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“Parampara” Sammelan

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The Economic Times, January 22, 1989

The two-day Parampara Sammelan sponsored by Mansion House in aid of Purva Seema Vikas Pratishthan at Vile Parle, during the week-end, turned out to be, only good in parts, although it was well-attended and well-publicised.

The event was designed to present the various facets of guru-shishya parampara of the Gwalior gayaki, which is the oldest vocal tradition of Hindustani classical music. In effect and achievement, however, it was not the musical part of the sammelan as the “verbal” part, that provided what may be summed up as the saving grace to the proceedings.

This one-hour presentation feature dthe septuagenarian Gwalior maestro, Pandit Arolkar, and the erudite scholar-musician, Pandit V. R. Athavale, who were engaged in an unequal sort of dialogue of Mr P. L. Deshpande, the eminent Marathi litterateur and ardent aficionado of traditional music, who was the question-master.

Mr Deshpande posed a few basic questions before both the veterans and sought their answers. The first question was an attempt to seek elucidation of the concept of what is known as gharana, how it evolved into different schools of vocal music, and how we find them on the contemporary scene.

And it was Pandit Arolkar who, with his mind-boggling command over the art, science and aesthetics of the musical tradition of north India who explained how music in general was an expression of emotion and how this medium of non-verbal communication was capable of evoking the whole gamut of human moods.

While Professor Athavale just attempted to describe the styles of different gharanas as individual styles pioneered by their great stalwarts, Pandit Arolkar discounted the view put forward by his co-speaker.

To him the vocal tradition of Gwalior was not a gharana, but a jhan-peeth, because it was the fountain-head of the several styles that came to flow from it in later decades. These styles, known as different gharanas, like those of Agra, Atrauli-Jaipur and Kirana, emerged as panths or sects which only propagated and popularized certain aspects of singing set in fashion by their respective pioneers.

In elaborating his point of view, Pandit Arolkar drew a striking parallel between the evolution of philosophy (which proliferated into separate ideologies like religion, faith, and sect) and that of Hindustani music. This interpretation was as convincing as it was startling. Indeed, it came as a revelation that must make musicians, scholars and music-lovers sit up and think.

Referring to the Gwalior tradition itself, Pandit Arolkar pointed out that spontaneous exploration of what is beautiful and emotional was the summum bonum of its musical expression. Since Khayal, tappa and thumri were the main style of Hindustani singing, he showed by demonstration how the emotive character of a raga composition was vitally depended on its lyrical import, beauty of its bandish and also its rhythmical design.

Frankly, the impression one got from Pandit Athavale’s answers to Mr Deshpande’s questions was that they were more oriented to the scholastic side, coming as they did from a scholar and teacher. Pandit Arolkar’s approach to the subject was inspired by this deep grounding in philosophy, mysticism and religion, which have made him a profound thinker, who relates his art to the spirit.

Summing up the discussions, Mr Deshpande complimented Pandil Arolkar on his uncanny insight into the philosophy of music and said that his assumptions were convincing and thought-provoking.

Now coming to the music part: the billing of eight vocalists did little to substantiate the sponsors’ object, which was to highlight the different streams of gayaki of the main Gwalior parampara. In the first place, the very nomenclature of the sammelan –“Gwalior Gayaki Parampara” – was a gross misnomer, in that no attempt was made to feature representatives of the oldest surviving generation of performing veterans of the gharana.

Other artistes billed for performance at the sammelan were representative of the different streams of the Gwalior vocalism. They were Sharad Sathe, Veena Sahassrabuddhe, Vidyadhar Vyas and violinist D. K. Datar. And they emphatically proved their credentials by their performances. Last but not the least, was that time management went completely hay-wire.

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