Pt. Omkarnath remembered
By MOHAN NADKARNI
The Economic Times, August 7, 1988
The concert, held a little over a week ago, will linger long in memory for many reasons. In the first place, it was thoughtfully designed as a homage to the late Pandit Omkarnath Thakur on his 90th birth anniversary.
Secondly, the programme, sponsored by the memorial trust set up to promote the ideals of the departed maestro drew a phenomenal listener participation. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Indian Merchant’s Chamber Hall, the venue, literally burst almost at the seams.
Last but not the least is the musical part of the proceedings, which featured excerpts of Panditji’s recorded music, and a live recital by the young popular vocalist, Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar who, incidentally, substituted for the Pune-based Veena Sahasrabuddhe who could not make it because of sudden illness.
Oddly enough, Panditji’s taped music was scheduled after Shruti’s recital instead of at the beginning of the proceedings. Yet it is fair and proper to refer to the maestro’s music first, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion.
The recorded repertoire, covering the ragas Bihag and Bhairavi, which the maestro used to sing through his favourite Meera bhajan, “Jogi mat jaa”, has since been encased in a cassette for commercial release by Rhythm House through the courtesy of its owner, Mr Vijay Porecha, one of the most ardent voteriesof Panditji’s music and member of the trust.
To those of the older generation, who had the privilege of listening to Panditji in flesh and blood, the taped version triggered bitter-sweet memories of the days when he was hailed by his fans as one of the reigning masters of Hindustani music.
Indeed, the maestro was something much more. Besides being one of the most colourful classical vocalists to have graced the concert arena for more than three decades, he was a controversial genius. Although steeped in the old shastra, he dared to overshadow the time-honoured concept of this Gwalior gharana – he was a leading disciple of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar – and evolved a style of his own. Some averred that he was romanticist.
Some others called him an iconoclast, while Panditji himself, along with his large following, claimed that he was orthodox in his vocalism. The fact is that he choose to be a gate-crasher, whose musical ventures often generated both apprehension and awe which is precisely why he compelled attention all through his active performing career.
As for Shruti, it was her second concert appearance on a similar occasion within a fortnight. But it was a different Shruti whom we heard this time. The fare she offered comprised khayal in vilabit and drut, each in the ragas Yaman, Bhoop Nat and Bihagda (which she sang in response to a farmaish from the audience). This young top-notcher also departed from the taboo of her puristic khayal tradition of Atrauli-Jaipur, when she concluded her recital with the celebrated thumri in Bhairavi, “Bajuband khul khul jaa”, much to the delight and admiration of her listeners.
In all her renditions, Shruti threw the entire personality of her undoubted musicianship as she proceeded to unravel the hidden charms of the respective melodies. She was of course at her best in her Bhoop Nat and Bihagda which are, incidentally, the “strongholds” of her intractable gharana. She sang them in a resonant voice that paced up and down with felicitous ease, revealing, in the process, the benefits of a truly fruitful period of studentship with her eminent father, Pandit Wamanrao Sadolikar, and Ustad Ghulamali Jasdenwalla, the erudite scholar and teacher.
Praise is also due to teenager Vasanti Shrikhande, whose vocal support to her teacher showed the ingredients of the musician in the making. Equally brilliant was the instrumental sangat that came from Omkar Gulwadi (tabla), Anant Kunte (sarangi) and Kiran Lele (harmonium).