NEW DELHI: The same line—“You sang really well today, but…”, repeats itself over and over again as vocalist Pushkar Lele steps off the stage after a performance every time. With that ‘but’ his mother always finds something that could have been done better. And in that ‘better’, she instilled the determination in him to be the best. Just days before Lele takes stage at the upcoming Bhakti Utsav, he remembers how greatly his mother has influenced him. His music wouldn’t be what it is today if she hadn’t worked tirelessly to secure the best for her son.
The programme will see a number of artists including Sagar Prassanna on Dhrupad, Mohan Shym Sharma on Pakhawaj, vocals by Madan Gopal and Kalapani Komkali. An effort by Delhi Government’s Sahitya Kala Parishad, the this devotional music festival commenced on April 20. Every artists bring a piece of their classical repertoire to stage, including Lele, who will present abhangs of Sant Tukaram, a 17th century saint and poet from Maharashtra, who was an epitome of the Varkari tradition.
“Tukaram’s genius lies in his ability to transform the external world into its spiritual analogue. Like Sant Kabir, Turaram was known for his philosophically rich poetry as well as his social commentary. In my presentation, I will begin with a traditional gajar of Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari followed by five or six abhangs depicting various moods of devotion and philosophical content,” he says.
The stage has become a familiar, comfortable place for the vocalist today, but things were different when he debuted at age seven, however the slight anticipation and a bit of nervousness soon changed into confidence and excitement as he started learning classical music formally. Lele’s mother took upon herself to find her son the best guru. The search ended with them meeting Guru Pt. Gangadharbua Pimpalkhare. They got on to their unsteady Bajaj scooter and rode for every class.
When school and music commitments had been met for the day, they would attend musical mehfils. “She would not once worry about the lonely dimly lit roads, nor was I ever allowed to miss school the next morning despite coming home late,” he says. The same continued when Lele went to his second guru, Vijay Koparkar, who lived in a remote village (then), 15km away from his house. Once again, they got on to their ramshackle scooter and went about their business. “I don’t remember her praising me unduly, like many parents do. I never got anything that most other children of my age got for free. I had to earn it. And it really helped because I understood the value of everything,” he says.
His skilfulness with vocals has now given him the liberty to peek on the other side of traditional boundaries. Improvisations should happen organically, he believes. For him, the time came when he faced disillusionment after learning classical music for 15 years. “My search to find meaning to what I was doing was later found in Mukkam Vashi, a transcription of singer Pt. Kumar Gandharva’s residential workshop in Vashi. In it, lay many of my answers that learnt from Pt. Vijay Sardesmukh and Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande, both disciples of Gandharva ji,” he says. Lele’s creative expression is also expressed through his home that he has lovingly done up. Interiors are a passion and so is gardening, reading, travelling, theatre and staying fit. He surely seems to be hitting the high notes with his life. April 22, at 6.30 pm, Nehru Park, Chanakyapuri.