Mumbai Music: Amarendra Dhaneshwar
Director: Surabhi Sharma; Cinematographer: Ajay Noronha
Duration: 00:56:32; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 21.214; Saturation: 0.076; Lightness: 0.213; Volume: 0.072; Cuts per Minute: 0.195; Words per Minute: 115.002
Summary: Amarendra Dhaneshwar, well-known singer of the Gwalior gayaki and music critic in Marathi and English, speaks about his engagement with music in his different capacities as a keen listener, organiser, and performer. He describes the musical atmosphere in the Dadar Matunga area from the 1950s on, and how the presence of famous singers and instrumentalists as well as the mushrooming of music circles led to a tremendous upsurge in audience interest in Hindustani music.
TN: We'd like to begin by asking you how you first came to Hindustani music, unlike maybe others who would have started learning when they were children. I know that you came into music at a later age. So it would have been a conscious choice on your part, not that your parents sent you to learn music. So what brought you to music? Or what brought you to Hindustani music in particular?
AD: Ok... I belong to a family where music was liked by everybody, and my parents - my father was not a musician - he was a government servant but he was a music lover. He grew up during times when the gramophone record had just started coming, so he used to always sing songs like "Tum bin meri kaun khabar le govardhan girdhari..." or "Radhe Krishnabol mukh se. Radhe Krishna bol na na na.." That was Naryan Rao Vyas's. so I have grown up listening to his humming these songs, and these songs were sung by classical singers.
My mother she was... [she] belonged to Poona. My father was educated from Fergusson College, Poona. So, Poona people absorbed these cultural influences connected with Hindustani music. My father's favourite musician was Master Krishnarao, because Master Krishnarao was supposed to be a very good singer who would entertain the audience with thumris and bhajans and classical also.
My mother I'm told used to go to a Gandharva Mahavidyalaya... not [exactly] Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, but there was a singer called Tambe Shastri who was teaching Paluskarite type of Gawalior Gharana. Tambe Shastri's daughter later on became a very well-known singer, her name was Kamal Tambe and she was a front-ranking disciple of Mogubai Kurdikar, and Kamal Tambe was my mother's classmate, but my mother learnt for a while before she...and then she gave up.
But now that I have become a singer my mamas, my maternal uncles, and all they keep telling me you have become.. because your mother was learning music etc. That apart, but music has always been one of the... I think first love of the people around when I was growing up
and my maternal grandfather was a Taar [telegraph] master, he was in the CTO Pune - Central Telegraph Office, and he was a lover of Bal Gandharva plays, and he used to describe how a Gandharva play would start at 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock in the evening and then it would go on till 4 o'clock-5 o'clock, and during his working hours he used to opt for the night shift so that he could go and watch the play during office hours, and he would come and describe all those...
I mean he had retired when I was 7or 8 years old but he used to give all those descriptions how Gandharva used to sing etc. So all these influences were there on me when I was a child. Apart from that, there was K.L. Saigal who was supposed to be the greatest playback singer, not playback singer - actor/singer,
so Ceylon radio used to have the last song sung by... there was Binaca Geet not Binaca Geetmala ...Purane Filmon ke Geet and the last song would be K.L Saigal's at 7:57 in the morning. In Bombay we had no radio set at home but we used to go to Poona for holidays, and Poona electricity... I think that house got electricity in 1957... '56-'57
So Radio Ceylon every day Purane Filmon Ke Geet they would switch on and I would without fail I would listen to the K L Saigal song and all those songs I still know them by heart, so this was the influence.
Later on, I mean Natya Sangeet is a major influence for Maharashtrians because... I mean introduction to classical music, so Natya Sangeet I was listening to... there were singers like Sripadrao Nevdekar, he was a male actor who used to act opposite Bal Gandharva in male roles, so his songs...
He was my favourite singer. Then there was Chota Gandharva, then of course... I had not... I had seen Bal Gandharva but I had never seen him act, he had already retired by then. So Natya Sangeet... introduction through Natya Sangeet was always there... so music...
