music from India Series 11 - LP published in England in 1969


We continue now our series of LPs by the great Vilayat Khan. Here we post the English edition of an LP which was released also the same year in India, but with a different cover:


The reason why we choose the English edition, though we have the Indian edition in our collection, is that English pressings are of better quality.
This English edition we received from LF from Scotland. Many thanks to him for sharing so generously.





Monday, 30 October 2017

Damodarlal Kabra demonstrates Ragalap - Recorded in Jodhpur on 23.7.1975



With these very beautiful privately recorded Alaps we conclude our posts on Damodarlal Kabra. See here our other posts on the artist:
http://oriental-traditional-music.blogspot.de/search/label/Damodarlal%20Kabra
We received these recordings recently from our friend KF. Many thanks to him for sharing.

"Ustad Ali Akbar Khan came to Jodhpur in 1944 as court musician of the erstwhile Marwar state and came across Damodarlal Kabra. Soon Kabra became Ustad Ali Akbar Khan's first disciple and started learning the fine notes of Maihar Gharana. His hard work and commitment for pure music found new dimensions under his Guru's teachings. 
Damodarlal Kabra loveably called 'Damoodada' never had quest for publicity. He maintained a low profile instead. In 1956, he first played in Calcutta and won a big acclaim there. In May 1959, his Sarod recital was first heard by the Radio listeners across the country in Akashwani's National Programme of Music. 'Dada' always wanted to promote the rich Indian classical music. In 1957, he founded "Rashtriya Kala Mandal' in Jodhpur. Many musicians worked here as teachers, in this college and many great musicians have been students of this college.
'Dada' passed away on 4th August, 1979. After hearing about this legendary tabla player of Banaras Kishan Maharaj uttered " The front page of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan's music has flown away". 'Dada' taught music to many people. His disciples include Manju Mehta, Vikas Gupta, Amubhai Doshi, Imu Desai, Krishna Mohan Bhatt and Laxmi Kant Doshi.
This humble and great musician always maintained a low profile, but his music is still alive and his son Basant Kabra is a true representative of this."



Damodarlal Kabra's only commercial LP (republished as a CD) was a Jugalbandi with his younger brother Brij Bhushan Kabra, today also available on many download and streaming services:


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Girija Devi (8 May 1929 – 24 October 2017) passed away yesterday - In her memory a program from AIR Delhi broadcast on 7th of July 1989


'Girija Devi's demise an irreparable loss to Banaras Gharana'

VARANASI: Demise of great vocalist and Thumri queen Girija Devi came as a big shocker to the music lovers of Varanasi, the birth place of the eminent singer. Girija Devi, fondly known as Appa ji, passed away in a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday evening. She was 88. 
"It is an irreparable loss to Indian music and Banaras Gharana of music. She was a guiding figure for us," said noted Sarod player and Yash Bharati recipient Pt. Vikash Maharaj. "She was ailing for some time, and admitted to BM Birla Hospital in Kolkata in the morning. She left for the heavenly abode in the evening," he said adding that she had been living in Kolkata with her daughter.
"No one can fill the gap. Even at 88 her scintillating voice could leave the audience spell bound. She was perhaps the last exponent of thumri, tappa, chaiti and khayal. I heard her singing in an award ceremony in New Delhi on August 27," said Ashok Kapoor, founder of a cultural organization Kala Prakash working for the cause of Indian music.
Though settled in Kolkata, she regularly visited Varanasi. She was born in Varanasi in 1929. She took lessons in singing khayal and tappa from vocalist Sarju Prasad Misra in early childhood. She worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s. She was a prominent performer of purabi ang thumri style of Banaras gharana. She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2016.

see also:

Here we post in her memory a program from All India Radio (AIR), Delhi, broadcast on 7th of July 1989. This program is quite unusual as it contains just two longer performances in the Khayal format.
First we had posted here a CD from 1990. Because of our rule not to post commercial CDs on this blog we decided to replace it with this AIR broadcast, of which I was not aware that I had it. Just dicovered it now. We received it a while ago from our friend KF. All thanks to him and his generosity.


