Kumar Gandharva was an innovator, a rebel like T.M. Krishna

The Tata theatre of NCPA in Mumbai was packed to capacity on April 4 by music lovers providing a fitting finale to the birth centenary celebrations of Kumar Ganharva, the famed Hindustani classical vocalist and innovator. The occasion was the release of a Marathi book on the singer at the function organsied by Granthali publishing house now celebrating its golden jubilee, and NCPA.

I have never seen such a big attendance at the release of a book on music, noted Suresh Talwalkar, noted veteran table player, who has written an introduction to the book.

The book Gandharvanche Dene (the debt we owe to Kumar Gandharva )is based on interviews and recitals given by Kumar spread over six days in a programme organised by Granthali in 1985.

The book is a very valuable record on music because Kumar was also a major thinker, innovator, a rebel like T.M. Krishna now is in Carnatic music. Kumar was rebellious in a very emphatic way but in a gentle, unobtrusive manner.

Kumar Gandharva

It is edited by Atul Deulgaonkar, a music lover, sensitive environmentalist, author of a book on Laurie Baker, the pioneer architect, a researcher on the Latur earthquake rehabilitation and he has done much more.

The programme began with readings from the book rendered by Chandrakant Kale singer actor of Ghashiram Kotwal and Mahanirwaan fame and another talented singer from Pune Madhuri Purandare.

Pune is often the butt of jokes for various reasons but it also has an excellent reputation based on remarkable contributions in various fields for well over a century.

The folk music of talented , traditional street singers Kumar Gandharva heard from his convalescent bed in Devas was to play a major role in his life.

This was pure music – guileless, rough-edged, spontaneous and joyous – and it was sung into emptiness, with no intention to impress anyone. Musicologist Vamanrao Deshpande, who traces Kumar Gandharva’s rise as a rebel in Between Two Tanpuras, maps Malwa’s huge impact on his musical thinking, especially the realisation that in the free music lay the seeds of the highly systematised classical form. “He was inspired to create new compositions and his entire musical development was stimulated and enriched by it,” he writes.

Vamanrao Deshpande was a veteran musicologist , at his feet many stalwarts learnt music He was a practising chartered accountant of fifty years’ standing and also a senior partner in the Batliboi Purohit chartered accountancy firm in Mumbai, India.

It was appropriate that Vamanrao’s son, Satyasheel Deshpande, vocalist and critic, spoke and sang on the occasion. When he was a child, Kumar was a regular visitor to his house and he learnt so much from him.

The programme was held in Tata theatre because of the insistence of Sudesh Hinglasuprkar of Granthali that the occasion needed such a fine venue. Also recalled on the occasion was the role of P.L. Deshpande, famour author and music lover, who was specially fond of Kumar and was a director of NCPA before Vijaya Mehta came in.

Kumar Ketkar, a founder of Granthali, said the idea of setting up the publishing house originated in the one room kitchen house of Dinkar Gangal, then Maharashtra Times journalist, in Nehru Nagar in Kurla with keen participation of many including Arun Sadhu, Shrikant Lagoo, , Vasanti Mujumdar, Ashok Jain,

Kumar Gandharva was enrolled at the Deodhar School of Music in Mumbai. Established by renowned musicologist B.R. Deodhar, the school was known for breaking from the gharana tradition and appreciating several different schools of music. It was here that his genius was noticed by Deodhar.

But then he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and shifted to Dewas near Indore for rest, convalescence. Convalescence was exactly what he needed. In the quiet of Malwa life, he started hearing the strains of music outside his window – the hardworking men and women of the village passing by, singing of their lives, their lands. From a basti nearby he could hear emanating the raw, powerful music of the Nathpanthi jogis, who sang Kabir’s dohas and nirguni bhajans

the greatness of a singer’s art is to be measured by the range of life experiences mirrored in it, Kumar Gandharva aces the test,” says scholar Ashok Vajpayee of Kumar Gandharva’s composition in Kaljayee, an anthology of essays

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist, culture critic and author of a book on public transport

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