In school also I was marked out as a student fit for music lessons. There were options: drawing, art, visual art and music. I opted for music and there were only 2-3 boys and the rest were all girls... but I was told, yes, you have got this talent in music so you take this as a subject. So I used to learn whatever elementary
Hindustani music that the school taught.
Then at the time of the Chinese agression, a film was made in Marathi - [a] feature film called Chhota Jawan, and it was directed by Ram Gabale who was a very close associate of P.L Deshpande also, and he was a well-known filmmaker. So for that song... there was a song in that film, marching song called "Jinku Kinhva Maru (It's either victory or death). It's a war-cry you know, so 5 to 6 people and the lead singer was Mahendra Kapoor and there were 4 to 5 boys lending chorus. I was selected to sing the song.
The song was composed by Vasant Desai and it was recorded at Lalbaug -
V Shantaram's studio, so that gave me a chance to go to a studio and record... it was a marching song "Maanuski chya shatru sange yudh aamche suru (We are on a war against enemies of humanity) Jinku Kinva Maru (It's either victory or death) Jinku Kinva Maru, Jinku Kinva Maru, Ladhtil Sainik (Soldiers will fight) , Ladhu Nagrik (Citizens fight), Ladhtil Mahila ( Women will fight), Ladhtil Baalak ( The young will fight), Shartha ladhyachi karu ( We make a pact to wage war), Jinku Kinva Maru, Jinku Kinva Maru."
So this was the song which we recorded.
TN: How old were you then?
0:08:22.200 ( Video Cut)
AD: I was about 11 (only audio) that time...
TN: So you were 11 at the time that you recorded this song?
Yes.. and then I was also... we were also. Though we did not have a radio set at home, music we were absorbing from our surroundings - in the school...or you know the elementary kind of bandishes which are taught in school like "Koeliya bole ambua" in Malkauns...
So all those I was absorbing. Later on, when I was in the eighth standard I got to attend the first full classical concert. A friend of my father, he had organised a private concert in which Ram Marathe was to perform. Ram Marathe was a very well-known stage actor and a classical singer both.
So it was some Saturday night and it was in a house in Dadar area near Portugese Church and...
<Cut> You can use this stick (driving away pigeons)
So it was a night concert and my father took me along, and from the first... from the very begining - it started at about nine o'clock and it finished at about 4-4:30 in the morning, all throughout I was absolutely attentive, alert and listening to everything that was being sung, and as soon he started singing the first raag I just mentioned to my father he's singing Raag Kedar.
And then the people around were surprised how this young school boy knows all these raagas so I said I have learnt these raagas. So he sang Kedar, he sang everything else, and then he ended with a Bhairavi.
TN: There was one performer for all those 7 hours?
AD: Yes yes. Absolutely. So this was my first real encounter with a classical musician in this kind of initimate concert situation and that was a very deep impression.
TN: And this was in a hall or in a baithak?
AD: This was in a ghar-baithak. It was inside a house, a slightly biggish room and there were say 25 people, and excellent musicians. There was a great tabla player called S V Patwardhan on tabla, Govindrao Patwardhan on the harmonium and then it went on and on and I was alert throughout the night and then I went home
with my father...
So that really started me as a participant in the process of music, concerts, music-making whatever. So this is how I started. Then little later - now I come to my surroundings - because I used stay in Shivaji Park and Shivaji Park area next to my house, 2-3 buildings away, my Sanskrit and English teacher he had a two- storey house. He was a music lover and he was, he is, a physically handicapped person, polio-struck...
So he would...he was a great music lover - he would attend concerts at places like Chhabildas High School or Balmohan Vidyamandir, which is very close to Shivaji Park. There were concerts halls, you know, Brahman Sahayak Sangha opposite Shiv Sena Bhavan, so he would require assistance because he was physically handicapped, and I had developed interest in music so I used to go with him, started going with him, and attend all these concerts.