In 2011 we posted already an LP from 1979 by her. See here.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Ibrahim al-Haggar (1922 - 2000) & Takht Ensemble - Classical Arab Music from Cairo, Egypt - WDR 1972


Here we present - as promised in our post on Salah Abd al-Hayy - broadcasts by Ibrahim al-Haggar, the great Maqam singer from Egypt. The recordings are from a concert that took place in the framework of a Unesco Festival in Cologne (and also Berlin), probably in 1972. The concert was never broadcast as a whole, but parts of it were broadcast by WDR between 1972 and 1975.
We received these recordings recently from our friend KF. Many thanks to him. He also send us notes on the pieces he had written down back then. See here the corresponding pages as a pdf file.
In the same year a wonderful LP by the same singer and his ensemble was published in the Unesco Collection "Musical Sources" under the title: "Taqasim and Layali - Cairo Tradition". The LP contained only one vocal track, all the others were instrumental pieces. The LP was later rereleased as a CD by the French label Auvidis in their Unesco collection. Now it is available as a download in mp3 and flac formats here. The booklet can be downloaded for free here.

'Ud player Gomaa Muhammad Ali


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Bali - Le gong kebyar - Musique du monde 9 - LP published in France in 1974


Here the last of the volumes from this legendary series we have in our collection.



 Side A
1 - TambulilinganSawan08/08/1970
 Gong kebyar SawanGong kebyar Sawan15'30
2 - WiranataSawan08/08/1970
 Gong kebyar SawanGong kebyar Sawan09'00



 Side B
3 - Manuk AngutjiTampaksiring25/09/1972
 Gong kebyar "Salisiran" TampaksiringGong Kebyar Tampaksiring12'40
4 - PelajonTampaksiring25/09/1972
 Gong kebyar "Salisiran" TampaksiringGong Kebyar Tampaksiring09'30






Sunday, 15 October 2017

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit (1893-1989) - A Broadcast from All India Radio (AIR) with Raga Yaman Kalyan, Raga Paraj & Bhairavi Tappa


Here our last post - at least for now - of the great Krishnarao Shankar Pandit. We received these recordings many years ago, if I remember correctly, from the collector VN in UK. Our friend KF made a CD out of them and created a cover. Many thanks to both.



Addition on October 27th 2017
Here a beautiful story about the artist:
In late January 1970, at the concert hall Rabindra Sadan in Kolkata, Panditji’s program was scheduled one early evening. Supravat Da and I went to the concert hall with our tape recorder to record Panditji’s program. Both of us were not familiar with Panditji’s singing, although we knew that he was one of the great singers of Gwalior Gharana. We had an uneasy feeling that the organizers might not allow us to record the program. It exactly happened that way. The organizers bluntly told us that recording was not allowed. Suddenly I saw Panditji on the back stage and I approached him. After initial greetings, I told him that I would like to record his program but I was not successful in receiving permission to do so from the organizers. Panditji was an older dignified person of seventy-eight, very accommodating and very easy to talk to. He immediately got me the permission to record his program.
I learnt that Panditji arrived at four in the afternoon by train from Gwalior and from the Railway station he went to visit Pandit Tarapada Chakraborty who had been hospitalized. This was a news for us. Panditji was living in Gwalior, knew that Tarapada Babu was ill, and we, the people of Kolkata, had absolutely no information about it.
It is impossible to describe Panditji’s singing. It was unique. His style of singing had no similarity with any other singers I knew of and I do not know if any singer could successfully imitate him. I was fascinated by his control and precision. I was simply overwhelmed. Even today, his Shree, Chaturang in Dabari and many other ragas are among my very favorite.
After the program I met Panditji and before I could say anything, he told me to come to his concert at Birla Academy, which was taking place the next morning. The next morning I passed some time with Panditji before the concert and requested him to sing a few morning ragas of my choice. He sang all the ragas I requested except Paraj; for that one, he said the timing was not right.
Panditji had no idea who I was, what my name was but he was kind and generous enough to invite me to his morning concert and kept my request.
Pt. Krishnarao Shankar Pandit was a great singer, a legend and above all a great human being.
In a private concert of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar in New York in 1980, during the intermission, Dagar Saheb, Sheila Dhar and I were talking. I wanted to know Dagar Saheb’s view of Pt. Krishnarao Shankar Pandit. I am always careful not to praise one musician in front of other musicians. I told Dagar Saheb that one vocalist impressed me very much. After he learnt that I was talking about Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, he was surprised at first then asked me, “Chowdhury saab tell me, who can sing like Pandji?” After superlative compliments about Panditji’s music he told me, “ In a concert if he sings whole night, I will also remain there whole night to listen to him.”

