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What is “swara–maauli”?

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The Economic Times, October 4, 1987

Have you ever heard of an institution that has been dedicated to teaching classical music, free of charge, to genuine seekers? And does any one know of an institution that is equally pledged to encourage talented performing artistes, both young and not so young, to show their musical gifts on its own concert platform?

If not, it is time to know about the good work that “Swara-Maauli” has been doing in the field ceaselessly but quietly for almost a decade. The institution is situated in the eastern part of Vile Parle, in the northern suburbs of Bombay, and it all speaks of the high ideals its promoters have set for themselves. To think that such an institution has kept itself going for so many years amid the conditions of cold commercialism that has now become the besetting sin of human endeavour–be it educational, artistic, social and what have you.

Vile Parle East has been this writer’s residence for more than three years now, but not till recently had he heard about “Swara-Maauli” and the scope and nature of its self-imposed task. A chance visit to a concert sponsored by it brought this writer in touch with the promoters. It was rewarding to know that the affairs of the institution are conducted with a small, self-effacing band of well trained musicians and erudite music-lovers.

Over the years, an impressive batch of singers and instrumentalists have been given sound grooming in classical music so as to afford them opportunities to work for their future career on their own. Many of these youngsters have already made it to the concert platform of the institution itself and also elsewhere.

What is more, this kind of encouragement is not restricted to its past students alone. The promoters are keenly aware of fact that we have in our midst countless, young hopefuls, waiting in the wings to show their talents to wider circles, of rasikas. These are indeed the artistes who, with all their gifts, have somehow remained away from the limelight for far too long, possibly because they are either too modest to promote themselves on their own, or have chosen to shy away from the rat-race, or some other factors. “Swara-Maauli” has made it a point to hold regular concerts exclusively earmarked for featuring them.

The institution holds its concert unfailingly once every month on a Sunday evening. A compact hall, accommodating about three hundred listeners, is made available to the sponsors without any obligation by the Lokamanya Seva Sangh, the prestigious socio-cultural organisation of Vile Parle.

The moving spirit behind “Swara-Maauli” is of course the septuagenarian Manohar alias Bapusaheb Rege, who has done pioneering work in the task of building up the Loka Seva Sangh which now owns a massive building, known as Tilak Mandir. Tilak Mandir is indeed one of the landmarks of Vile Parle and it has built within its premises commodious halls on different storeys to facilitate holding of Public meetings, cultural events and even domestic events like weddings and upanayanams. The Sangh also runs educational institutions.

Interestingly, Mr Rege is also an ardent music-lover and a vocalist by choice. Born at Vengurla, in the south Konkan region of Maharashtra, Mr Rege is a man who has managed to pull through many and varied vicissitudes of life. Undaunted by disappointments and adversities, Mr Rege is deeply committed to his social and cultural work which, to him, has been its own reward.

Fortunately for him, Mr. Rege’s missionery zeal has attracted several votaries and active workers, willing to do their bit towards promoting his activities. In the conduct of “Swara-Maauli”, he has had spontaneous cooperation of the sitarist couple, Pandit Giri Raj and his wife, Mangala. Giri Raj is one of the leading senior disciples of the maestro Vilayat Khan and Mangala is his own disciple. Giri Raj quit his job with All India Radio some years ago to take up an independent career in performing and teaching, in which Mangala shares his responsibilities in equal measure.

Believe it or not, “Swara-Maauli” is an institution which does not have membership fee. Yet the institution would seem to be getting stronger and its activities getting wider with each passing year. How come? In reply to a question I was told by the sponsors that part of the expenses of running the school and concept programmes are met by them from their own earnings. Mrs Giri Raj says that the institution receives voluntary donations from affluent music-loving rasikas. She hastens to point out that the entire credit for conducting the affairs of the institution on an even keel has to go to Mr Rege, whose unremitting work in the field has won for him many like-minded friends.

The Giri rajs, as far as I know them, are also a serious, sincere and committed couple, too modest to speak about themselves. It speaks of their goodwill with the fraternity that several top-notch vocalists and instrumentalists have willingly graced the “Swara-Maauli” concert platform with their performing presence. And whoever the artiste, big or small, the monthly concerts almost always draw a packed audience. Rare, indeed, is the kind of musical mood that pervades these concerts.

This writer has himself shared that mood at two such concerts held recently. Among the listeners is a significant segment of performing artistes as well. In a sense, therefore, “Swara-Maauli” has emerged as an institution of artistes, for artistes and by artistes. Three cheers to its sponsors!



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