So I could get the chance to visit places like... Suburban Music Circle was there in Santacruz. They used to have concerts at Gujarati Stree Mandal Hall in Santacruz. It was a one-storey bungalow type, not bungalow, but a one-storey building. And a big hall with a stinking toilet inside which was used by the artist and the audience also. Same thing with Chhabildas High School, on the second floor they had a big hall, for Indian style baithak and a few chairs for the really aged people who could not sit [on the floor].
So I started going to those places and listening to music performances.
TN: This was in the 60's?
AD: This was in the 60's, from '63-'64 onwards. And... once it's a very small community that way. In a particular locality, the community of music lovers is not very big, so everybody knows everybody by face, then people would tell you at such and such place so and so is going to perform, sing, come. So we would go.
TN: So it was a very informal network by which you came to know about performances?
AD: Yes, yes.
TN: It's not as though there was a newsletter or...
AD: There was formal as well...formal in the sense there was Dadar Matunga Social Club. They used to have their monthly concerts at Chhabildas High School. They were ticketed. To encourage students they used to have student membership and that was 35 Rupees per annum. So my teacher Madhu Athle, he said,'I'm going to pay your fees', because at that time we were not in a position to raise 35 Rs. for membership also.
So he used to say, 'No no, I'll pay your fees.' No - 18 Rs. per annum not even 35. It was 18 Rs. per annum. So I was a student member over there and once in a month on a Sunday evening there would be a programme at Chhabildas High School at 5 o'clock in the evening and it would get over by 9 o'clock with horrible-tasting coffee served during an interval, but [the] music was great.
So I could listen... my first experience of listening to Bhimsen Joshi, then Basavaraj Rajguru, Mallikarjun Mansur, then Girija Devi, Manilal Nag, Abdul Halim Jaffar Khan, all the musicians...they used to invite musicians from all over India. It was great - Azmat Hussain Khan, Aslam Khan's teacher, so all kinds of musicians.
TN: How many of these musicians actually lived in Bombay?
AD: Many of them did live in Bombay, but there were outstation musicians as well who were invited, and they performed at these places... like Suburban also they had many musicians coming.. visiting musicians. So many. From Bengal, from Madhya Pradesh, from Delhi.
TN: So would you say then in the 60's Bombay was an absolute centre for these kinds of performance?
AD: It was and even today it is, and I mean Bombay is still...
TN: And before also?
AD: Yes, because see all the other cities have... one possibilty is the weather. Extreme weather conditions... Bombay does not have extreme weather conditions, at the most it would be very sultry, but still the... my observation is that in Bombay there's no weekend when there [are] no concerts. It's a full calendar for musicians. Every week and every mid-week also there are programmes and people do go and listen to music.
TN: But these are different kinds of performances? Meaning some are ticketed, some are because of sponsorship, some are in people's houses...
AD: Yes, but sponsorship is a recent phenomenon - last 20 years. Before that there was no sponsorship and all these big musicians would come and play at small places, not [exactly] small places, they were very prestigious places those days - Vile Parle Music Circle. They never had their own auditorium, Dadar-Matunga never had their own auditorium that time. They used to have programmes at Chhabildas High School.
Vile Parle Music Cirlce has Lokmanya Seva Sangha in Vile Parle and the artistes who performed there - Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Amir Khan, Then Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan was a local man in that sense though he was [of] a national stature... but all these people would come, and Bismillah Khan also did perform.
TN: But what was the financing of such performances?
AD: They were dependent upon annual subscription, and out of subscription money they would pay the fees to the artists, and the artist would happily accept what was offered to them, and they would sing. I will tell you one very peculiar incident related to Bhimsen Joshi's performance. Vile Parle Music Circle - they used to have at least one performance in a year. Like Dadar-Matunga also. At least one performance.
I remember when I started listening to music, during the interval of the concert at Dadar-Matunga, there was a gentleman called V.V Gokhale who owned a boarding house in which all these people, Mallikarjun and Gangubai, all of the visiting artists, Basavraj [also], they would stay.