from the outstanding YouTube channel by Subrata Chowdhury (may he rest in peace):

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit (1893-1989) - LP published in 1970 in India & some shorter AIR recordings


Here we post the only LP - to our knowledge - released during the lifetime of the artist. I don't have this LP and I even never saw it in the shops, not even in the 1970s. Our friend KF has it and made many years ago this CD out of it, adding some shorter recordings from AIR broadcasts and one from a compilation on LP. He also created the covers. Many thanks to him.
In 1992 another LP (PMLP 3080) was published with recordings from the archives from AIR, which unfortunately we also don't have.



Saturday, 7 October 2017

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit (1893-1989) - Darbari Kanada & Basant - Broadcasted by All India Radio


Here we offer - as promised in our last post - a recording by the fascinating Pandit Krishnarao Shankar Pandit from Raagam, an internet channel of All India Radio. This channel offers 24 hours a day, seven days a week recordings of classical Indian music from the archives of All India Radio.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit (1893-1989) - A great singer of the Gwalior Gharana - Ragas Multani, Bhupali & Malgunji


Here we present one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, a representative of the original Gwalior Gharana, at the same time an artist with a very personal style, more a musician's musician than a singer popular amongst the general public.
A very funny thing: while I'm preparing this post and writing these lines there is playing a program by our artist on Raagam, the internet radio of All India Radio. I'm recording it and will post it very soon too.
The recordings we present here are probably also from All India Radio. Our friend KF shared them with us on a CD, with a nice cover created by him. Many thanks to him.




