Mumbai Music: Ramdas Bhatkal
Director: Surabhi Sharma; Cinematographer: Ajay Noronha
Duration: 01:02:21; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 37.387; Saturation: 0.136; Lightness: 0.336; Volume: 0.053; Cuts per Minute: 0.192; Words per Minute: 161.068
Summary: Ramdas Bhatkal, well-known musician, writer, publisher, talks about coming into music at a very young age and then returning to his taleem only after 35 years. He speaks about the varied inputs into his performing career and his relationship to the many Agra Gharana stalwarts who were his contemporaries, and weighs the merits of different pedagogic styles.
TN: Ramdas Bhatkal-ji it's such a pleasure to be able to talk to you today
RB: Thank You
TN: Knowing your very deep engagement with Hindustani sangeet in Bombay, as a practitioner, as someone who is involved in publishing, as someone who has also enabled so many other people to bring the music to the fore in terms of looking back at the music history, so I hope that today's discussion can capture some of these many aspects of your engagement, and it will be really nice if you could apart from English also speak in Marathi, Hindi or whatever language maybe Konkani that would be appropriate to the context we're discussing
RB: Ya sure
TN: that's appropriate to the context you are discussing. We are happy to hear you
TN: So could you begin by telling us how you came into Hindustani sangeet as a very young person?
RB: In music?
TN: In music
RB: See, when I was maybe 3 year old my mahjya aaicha mame bhau ( that's my (maternal) uncle in some sense) was Chidanand Nagarkar and he used to stay with us, and of course he was a professional musician trained by Ratanjankar, and a brilliant one. I mean people now have lost memory, actually in those days Nagarkar and Kumar Gandharva were the two bright stars. Anyway, for me he was my uncle staying at our place and used to sing all the time, and so I got interested and I'm told that I insisted on having a tabla for myself and so even as a 3 year old I had a tabla, I didn't learn at that stage but a little later. But music was very much in my mind.
Secondly, I believe that my grandmother used to play sitar sometime. I mean by the time I saw her she was old and you know incapable of taking such interest in life, but maybe there was some genetic factor too and all my siblings have also developed interest in music in some way, in fact my elder sister who is no more, she graduated under Nagarkar, and my brother and his son they learnt sitar with Prtihvi Ranjan De,
and so on but they didn't really take it much more seriously than they could have.
RB: But it was as I said somewhere in my system, so that even when I was not trained or training I would keep on singing within myself and if I may use the term mi kaanani gaato ( I sing with my ears) kaansen is one thing kaansen is one who appreciates, pan, as if Faiyaz Khan I can play it in my ears you know, that kind of thing.
Tar ti kahi tari aadhi pasun savay hoti. Pan khari suruvat jhali mi kahi tari 7-8 varshacha hoto
(This was a habit from the begining. But the real begining was when I was about 7-8 yeard old) and in those days our shop there were about 100 people working, Popular Book Depot, and those were in a way feudal times so my father could tell somebody, arrey hey kar te kar vagare ( do this, do that etc.) So one of them knew a little bit of tabla and probably there were times when there was not much to do in the shop and probably he was worried about my not having much to do at home and whiling away my time. So he said, ghari ja aani tyala tabla shikav (Go home and teach him tabla)
RB: So he started teaching me some very rudiments dha, dhin, dhin dha kind of thing then because he had very limited range so he directed me to his guru living nearby and maybe for 2 or 3 months I learnt the basic thekas. I really don't know tabla but that helped me a great deal later on. The next thing was then during 1942 there was evacuation and we were sent to Dharwad in fear of Japenese bombings or whatever in Bombay.
and there my sister just two years senior to me, she started learning with one Mr. Koppikar and some basic Yaman, Bhoop, some 3 or 4 raagas' bandishes in some very elementary way, because she was also at that time 10 or so I was 8. So I just gathered, I mean she was the student but I knew. When at the end of the year we all came back to Bombay and she started going to Deodhar School of Music and while she was 11 by that time and she was very shy, aani jataana ti mhanali, arrey chul tu ye re jara mahjya barobar. ( and while leaving she said, you come with me) so I went with her
and there was Harshe Master teaching there and I don't know why he felt, I was hardly 9, myabe my fingers were you know giving him that signal. He said tabla yeto ka? (Do you play the tabla?) Now maybe I was so immature and foolish I said yeto ( I know) so he asked me to give the theka. It was a first year class so it was basically dha dhin dhin dha which i knew, so for one year I played tabla with that class without singing at all but I was listening.
