Neutrality on the guru’s music is a tough element to master. Renowned vocalist Kalapini Komkali, daughter and the youngest disciple of Pandit Kumar Gandharva is open to all views and opinions on her father’s singing. She practised “neutrality” for more than two years while compiling and editing the two books on Kumarji’s music, repertoire, creativity and mind — Kaalajayi Kumar Gandharva and Timeless Kumar Gandharva in Marathi and a bilingual version (Hindi and English) with academician Rekha Inamdar Sane. Kumarji would have turned 90 this year.
Kalapini was recently in Delhi to perform Gandharva Swar, a beautifully-curated concert at the launch of Kaalajayi… with renowned vocalist Bhuvanesh Komkali (son of Pt Mukul Shivputra and disciple of Kumarji’s wife and world renowned vocalist Vidushi Vasundhara Komkali and Delhi-based maestro Pt Madhup Mudgal) to mark the continuing celebrations and the book launch. The two books are different from each other in content, photographs and layout. Kalapini says, “Many books have been written on Kumarji’s music by a number of experts and scholars. Kaalajayi could become an authentic record of views and a great reference book.” The two books have contributions from renowned musicians, musicologists, connoisseurs, several well-known Marathi scholars and critics. “His 90th birthday could have been an occasion for us to sing endless praises of the maestro but that wasn’t our motive. I respect the criticism of my father’s singing. I may not agree with the criticism as a disciple but we cannot reject the views of renowned scholars who have known Kumarji’s music. My intention was to compile books for posterity instead of giving them shelf life of a year or two.”
It’s a fine and brave balance. The books contain emotional and precious contributions from Vidushi Vasundhara Komkali (on her musical journey with Kumarji), and son Pandit Mukul Shivputra (on Kumarji’s musical creativity) and on the other, critical essays contributed by well-known veteran musicologists Babanrao Haldankar and Ashok Ranade. Pt Madhup Mudgal, Bhuvanesh and Kalapini have contributed essays in Hindi. Photographs from the Kumar Gandharva Pratishthan, and generous contributions from the personal collections of Kumarji’s friends, like renowned musician and scholar KG Ginde and Allahbad-based Justice AN Verma, including notes from the personal diaries of friends, followers and disciples helped Kalapini.
Gandharva Swar, the concert was designed to reveal Kumarji’s mind and method through his compositions. The concert format requires the mandatory ignoring of the prescribed raga timings to make room for as many compositions and ragas as possible. Their singing proceeds on different swaras, but Kalapini and Bhuvanesh become one voice of the lineage; the guru-shishya parampara that makes Dewas known as a temple of music, and of the vast repertoire of traditional and folk compositions. Kalapini says, “Kumarji’s repertoire of traditional compositions is huge. Taking only his compositions and not the traditional ones would seem slightly incomplete, but we decided to go with the former for this musical tribute. We had no other choice owing to the time limitation.”
Highlighting the musical milestones of Kumarji’s career and those, naturally, of Hindustani music, Kalapini sang Sohini Bhatiyar, a jod raag (a blend of ragas) composed by Kumarji. The marriage of two melodies and their structures in the jod-raag is blissful, like a content nuptial togetherness. Bhaityar lends retrospection, sweetness and seriousness to the tones of the pain-ridden pining inherent in Sohini. “Dhan Basanti, Basanta Sohini, Kedar Nand and many other jod ragas were composed by Kumarji. Sohini Bhatiyar was the first one he composed. It’s important because the melody and the composition transformed the entire jod-raag scene. He wanted to achieve a sublime marriage of the two ragas where a listener realises the effortless and seamless blend, so that it’s hard to spot where Sohini begins and Bhatiyar ends,” she adds. Aayo Rang Phaag, the composition in Bhimpalasi quashed several myths related to the melody’s performance and singing. “It’s not an ordinary composition of Bhimpalasi. This composition changed the listeners’ perception of the raag.”
Oneness in duality is the fibre of the great singers in the family. We request Kalapini to also bring out a book on her mother’s views on her musical journey — the inseparable duality and singularity in her music. “Kumarji has shown me the way for the two books. It’s the guru’s wish. I hope I am able to write on my mother’s music one day.”