The virtuoso: Krishnarao Pandit
Krishnarao Pandit is the doyen of the Gwalior gharana. An artiste who has enchanted audiences with his ingenious singing style in a concert career that spanned 70 years.
Mohan Nadkarni pays tribute to the stalwart of Hindustani music, who turned 93 on June 26.
Krishnaraoji was a maestro of whom it could be truly said that his music was eloquently reflective of his personality. Indeed, the singing showed to full advantage the many facets of his individual style. Basically it was a rare blend of ingenuity and craftsmanship – the result of long, arduous deliberation.
Gwalior. The very name conjures up a variety of images – of historical splendour, architectural magnificence, a great musical heritage and, of course, the vestiges of royalty, in whose heyday the art and culture of north India reached its high degree of efflorescence.
But to Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, who turned 93 on July 26, Gwalior has been his karmabhoomi. As it has been for his forbears for three generations. And something more, too. To Panditji, Gwalior remains India’s musical capital. Simply mention the name and the maestro will hold you spellbound with an inspiring account of Gwalior’s dedication to Hindustani music, of the efforts of its successive princes, as much as their subjects, to carry forward the classical tradition of north India.
He will tell you how music has been part of every home in Gwalior, quoting a popular saying that when a child from Gwalior cries, it cries in tune. He would declaim, in his profound, stentorian voice, that even in the changed context of today, an average Gwaliori can easily distinguish one raga from another, whatever his status.
Krishnarao Shankar Pandit happens to be one of the very few professional musicians whose life and career is marked by an extraordinary series of lucky breaks. His father, Shankarrao Pandit, whom he describes as the first professional musician in his orthodox Brahmin family, was a disciple of Haddu Khan and Natthu Khan, who were among the pioneers of the Gwalior gharana. Later, Shankarrao underwent rigorous grooming in khayal, tarana, tappa, thumri and ashtapadi and such other styles of classical singing for 12 years under the tutelage of Nissar Hussein Khan, son of Natthu Khan, who was also another leading light of the gharana.
Krishnaraoji had his initiation into music from his father at the age of six. At 11, he made his first public appearance on the concert platform in Bombay to lend sangat to his distinguished father and guru. He was only 20 when the erstwhile prince of Satara, in Maharashtra, commissioned him to teach him classical music. But he left this coveted assignment within a year to return to Gwalior.
In 1914, Krishnaraoji established a music school. In between came the sudden and premature death of his father. That was how Krishnaraoji named his new institution Shankar Sangeet Vidyalaya after his father. The Vidyalaya, in the course of 62 years of its existence, has come to be regarded as one of the pioneering music teaching institutions in the country.
Behind the setting up of a modern-style academic institution by one groomed in the age old guru-shishya-parampara is Panditji’s awareness of the changing times. He also drew up a curriculum for teaching music to his students, engaged a team of teachers and authored a series of text-books dealing with vocal music and also instruments like the harmonium, the sitar, the jaltarang and the tabla.
But he did not neglect his role as a concert musician. In fact, his early rise to fame as one of the leading Hindustani vocalists of the country, the acclaim he enjoyed in the field for almost 70 years and, finally, the patronage he earned from the Gwalior darbar and several other ruling princes from different parts of the country, is a tribute to his exceptional qualities as a musician as much as his personal dynamism.
In the post-independence period, too, public appreciation for Panditji was abundant. He was on of the early recipients of the President’s Award for Hindustani vocal music, way back in 1959. He was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1973. India’s only chartered music university, the Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwa Vidyalaya at Khairagarh, in Madhya Pradesh, conferred upon him an honorary doctorate in 1962. A regular broadcaster since 1940, he has been Producer-Emeritus of AIR and Doordarshan.
In recent years, the government of the reorganized Madhya Pradesh has honoured its own stalwart with a number of state awards from time to time. Although Bharat Bhavan, the prestigious arts complex in Bhopal organized a three-day special musical event to felicitate him in November last year, the highest award for classical music, Kalidas Samman, instituted by the state government in 1982, has yet to come his way.
My early familiarity with Panditji music was through the radio, as is probably the case with most music lovers. As a teenage radio buff, I seldom missed his broadcasts or disc music from AIR Delhi. It was much later – in 1949 – that I had a chance to hear him at a regular concert sponsored by a music circle in Bombay.