This was near Dadar station. You can't enter that place nowadays, even in those days also it was a very... market place opposite Kohinoor Cinema next to Dadar station, full of noise, but these musicians loved staying there and the food there and whatever facilities, but, so Gokhale would make announcement about the next programme.
So every... we would really wait with great anticipation for the announcement, who is going to perform next one, and whenever he used to say 'Pandit Bhimsen Joshi' there would be such a great thunder clap you know, Bhimsen is going to perform. So Bhimsen would perform at least once in a year at Chhabildas under Dadar-Matunga and at least once in Suburban Music Circle and once for Vile-Parle Music circle.
So once Bhimsen was to perform at Vile Parle Music circle. His programme was announced, tickets were sold in advance. 500 tickets, and they said now we are not going to sell more tickets because there is no place to sit. It was all Indian style.
TN: How much did the tickets cost?
AD: It would be 10 Rs. or 20 Rs., not more than that, maximum. So the programme was announced etc. It was supposed to be at 5 o'clock in the evening and the hall was full at 4:30, quarter to five. Bhimsen had not arrived. And people were waiting and waiting and waiting and they kept announcing... that time there was no mobile nothing, but they were told that he has left Poona and he's on the way.
He... used to drive his own car, and... but he had not arrived. So at 8, [or] 7:30 the Vile Parle Music Circle managing committee took a decision that we would cancel the programme and tell people to take the refund and go away. They announced it.
People started taking refund, the process of refunding money was over by 8:15. As it was getting over, Bhimsen's car comes in that Vile Parle, Lokmanya
Sahawas, so then they went, what to do? Bhimsen said, I'm prepared to sing, I got late whatever, so they said that Bhimsenji is going to sing, he's going to perform. We'll begin the programme at 9 o'clock. Those who want to come can come and again buy the tickets.
So out of 500 people, 498 people came back. This is the situation which I have personally watched. 498 came back and the programme went on till 2 o'clock in the morning.(no video)
So...everything.. I mean, I remember Bhimsen was the highest paid classical singer at that time but he was also paid out of those funds which were built out of subscriptions, not out of some sponsorship or some... all these things used to... I mean the economics was such that it was managed only on the basis on susbcription money which came.
TN: There would also be wealthy people who would have the musicians sing in their houses?
TN: That would be a very different kind of performance setting?
AD: Yes, yes.
TN: And they would simply then give an honorarium to the musicians?
AD: Haan, honorarium it was, I remember [when a] daughter [was] born to Meena Naik, actress, and Arun Naik is a theatre person writer etc. He has translated 6 plays, so... his father was a big shot, in the sense he used to own a printing press and he was into literature and music, etc.
So they said, we will have a Bhimsen Joshi programme. It was in 1983 - I'm talking about 1983. A private concert by Bhimsen at their house in Bandra East, Kalanagar. That time Bhimsen was paid an honorarium of 8000 Rs. It was a big sum in those days, and he willingly accepted and sang.
But private concerts were there like this, of course they were there, but very few... but I mean I got access to all such private concerts only after I became known as a writer on music, before that just a nobody. I mean, a young half-chaddiwala, a young boy, a volunteer at the most, not before that.
I mean when people started noticing my name, then would invite me to the private concert, but otherwise...
TN: So the audiences were very different, in the private concerts as opposed to what you would find in Chhabildas or...
AD: Yes, yes, Chhabildas was...really hard-core music lovers, absolutely, even in Suburban also, Vile Parle also.
TN: And these go back to the 50's? Dadar Matunga Social Club is from the 50's?
TN: But the suburban clubs are much older, right?
AD: 1927 [referring to Suburban Music Circle], and Vile Parle 1957. Vile Parle Music Circle.
TN: Goregaon also there was one...?
AD: Maharashtra Mandal
TN: That's also quite old?
AD: But I don't think it is still functioning.
SS: I think the building is still there and lots of people still come and stay there I think.
AD: Maharashtra Mandal?
SS: I have been told.
