Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Random Thoughts on Composers

While compositions are integral to classical music, composers are often neglected. I noticed the irony at a concert of Smt. Kalapini Komkali when she announced before beginning that she would be singing a composition of her fathers and after, a traditional bandish. The traditional bandish was a composition of Sadarang whose name is clearly sung as part of the song. Wouldn't it be better to say "a traditional bandish of Sadarang's"?

Considering how ubiquitous Sadarang's compositions are in the classical repertoire, I was surprised that there didn't seem to exist any analysis or listing of his compositions. I recently came across an excellent book published in 2000 that does just that, Hindustani sangit ke mahan rachnakar Sadarang Adarang by Shailendra Kumar Goswami. I have been surprised that many musicians I know were unaware of it.

A few years ago the Gundas Sangeet Sammelan here in Mumbai celebrated their anniversary (was it their 50th?), with an impressive line-up at Shanmukananda Hall. Although in honor of "Gunidas", Jagannathbua Purohit, one of the greatest composers of recent times, no one made an effort to sing any of his compositions, not even C.R. Vyas, one of his main disciples. Ironically, the night I chose not to attend and instead went locally to hear Aarti Ankalekar she sang Gunidas's famous compositions in Jogkauns.

How many of you are familiar with Abdul Rehman Khan? He was the guru of Nirmala Devi, Lakshmi Shankar, and others including Mahendra Kapoor and Parveen Sultana for a short time. He was also the composer of many, if not all of the thumris sung by Nirmala Devi and Lakshmi Shankar on their LP masterpieces of Punjabi style singing. He also composed one of Shobha Gurtu's most popular thumris, "chod gaya sajan mera". He was a colorful personality and used to record at A.I.R. under the name A.R. Kumar.

Although arguably the most successful composer of thumris since Bindadin Maharaj, he is forgotten today. Even by people who ought to have remembered him. The other day I read an interview of Nirmala Devi's son, the Bollywood star Govinda. There he recalled his mother's guru's name was Abdul Karim Khan!

In public performances, singers often mention the composer's name when it is someone the public is familiar with (Kumar Gandharva, Ramashreya Jha, Balwant Rai Bhatt, S.N.Ratananjankar etc.), but not necessarily for Daras Piya, Sanad Piya, etc. A.I.R. broadcasts do not provide the space for any announcement of the composer, unfortunately.

I particularly like the way Smt. Veena Sahasrabudde announces and recites the lyrics with her impeccable diction before singing. Birju Maharaj has kept Bindadin's thumris alive most beautifully, but hundreds of bandsish thumris notated in the "thumri sangraha" and other books have become extinct, as have the hundreds of bandishes from Manikbua Thakurdas's books and Gokhale gharana bandishes. Thanks to the labor of love of K.G. Ginde we have the collection of S.N. Ratanjankar's compositions in "Abhinav Geet Manjiri" and the recordings of all the compositions done by Gindeji is likely to be commercially available sometime.

Very nice collections of bandishes with recordings have been done by Dinkar Kaikini, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Babarao Haldankar and Leela Karanbelkar (Gunidas compositions). Also expected are collections of bandishes of Khadim Hussain Khan and Sharad Chandra Arolkar. As a student of music, I am so grateful to all these great people who have continued in the tradition of the great Pt. Bhatkhande.


Chetan Vinchhi said...

Nice piece, James. It is indeed unfortunate that some of the great composers remain, er, unsung in modern times. Apart from the names you mentioned, Prempiya bandishes such as "main karii aavi piya sang ranga-raliyan" in Puriya and Sabrang bandishes such as "chhanD de mora anchara" in Kamod are sung across ghranas, often unacknowledged.

To add to the bit about Gunidas, he actually carried forward the admirable tradition of his guru Pranpiya. In turn, his disciple Gunijan was a worthy successor!

One curious case is that of S.N.Ratanjankar, who used to compose in his early days without a takhallus so as to pass off his work as "traditional"!

Abhik Majumdar said...

Nazakat Ali-Salamat Ali had an even more interesting practice. They'd freely use the takhallus Manarang for some of their own compositions!

I recall a private recording where they claimed Manarang was the takhallus their father Vilayat Ali used. Be that as it may, I strongly believe the sons used it too.

anjali malkar said...

Just like eminent composers, the changes taken place in the rendition of some popular ragas can also be noted through traditional bandishes!

Abhik Majumdar said...

Many thanks for the comment, Anjali.

> the changes taken place in the rendition of some popular ragas can also be noted through traditional bandishes!

Could you elaborate on this? Do you mean that older bandishes in a particular raga contain features no longer associated with that raga as it is performed today?