Nearly six feet tall, lanky and dressed in his usual long coat, dhoti and embroidered cap, Krishnaraoji looked every inch an orthodox, aristocratic, Brahmin, with a stern, slightly forbidding visage that sported a well-groomed moustache. Erect as a walking-stick, he took his seat on the stage in an austere yogic posture and started off his recital without even the customary preliminary tonal flourishes. The effect was electrifying. The three-hour concert, at which Ram Narain and Alla Rakha lent instrumental support on the sarangi and the tabla respectively came to me as a treat.
Here, indeed, I felt, was a maestro of whom it could be truly said that his music was eloquently reflective of his personality. Indeed, the singing showed to full advantage the many facets of his individual style. Basically, it was a rare blend of ingenuity and craftsmanship – the result of long, arduous deliberation. He was endowed with a loud musical voice and his mode of articulation was massive. His taal and laya were incisive. Be it khayal, tappa, thumri, hori and ashtapadi, he could depict them with practised ease and originality.
The last time I heard the maestro was in December 1972, when he came down to Bombay from Gwalior, to attend the 6oth birthday celebrations of Sharadchandra Arolkar who is possibly his senior most disciple. Arolkar, incidentally, is not only a maestro in his own right, but also a musician’s musician. But he is reclusive by temperament and has chosen to remain away from the concert platform. The appearance of the 79-year-old guru and his equally fast-ageing shisya on a common platform was truly symbolic of the guru-shishya parampara, of a hallowed but rapidly vanishing tradition. The spectacle was at once ennobling and moving.
What is more, Krishnaraoji, though well past his prime, offered to provide the finale to the nightlong programme. In the small hours, he reeled off vilambit, drut and tarana numbers in the raga lalit, followed by lilting jogia-mand composition and a thumri and tarana in bhairavi to round it off.
It was disconcertingly evident from this concert that old age had begun to take its toll on his performing abilities. Understandably, one sensed more physical vigour than musical expression in his effort. Even so, we had many glimpses of his undoubted musicianship, showing us how rigorous discipline could well score over age.
Besides Arolkar, Krishnaraoji has groomed a large number of disciples. They include his four sons, Narayan, Laxman, Chandrakant and Sadashiv and his grand-children. Among his other disciples are Vishnupant Choudhari, the Saptarshi brothers, Dattatraya Joglekar, Keshavrao Surange, Amritphale Sarolkar, to name a few. Ironically, almost all of them have branched out as erudite teachers and not as concert artistes. All that can be said about them is that they are carrying on the parampara according to their lights. Inevitably, the Gwalior gharana, acknowledged as the forerunner of all other Hindustani khayal gharanas is on the verge of total oblivion and Krishnarao Shankar Pandit is the oldest surviving representative of the old parampara.
Panditji’s approach to traditional music was a matter of controversy when he was active on the concert stage. He had as many critics as he had votaries. As one who has been singularly lucky in having savoured the music of three generations of top exponents of different gharanas, the controversy to my mind, boils down to the question whether classical music is intellectual or emotional. In other words, it is the never-ending tussle between what is known as classicism and romanticism.
What I have said many times before bears repetition in this evaluation of Panditji’s music. I firmly believe that music (as, indeed, any other art), specially classical music is of two types. It can be purely intellectual or classicist, or purely emotional or romantic. In rare cases, it can be an uncanny blend of both.
In saying this, I nostalgically recall the kind of great music I have heard in all its variety, depth and range over the last four decades and more. Most of the old maestros, who passed into oblivion long ago, were, in my opinion, exponents of intellectual music. By and large, there was more of cerebral skill and physical ability that inspired them to create marvels of sculptured sound. Every note, every phrase, every pattern, as also the rhythmic felicities which went to vivify their chosen theme, provided unimpeachable proof of their life-long dedication and discipline. Against this background, the music of Krishnaraoji, the long survivor of the old guard can be fairly summed up as intellectual in its content and approach. Therefore, its appeal has always been cerebral, but fulfilling.
Needless to say, this kind of music can no longer command popular appeal in the present era of innovation, experimentation and the avant garde. True enough, the conflict between classicism and romanticism has acquired a new and sharper edge in the wake of the emergence of luminaries like Kumar Gandharva and Kishori Amonkar. But this hardly justifies the kind of criticism against the old classicist approach advocated by Krishnaraoji and his departed contemporaries.
And the pity of it is that it comes from cognoscenti of the present generation, who could never have heard the old masters, and can only evaluate them on the basis of recordings which, in most cases, were done when the maestros were long past their prime.
from: http://www.mohannadkarni.org/virtuoso-pandit-krishnarao-pandit/