TN: So you began to attend concerts first because of your teacher and then with your own growing interest in the music
AD: Yes, yes
TN: What made you decide to become a singer?
AD: Ha.. Then I joined... in 1968 I joined Sydenham College which was supposed to be the biggest and best commerce college in Bombay at that time. The principal of Sydenham College was a great music lover. He was Mr.B.R. Deghne, he was a friend of my father but I had no connection with him.
I remember he had organised a programme at his place where Master Krishnarao was to sing, but it was against contribution, and I could not afford. Even though he was a friend of my father I felt awkward to ask him can I attend. So I lost my chance of hearing Master Krishnarao alive... I mean a live performance by him.
But in Sydenham College my senior was... there was a group of music loving people among whom was Satyasheel Deshpande, he was my senior. So there was a programme on Saturday afternoon in which he was supposed to sing - a private programme at Ajit Gulabchand's house.
Ajit Gulabchand belonged to the industralist family, so I was asked by my other friends, do you want to come? I said yes, why not? I'll come. I went with them to that bungalow - Gulabchand bungalow - and I asked him to sing this and that, and making farmaish [requests] so people were aghast. How much music this fellow knows. They started asking me.
And then we struck up friendship, myself and Satyasheel, so that brought me closer to the Kumar Gandharva clan. So I used to attend everything that Kumar Gandharva performed... the first programme I heard [of] Kumar Gandharva was his theme concert Geet Varsha, that was in 1965 in Ravindra Natya Mandir.
TN: So Satyasheel was already learning with him at that time?
AD: He had started but he was still in college, but he went after finishing B.Com. he went to Devas and he stayed with him for 3-4 years or whatever years. But he was a son of Vamanrao Deshpande and he was very close to all these musicians, with Satyasheel I started going to Deodhar School of Music also, struck up friendship with teachers who were there and my exposure to Kumar Gandharva's music etc. started with that during those years.
But still I was not learning music because I never felt that learning music would be my cup of tea, listening to music, doing these odd jobs of spreading the carpet serving tea, and taking tanpuras. ...Another occasion to hear music in those days would be Ganpati festivals.
People would have...I mean there were places like Brahman Sahayak Sangh, then...
TN: This is Dadar, is it?
AD: Haan, Dadar, opposite Shiv Sena Bhavan . Then Brahman Seva Mandal, another Brahman Sabha,the biggest one...
AD: Yes, Girgaum, but they used to have two programmes on the occasion of Ganpati. One programme would be on a Saturday night and the same artist would sing Sunday morning at 9 o'clock in D'Silva High School, Dadar. And Girgaon performance would be from 9 [pm] to 1, 3 whatever.
The same artiste would sing in the [morning]... so that time it used to be 99% Ram Marathe singing or sometimes Jitendra Abhishekhi or whosoever, so that then people would have music recitals at their places during Ganpati festivals, so that also gave me a chance to listen to all kinds of musicians.
You know, professionals, non-professionals. Good musicians, bad musicians, all kinds of musicians but they would come and perform you know in front of Ganpati and then so that gave me a lot of exposure to...you know.
So my passive knowledge of raagas was increasing day by day during those years - formative years from 1962-63 to say '75 - I graduated from Sydenham College, started working, but only listening to music off and on, nothing else.
But then there was a big... I'm relating whatever that is connected with music, not other aspects of my life. During the Emergency I was in jail for about 15 months in Bombay jail - Arthur Road. We were provided with a radio set, because that was allowed.
I used to listen to music over there, and there used to be National Programme everything. I used to listen to it because that was a nice way of spending time apart from reading and then music. After I came out of jail in '77 Neela once asked me, would you like to learn music? Why not? Why don't you learn? I used to sing in party situations.
TN: Political songs?
AD: Whatever... not political, I'm talking about party meaning social parties, not political party. Political parties I never sang, and then I would sing whatever I had heard, whether it was Kumar Gandharva bandish or D.V Paluskar or a film song, and then I used to get a lot of appreciation but it was different music, different level of music.
