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Awards for city stalwarts

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Awards for city stalwarts

The Economic Times, September 17, 1989

Two major happenings marked Bombay’s musical activity last week. One was the announcement of national-level awards instituted by the Sangeet Research Academy of ITC to two Bombay stalwarts of yesteryear – Shrimatibai Narvekar and Pandit Wamanrao Sadolikar. The second was a vocal recital by Pandit Dinkar Kaikini, one of the reigning masters of Hindustani music, who drew a packed audience at his evening programme under the auspices of The Dadar-Matunga Culstural Centre on September 10.

First about the awards and the awardees. It was in the year 1979 that the ITC and the SRA started conferring awards annually to eminent musicians of India in appreciation and recognition of their significant contribution to classical music. These award are in the nature of fellowships, each of the value of Rs 10,000.

To Maharashtra, the awards signify the recognition of its people’s love of classical music. For, under this scheme, two noted celebrities from the state are nominated for grant of these fellowships every year. Since the inception of this scheme, 20 veterans of yesteryear, who include vocalists, instrumentalists and percussionists from Maharashtra have won the distinction so far. Some of these awards have been conferred posthumously on humanitarian grounds, so as to extend the much needed assistance to their surviving beneficiaries.

This year is no exception, in that Shrimatibhai Narvekar passed away at the age of 85 in December last year. But the difference is that she breathed her last soon after the sponsors had received her consent to accept the honour. The formal function of presenting the award is scheduled for September 30.

Connoisseurs of highbrow music may possible be unaware of her eminence as a vocalist on the concert platform and radio. Born at Ankola in Uttara Kannada district, now in Karnataka, in 1903, she had the rare privilege of studentship with many great maestros of her time, who included Mohammad Khan, Vilayat Hussain Khan and Balakrishnabuva Banavalikar. The first two were exponents of the Agra gharana, while the last mentioned guru was a representative of the Gwalior gharana.

Later, she obtained the tutelage of Azmat Hussain Khan, whose vocalism revealed a unique fusion of the styles of Agra and Atrauli-Jaipur. She even mastered tappa and thumri from another veteran, Pyarelal. The result was a happly amalgam of some of the best features of Hindustani vocal traditions in her singing.

I had the privilege of listening to Shrimatibai’s music for many years. She was endowed with a loud, stentorian voice with a slight nasal accent. The strong points of her music were her tayyari, her sense of rhythm, her impressive boltaans and the purity of ragas, both popular and rare. Thereby, she had built up her own audience. Being a purist to the core, she was, in a sense, “out of tune” with the changing times. Shy, unassuming and averse to limelight, she retired from her concert career rather prematurely.

Pandit Sadolikar, who turned 82 yesterday (September 16), made his mark as a top-notch classical vocalist, erudite scholar and teacher and talented actor-singer of the Marathi stage. Born in a village in the old princely state of Kolhapur, he grew up in the ambience of melody and rhythm. Leaving his school at the age of 13 to take to music as his pursuit, he came to Bombay to undergo basic training at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, conducted by Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.

Panditji’s career as actor-singer began with his entry into the Yeshwant Sangeet Mandali, owned by the late singing thespian, Shankarrao Sarnaik. This association lasted seven years, after which he continued to act and sing on contract basis with different drama troupes that operated in the heyday of the Marathi drama.

His professional grooming in classical singing began with his shagirdi with the maestro Bhurji Khan, son of the great Alladiya Khan. After a thorough grooming under the Ustad, Wamanraoji began giving concerts through mehfils and the radio.

Panditji’s urge for acquiring newer and newer experiences in the wider field led him tor try his hand at composing the music for Marathi plays and also films. He won laurels for many of his innovations. The people of Kolhapur felicitated him on his 60th birthday. He also received the coveted Bal Gandharva gold medal from the Marathi Natya Parishad as the best singer-actor in 1976. Five years later, he received official recognition from the government of Maharashtra on the occasion of the centenary of the Marathi musical stage.

As a guru, Panditji has been strict and kind to his disciples. His daughter, Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar, has already emerged as a major talent on the classical scene.

Yet, one cannot help feeling that Panditji’s contribution deserved much wider recognition. The SRA award can be said to fill the lacuna to a great extent.

Now, a summation of Pandit Kaikini’s recital. He is a Bombay vocalist and the city’s audiences are delightfully familiar with his personality-bound style and, more especially, his rare sense of aesthetics. A sure-artiste, Kaikini is a product of scholastic education but has always kept himself abreast of the changing times and tastes of his listeners without losing his moorings in what is pure and elevating in traditional music. This accounts for his popularity.

Pandit Kaikini’s repertoire, comprising Poorvi Multani and his self-composed melody, Gagan Vihang, as also his bandishes in Bayati, Dadra, and Bhairavi, testified, once again, to his originality and virtuosity. By common consent, his Poorvi was the best of the repertoire.

Pandit Kaikini received vocal support from his disciples, Sudhindra Bhoumick and Shashikala (Panditji’s wife). The instrumental support came from his son, Yogesh, on the tabla and Dhruba Ghosh on the sarangi.


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