“ALL OUR GREAT MASTERS HAVE GONE”
Mohan Nadkarni recalls conversations with the maestro. 
The aggressive – looking Panditji is altogether a different man when encountered off-stage. During one of his visits of Bombay, I also had the privilege of playing host to him. Here are excerpts from a series of conversations I had had with Panditji during my meetings with him in Bombay, Delhi and Bhopal.
Q. Panditji, you have often said that the khayal gayaki of Gwalior is the forerunner of several other gharanas which came into prominence during the last 200 years or so. You have also emphasized that none of the later styles has the character of the Gwalior vocalism. Will you please elaborate?
A. Only my gharana can rightly claim to be ashtanga-pradhan in its character. The word means that the style has eightfold musical virtues. These are alap, bol-alap, bol-taan, varieties of taan and layakari, meend, gamak and murki. It is an intricate, complex style, although exponents of other gharanas call it simple, often rudimentary. It might sound simple because it naturally pleases the ear. But it also baffles the mind of een a top veteran, you see. Khayal is presented in two tiers, that is, in slow tempo followed by a faster one. But I find that most exponents of your gharana render their vilambit (slow) composition to medium tempo (Madhya laya). How come? Khayal, as you know well, is a song-form, a composition. If it is rendered in too slow a tempo, it is bound to lose its significance and meaning. The song-text would be deprived of its character.
Q. How then, can you hope to achieve that homogeneous fusion of shabda (words), dhun (tune) and theka (rhythm), which together constitute the hallmark of the gharana? How have you contributed to the enrichment of the gharana’s vocalism?
A. I have tried to lend a greater degree of tayyari (virtuosity) to the traditional style. I have also made an effort to blend several new variations of bol-taan in the general scheme of improvisation. Panditji, you have enjoyed pre-eminence as an exponent of khayal music. But you have also specialized in tappa and thumri styles. These are very different singing genres and have almost gone out of vogue.
Q. Your tappa, specially, sounds different from the Varanasi variety.
A. Yes, the difference is certainly there. Our tappa is khayal-oriented, while the Varanasi type is thumri-oriented. Our repertoire, besides, includes varieties like chaturang, hori, trivet and ashtapadi – all of which form part of the rich treasure of my gharana.
Q. What are the attributes of a good musician? To be a good vocalist, he must first cultivate his voice.
A. He should also have the gift of talent and imagination, coupled with enormous listening power. Above all, he has to pursue his art in the true spirit of a seeker and never deflect from his daily practice.
Q. How do you view the contemporary music scene? Was the older generation of musicians better than the present one? If so, how?
A. We now live in a fast-moving world in which the degree of understanding and appreciation of classical music is getting less and less with each succeeding generation. Our old values are also undergoing a radical change in all walks of life. All our great masters have gone and no new generation of stalwarts has emerged to fill the vacuum. Exceptions are there like Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and others. But they are very few. Don’t you reckon tremendously popular artistes like Kumar Gandharva, Kishori Amonkar and Jasraj? They are good, no doubt. But in the name of changing old concepts and values, they seem to be indulging in innovations and experiments. As a purist, I cannot but view these trends as gravely detrimental to the very survival of the classical tradition.
from: http://www.mohannadkarni.org/virtuoso-pandit-krishnarao-pandit/