So Neela when she asked me casually I said why not, let me try, so started learning and I learnt for 3 to 4 months. I said, "This is not my cup of tea. I can't learn music because it's very difficult." It's easy to listen to music and say this is this raaga and this raaga, but to actually produce and you have to work hard and you have to... and I was at that time involved in political activities etc. and all that, so I gave up.
Then there was a big gap of 5-6 years. After we got married again she asked me, why don't you learn music? So I said, ok now I will learn. Then I started learning and then I started learning very seriously, practising etc. and I realised whatever I had absorbed during those years when I was just listening to music is helping me to grow as a musician.
TN: I want to ask you more specifically about the Dadar-Matunga area, and when in your opinion it became like a very important centre for music? Because if you look at the earlier part of like say the early 20th century or late 19th century, it's more towards Kalbadevi, Girgaum, those would be the areas where because of the theatre also and the music, that's where many concerts, performances, baithaks etc. used to happen. Would you link that to the more general middle class interest in music? That it also moves to the suburbs and also places like Dadar-Matunga, so I want to ask yousomething about that. And then after you've spoken about that kind ofchange and process, and the movement of music across the city, if you could also tell us the what kind of interest people had who lived here and also how the places lend themselves to being conducive to performance, and why this became so important?
Ok. I think this Dadar and Central Bombay - I would call this Central Bombay, this area started developing in 1950's, 40's, till then most of the Maharashtrians used to have their roots in Girgaum, I mean I would say upper caste Maharashtrians who were mostly into music or middle class Maharashtrians, lower middle class. I mean they were economically middle class but actually they were not very high income group people. So they were staying in Girgaum and that part of South Bombay... slowly the shift, they started shifting to Central Bombay, Dadar and... in 1940's and 50's.
So with them the interest in music also started spreading to these areas. Remember that place is called Dadar-Matunga Social Club so it was ... two parts of Dadar you know, east side of Dadar and west side of Dadar, east side of Dadar was Matunga, and the original Matunga used to be called Matungam because it was dominated by Tamil-speaking people who had settled in Bombay for a long time.
So those Maharashtrians living in Hindu Colony which is part of east side of Dadar, those middle class Maharashtrians and those who are staying in the Shivaji Park and Mahim and Prabhadevi and that area - they all came together to form this Dadar Matunga Social Club.
And so the shift from South Bombay to Central Bombay was one of the factors which led to this spread of music in this area. Another very important factor was so many musicians lived in this area. Kesarbai was living at Shivaji Park. She lived there all her life. Jasraj, Pandit Jasraj, lived in Shivaji Park. Prabha Atre still lives in Mahim Shivaji Park area. Dhondutai Kulkarni would stay at Shivaji Park. Sharad Sathe, Shivaji Park. Sharadchandra Arolkar, Gwalior gharana, Shivaji Park.
Vasantrao Kulkarni who taught artistes like K.N Kelkar and Raghunandan Panshikar and Devaki Pandit during their initial years - he had his class, coaching class at Shivaji Park. Yashwant B. Joshi, Gwalior gharana and Agra gharana singer - he stayed at Shivaji Park. They made their living as music teachers and they found a steady stream of students coming in, some of them housewives, some of them girls, some of them boys also, and since they lived in this area the spread of music was also because of their staying in this area.
There were people like Shankar Abhyankar, sitar player, who taught many aspiring sitar students, or in the Mahim area slightly you go towards this side Nizamuddin [the] tabla maestro used to live. Allah Rakkha used to live in Mahim area for a long time.
Zakir Husain [Alla Rakha's son] was a student of St.Michael's School. He was my contemporary - he passed out in the same year I think. Of SSC [School Leaving Certificate examination] in St.Michael's school which is under Mahim causeway, because he used to live in Mahim Kapadbazar (cloth market). Then Sajjad Hussain, the mandolin player and film music composer.
