On the occasion of Goa’s 30th liberation day on December 19, MOHAN NADKARNI assess the priceless contribution other state which has given us artistes like Kishori Amonkar.
The Illustrated Weekly of India, December 1, 1990
With the establishment of the Goa Kala Academy in 1970, followed by the selling up of a full-fledged college of music affiliated to the University of Goa last year, the tiny state can be said to have emerged as a major musical citadel of India. To say this, however is not to overlook Goa’s contribution to the enrichment of Hindustani music even before its liberation from Portuguese rule nearly three decades ago. Indeed, it is a fact that Goans are a versatile people, and that their age-old passion for music (as also drama and dance) puts the region in a class by itself. Even in the face of four centuries of alien rule, they did not lag behind in their efforts to keep India’s tradition of the performing arts alive. The numerous Hindu shrines in the region continued to provide shelter and succour to artistes. These places of worship became the centres of Hindu cultural activity.
Ironically, however, the continued lack of official patronage, coupled with public apathy resulting from, among other factors, the social an cultural backwardness of the society as a whole, eventually compelled some of the most enterprising and resourceful artists to leave their homes and seek a living outside the region. It will not be wide off the mark to say that Goa’s music, as also other performing arts, flourished outside the land of its birth.
Goa’s contribution to Hindustani music reveals a few significant features. First, women artistes would seem to have dominated the scene ever since North India’s classical music was introduced into the region almost two centuries ago. Secondly, it is the singing rather than instrumental tradition in Hindustani music that has, by and large, received the attention of some of the all- time greats in the field. Thirdly, notice needs to be taken of the crucial part played by many stalwarts of Hindustani music from outside the region towards discovering and encouraging deserving talent in the culture-conscious, art-loving Goa.
It is on record that Mohana Palkar, a gifted vocalist, left Goa as far back as 1770 AD and settled down in Pune as a court-singer under the patronage of the Peshwas. This was even before the versatile maestro, Murarba Pednekar, credited to be the first male musician to step out of Goa, achieved fame all over the country with his multifaceted genius. The first woman classical vocalist, said to have achieved countrywide fame, was Saraswatibai Bandodkar, who learnt her art from an upcountry veteran, Vithoba Anna Hadap, possibly the first veteran from Maharashtra to have discovered the immense musical potential of Goan artistes. Hadap was soon followed by Dattubuva Bhide, Anantbuva, Vazebuva and Bakhalebuva.
Meanwhile, Muraba Pednekar, who returned home after his triumphant professional tours all over the country, played a significant role in ushering in a sort of renaissance in the musical activity of the land. He groomed an impressive array of disciples, including Bablibai Salgaonkar, Saraswatibai Jambavalikar and Mogabai Kakodkar. In fact, it is these disciples who brought melody and rhythm to the region in a big way.
There soon emerged a brilliant galaxy of artistes, men as well as women. The list is literally unending. To name a few, there were celebrities of the calibre of Tarabai Shirodkar, who learnt from Vazebuva and Bakhalebuva, while Raghunath Mashelkar was the first musician to have undertaken a foreign tour. He trained a number of disciples in vocal and instrumental music. Among them was the celebrated Dinanath Mangeshkar, the singer-actor, who was initiated into the art by Mashelkar before he sought tutelage from Vazebuva.
It is the latter-mentioned stalwarts who represented the earliest generation and braved all manner of travails and tribulations in their compulsive urge to find an outlet for the expression of their genius outside the land of their birth. The names that come to mind in this context are the instrumental virtuosi, such as the sarangi veteran Pandemama Mangeshikar and Vinayak Bandodkar, and the tabla wizard, Khaprumama Parvatkar. But they did not completely forsake their home even while they made their impact on the rest of the country by their professional visits.
Speaking of the second generation of artistes who settled down permanently in Maharashtra and made their signal contribution to the field, the names that come to mind are Bapubai and Tarabai, the two sisters, who were nicknamed “Bapu-Tara”. So was the Bablibai. Even as they pursued their brilliant performing career, they also sponsored concerts of great artistes from all over the India by staging their baithaks in their homes.
By a tragic irony, one also comes by a several instances in which female artistes, though endowed with immense artistic talent and great personal charm, gave up their profession in their prime to lead a life of complete detachment. Among them were Anjanibai Malpekar, and Bablibai, Saraswatibai Jambavalikar, Mogabai Kakodkar, and also Dattibai Nageshkar.
A noteworthy aspects of the migration of these artistes from Goa and their taking up residence in Maharashtra was that they had the privilege of faithful grooming from the ustads of several contemporary khayal gharanas, such as those of Agra, Atrauli Jaipur and Bhendi Bazar. But the vocalists who stood out and shone resplendently on the musical horizon for almost three decades were Kesarbai Kerkar and Mughbai Kurdikar, Both were proteges of Alladiya Khan, who pioneered the Atrauli-Jaipur gharana, and few could equal them in their attainments.
Coming to the third generation of Goan artistes, Kishori Amonkar, Mogubai’s daughter and disciple, has towered over almost all other female vocalists presently on the scene. She is the only woman avant garde Hindustani vocalist to have over shadowed the gharana ideology to strike it out on her own. Not surprisingly, Kishori happens to be the most popular and also the most controversial Hindustani artiste in India today.
Then there is Shobha Gurtu, yet another Goan, who is an artiste without peer in this part of the country, when it comes to the exposition of difficult genres like Purab-ang gayaki and Urdu ghazal. Mention must also be made of Jitendra Abhisekhi, who has evolved an eclectic approach to raga music as few else. He has also made his mark as a versatile composer of natya sangeet.
The validity of musical grooming in the gurushishya parampara way is resoundingly brought home by young vocalists like Nisha Nigalye-Parasnis. This Panaji-born artiste, still in her twenties, is a product of the Goa Kala Academy. She has been making waves on the concert scene all over the country ever since the made her debut in Bombay barely three years ago.
By comparison, it would seem that Goa’s contribution to the instrumental field is a little less impressive, but it is by no means insignificant. The region has given us, besides Murarba and Khanprumama, highly gifted harmonists like P. Madhukar, violinists like Shridhar Parsekar and sarangi wizards like Dattaram Parvatkar, Baburao Kumthekar and Anant Kerkar. Among the non-professionals and scholar-musicians are Raghuvir Ramanathkar and his son Ratnakant, and Malbarao Sardessai, who have devoted their lives to the study and research of the music of Goa.
There are, besides scores of other vocalists and instrumentalists who have contributed, in their own way, to the Goan musical tradition. Some of them, like the venerable percussionist, Pandharinath Nageshkar, have taken to teaching as their vocation, as also vocalists like G. D. Agni. They are far too many to permit individual mention within these limitations.
Finally, this writer cannot resist the temptation to refer to the heartwarming tribute from the celebrated Agra gharana, maestro, Vilayat Hussain Khan. In his acknowledgement of the recognition of Goa’s quintessential contribution to Hindustani music, he said, in the course of an interview. “It is the talent and genius of Goan musicians that provided shelter to the fraternity of Khandaani ustads like us. Where, indeed, do you find women artistes, who worship their mentors as God in the form of guru, in the true spirit of an ardent bhakta?”