Fotos and tree from: http://www.meetapandit.com

Friday, 29 September 2017

Mallikarjun Mansur (1911-1992) - A Doyen of the Gwalior & Atrauli-Jaipur Gharana - LP published in India in 1988


Though the artist orginally learned from a master of the Gwalior Gharana and there exist quite a number of 78 rpm records on which he sings in this style, his later music is pure Jaipur Gharana. In effect the finest example of Jaipur Gharana after the founder Alladiya Khan and his two sons.

On the artist see:





Mallikarjun Mansur – The Man and the Musician by H Y Sharada Prasad

Mallikarjun Mansur is no more. The torrent has gone back into the magic mountain from where it used to flow.
He sang for more than sixty years. And he sang till almost the very last, although he had been so continuously harassed by illness. I recall a private concert he gave in Delhi just five or six months ago when he was kind enough to tell the hosts to ask me to be present. On that occasion he apologised to the audience for not being able to sing for even two hours.
There was always a special intensity to his singing, a special urgency and earnestness in his treatment of melody. These are days when the voice can be preserved, unlike earlier centuries, or the beginning of the phonograph with three-and-seven minute records. Some may say that the immortals of music can now be truly immortalised. But a record of a Mansur concert can never be a substitute for the live one — for each time he sang with a new creative impulse, and in each rendering there were several surprises. His Patdeep or Shivmat Bhairav of today would be a different experience from his Patdeep and Shivmat Bhairav of yesterday.
So many of our well-known authors and artists move about with a swagger for they seem to believe that they are indeed colossi striding the scene. They are all the time looking at those who are looking at them. Mallikarjun did not possess a regal bearing. He did not clothe himself in princely robes. He did not care to be the centre of attraction. He was content to be inconspicuous. He continued to look like a shopkeeper’s accountant. He did not speak like an oracle. He rarely referred to his triumphs. He won not only the respect but the affection of his contemporaries. He was wholly without envy. His was an unfailing geniality and lightness of heart. His airs were what he sang. He did not put on any.
Those who met him never failed to wonder at his combination of eminence and humility. His autobiography would throw some light on this riddle of Mallikarjun. “Nanna Rasayatre” (which could be rendered rather inadequately as “My Emotional Pilgrimage” — for there is no satisfactory English equivalent for “rasa”) is a little masterpiece. But few know about it because it is in his mother tongue, Kannada.
Most autobiographies in our country are by political persons or by literary men. Few are by artists. Mansur’s book cannot be compared with Yehudi Menuhin’s in its length or its depiction of a musician’s challenges and rewards. Mansur tells us that his fingers are meant to play the tanpura and not ply a pen. He took up the book only under the pressure of a couple of literary friends — A. N. Krishna Rao of Karnataka and P. L. Deshpande of Maharashtra. He had kept no diary. His intention in writing the book ultimately was not to impress but to record his debt to his musical and spiritual preceptors.
Mallikarjun’s reverence for his teachers comes out strongly especially for Nilkantha Buwa and for the sons of Alladiya Khan — Manji Khan and Burji Khan. For him they were perennial rivers from whom he could not draw enough. Even when he was nearing forty he kept going from his hometown Dharwad to Kolhapur for lessons from Burji Khan.
Writing nearly thirty-five years after Burji Khan’s death, he would say that his gurus continued to guide him in spirit, inspiring him, enabling him to understand the meaning of music, and bringing him whatever reputation he had gained.
Outwardly the most captivating aspect of Mallikarjun’s music was its dramatic element. He went on the stage even as a young boy, following in the footsteps of his elder brother, and made a name for himself as Prahlada, Dhruv and Narada. But he also left the stage early, when he was still in his teens. The musician Nilkantha Buwa heard him and told his brother: “Give this lad to me. I shall make him a musician. His genius should not be wasted in theatre companies.” The Buwa himself was with a religious establishment and apprenticeship to him was more than a musical training.
Although he had made several discs for HMV even in his early twenties, music did not become a paying profession to Mallikarjun until much later in life. His mother’s faith sustained him initially. After his marriage, his wife somehow managed the house, convinced that she should aid his tapas.
One of the most moving chapters in the autobiography concerns Mallikarjun’s mother. The family decided to go on a pilgrimage to the famous Saivite temple at Srisailam. Once there, Mallikarjun went to have a dip in the sacred pool, leaving his coat at the top of the steps. When he came up, the coat had disappeared and with it all the money of the party as well as the return tickets. He spent the whole day and evening moping. But his mother put heart into him. When it was nearly midnight, she took him to the temple and asked him to sing. The main door had been closed, but Mallikarjun obeyed his mother’s command. He began to sing and soon the singer was lost in his song. To his surprise a priest opened the door and asked the group to go in.
Mallikarjun’s mother stood before the idol and made a prayer: “Lord, if you are true, take me unto yourself. I have no further interest in living. This is my only plea to you.”
Mallikarjun joked and told her: “How can He take you unless we let you go?”