He used to play classical music on mandolin, and he was also a film music composer and supposed to be a genius according to some people. He lived in that area, Nizamuddin stayed... Abdul Ali Jaffar Khan stayed in Mahim area. Bal Gandharva stayed in Mahim - when he married Gauhar bai he shifted to the Mahim Kapadbazar area. So all these musicians lived here - so that too helped to generate....
Then there was Tilak Sangeet Vidyalaya at Shivaji Park. Tilak was a Jaipur gharana teacher and he used to teach Jaipur gharana. Sarla Bhide, Mukta Bhide they were all singers - aunts of Ashwini Bhide, they stayed at Dadar. Then there were people like Bhanu Charankar, he died recently at the age of 98. He ran a school opposite Dadar Station on the west side.
Then there was one Surendra Rao who used to sing Agra gharana. He ran a school near Shivaji Park.There was one Vishwanath Panshikar, he used to sing Agra and all those...mixed, but he also had a school. Suresh Haldankar - his was one of the biggest centres, one of the biggest, and he used to also organise concerts.
Suresh Haldankar was the leading actor-singer on the Marathi stage and he was at the height of his popularity between 1952 to1962-63 for 10 years, and he was in top form you know as a stage singer. His school was next to Kohinoor Mills which is now demolished - that tower has come up.
TN: So he taught natya sangeet or classical?
AD: He taught classical - and natya sangeet also, and he would organise programmes at his... there used to be a hall called Hari Mahadev Vaidya Hall on the second floor of his building. The hall would not accommodate more than 200 people sitting in Bharatiya Baithak, sitting in Indian style, but there used be great concerts there.
I have heard Zakir Hussain playing solo tabla over there. I have heard... the biggest landmark in the career of Kumar Gandharva ... his first concert after he came back from his recuperation after tuberculosis, his first concert was held under Suresh Haldankar's auspices. He sang his Malavati raag - Malavati and Sohni Bhatiyar there and that created a sensation that something new has come into classical music. That was Suresh Haldankar's place.
This was in Shivaji Park area again, so all these people...they were instrumental in spreading music. Then even in those days the film music directors took lot of interest in classical music. Sudhir Phadke who composed music for Bhabhi Ki Chudiya, Jyoti Kalash Chalke etc. He used to attend concerts of classical musicians and he used to live at Shivaji Park.
Vasant Desai, the man who composed music for all Shantaram's [films] - you know superhit films like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje and Do Aankhen Baara Haath and all those so he would not only attend concerts but he would organise programmes and his assistant was Vasant Achrekar who was leading tabla player of all the singers like Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Manik Varma.
So all these people together they helped to generate interest for classical music among people living in the surrounding area and that really created a ground, fertile ground.
TN: So if your were to talk about one aspect of the cultural life of the Dadar-Matunga area, it would be music that's most central you would say?
AD: Yes, yes, very much
TN: Not anything else?
AD: [interjecting] Theatre also
TN: Not theatre so much? Oh, theatre also?
AD: Theatre also... definitely theatre, and to an extent another is political consciousness. That political consciousness was of a different kind during Samyukta Maharashtra movement it was Samyukta Maharashtra, later on it was Shiv Sena...
TN: Did all of these political tendencies connect to the music or was it not relevant?
AD: They were not relevant to music as such, but they were not anti-music either. I remember Kumar Gandharva gave a concert in Maratha which was a newspaper edited by Atre who was one of the main proponents of the Samkyukta Maharashtra movement, and then he wrote big articles on how Kumar Gandharva sang Hamir this and that, Atre.
Bal Thackeray [founder of the Shiv Sena] was also a music lover. His brother Srikanth Thackeray was a violinist - Raj Thackeray's father - and he was conversant with the language of music. C.Ramchandra used to stay here in Shivaji Park. C.Ramchandra again a big name in film music and very much into raaga music as well as a composer. So all these people... it definitely helped...
TN: In your own career have you ever faced any kind of conflict between the different things that you tried to do, whether your life in politics, your life as a critic and theorist of music, as a performer, so all of this do you feel that they all come together in some way? Or are they sometimes in conflict?
AD: I think they come together they do come together.
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They do come together, but there are situations where there is a conflict and then my tendency over the last 10-15 years is to... inclining more towards music than towards anything else. My own music, my own riyaaz, my own performance. I give more weightage to that than to anything else now.
SS: What would be the moments when there is a conflict or an overlap?
AD: Suppose you are called for some meeting and then you don't know whether to give up one's riyaaz or go there and participate in that meeting or some kind of activity which is, yes, in the past we were connected with these things but now you are in a different mood, you're in a different situation, do you want to decide and say no, then there's a conflict but now more or less I have sold completely myself to music.
TN: Not all performers write about music with as much regularity as you do, and you write both in Marathi and English, so how does this practice of writing about music go along with your performing abilities?
AD: I started writing first and my performances came later. I was writing for more than 10 years, after that I came to a stage where I felt that now I can acquire the performing ability, and after all this is a performing art so, in a performing art the real test is to perform, not to just analyse, judge, write. And if you feel that you have it in you then you better perform and just let people judge, ...you should perform, that's all.
So I started performing and I have been performing. And writing and performing, there is no conflict involved in that because the nature of writing is such that one doesn't have to be judgmental in the ultimate sense of the term, but familiarity with the scene, familiarity with the medium, gives you an added advantage as a writer. And that I think is my capital.
TN: But doesn't make you a better performer that you are writing?
AD: I think it does, because you keep listening to different kinds of people and you actually watch them performing and how they connect with their audiences, and subconsciously you absorb those influences, their ability to connect with people, and then it translates into your own performance, definitely.
TN: Unlike many other musicians that one has seen or heard I find that you don't make any distinction - not distinction - you don't set in opposition popular cultural forms and so called classical forms. So what has helped you to make that connection?
AD: Oh, because... my inclination... basically I see elements of raaga music in every kind of music, and because I can see those elements which sometimes others don't see I can connect with that kind of music easily, and I show that connection through my programmes to the people in general and to the audiences, and the audience just loves it. Just loves it.
I mean recently I had a programme on Madan Mohan's compositions - there was no place to sit. There were hundreds of people standing, people sitting on the chairs, people sitting on the floor everywhere, and it was just full, and for 3 hours people listening to that presentation.
TN: So what would a typical presentation on one of the great music directors - what would it be like?
AD: See, what I do... I select a few songs, say 25-30 songs. We play them, and simultaneously before each song which is based on any particular raag I present that raag in a capsule form either as a bandish or as alaap or a similar tune which is from some other film. I mean just to demonstrate how raag exists... appears in that song.
TN: Can you give us an example... ?
AD: Oh, why not? Suppose now... [Humming] This is Raag Kaafi. [Alaap] Bola nath digambar... yeh dukh mere haru haru re, yeh dukh mere haru...
This is Kaafi ...now - [Humming] [sings] Bairan neend na aaye, Bairan neend na aaye, mora jiya leharaye, Bairan neend na aaye.
This Kaafi and this Kaafi - just juxtapose them, you know. So that juxtaposition of melody helps people to absorb classical music, and my benefit from my experience is that people who attend such programmes where I juxtapose these two forms invariably come to listen to my classical programmes later on. Because they like... I mean they can see the connection and they feel that it is not all so distant. My point is that raagas and all they are not so distant, they are somewhere around you, and you just have to see them and listen to them and they are...you can absorb them.
TN: Is it people of a certain age who come to your film music performances?
AD: Oh yes, they are people who are in their late 40's, most of them, but sometimes younger lot also comes, but invariably it is above 40-45.
TN: So they are able to make this connect between film music and classical music, but maybe in the next generation that connection would not be available anymore?
AD: Because they are not familiar with the song. But there are young people who are familiar with these songs and they do like those songs because they are fed up with what is coming out from the current Bollywood films, and then because of this remix, and reality shows where most of the songs used are old film songs. So that has regenerated interest in old film music and that's why young generation is not all that unaware. Ok?