Next year, her teacher changed and I was scared that now, if the new teacher doesn't ask me to accompany, but by that time they knew this boy is coming here and he is not learning vocal so he..so I continued that for 3 years, so that must have given me some sense of rhythm and some sense of the raagas, very elementary and yet 30 raagas which they do.
They had a different system then what I followed later. Secondly they used to have annual programmes which they probably still have in memory of Paluskar and Bhatkhande, and the vice principal there was Kumar Gandharva and so we.. I would come across Kumarji when I went.
Then and at the annual programme he would definitely sing and there were all the greats who would perform. I don't think....
TN: This would be about 1945?
RB: Hmm...This is around 1945
TN: Before the... before Independence
RB: The big advantage I was able to listen to people whom later on it would have been difficult, for various reasons, some of them died like Yeshwant Rai Purohit, some of them went to Pakistan like Hamid Khan of sarangi and so on, various reasons some migrated to Calcutta or other places or even London for that matter.
But in that period, I have heard some of the greatest when off hand, say Amir Hussain the great tabla maestro I heard him once there. I have Jagannath Bua Purohit sometimes I heard very second rate singers also. I recall there was one Taan Talwar, he was an amateur but liked to like Faiyaz Khan have medals and all that. He was very pedestrian.
There was also one Jhabwala who was really... whose law book we studied but a great enthusiast, every year they would sing. Maybe indirectly that gave me an encouragement that maybe I can also sing someday. But, there were many others whom I was able to listen to.
Shivkumar Shukla the... from Baroda he was a wonderful singer. Many of them died early and I would have missed them had I not been going there. Then after 3 years my sister stopped going there, and meantime Bharatiya Sangeet Shiksha Peeth was started afresh. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was just being built and the classes were held in Fellowship School.
And there the principal was Chidanand Nagarkar and because of the family connection and more importantly because he was my hero you know so I decided to join there.
TN: So you were in school at that time?
RB: Ya, ya very much
TN: And this was in the evening? You would go in the evenings to
RB: Ya, ya this is one hour in the evening and probably in those days it was everyday, nowadays it is alternate days.
TN: And the Fellowship School is in Dadar?
RB: Fellowship? No, no Gowalia Tank
RB: Very close to the present Bhavan's and by the time I finished my first year now there you see, I was hoping to learn from Chidanand Nagarkar and he had a fabulous style you know, he was like Faiyaz Khan but had originality and he had... he was a man of many parts and that also reflects. Apart from music he was a linguist, he was an astrologer, he was a mystic and he was a dancer, he could play tabla and harmonium and so on and so forth, and he could compose, so all these factors made his music even more important and rich and varied so I was really hoping to learn from him.
But I was still very young and my voice mi toh futlela navta awaaz tyamule (it hadn't cracked which is why) I had to go in the ladies' class and I was going with my vahini (sister in law) you know who was very much senior to me, so I became a member of that ladies' class and where S C R Bhat who was my real guru for rest of my life, he was teaching there. He was at that time hardly 26-27, now I can think of him only as an old man but he was a great teacher. So sometimes accidents help and this situation where I was going to his class I think has helped me a great deal because he is a master in developing swar gyaan which is the basis of all music.
Of course Ratanjarkar had developed certain techniques which Bhat Saab had mastered but he ultimately had concentrated all his attention on teaching. He didn't worry too much about being a mehfil gavaiya. In fact, he used to then.. later in his life talk about his two other colleagues, that K G Ginde was more of a theoretician and Dinkar Kaikini was more of an ustad and Bhat Sahab concentrated more on teaching. In fact he has taught even these two younger colleagues of his.
TN: And they were all on the faculty, they were all teaching?
RB: Ginde came much later, Dinkar even much later. At that time Nagarkar, Bhat and there was one Mr. Modi who had probably learnt directly from Bhatkhande but not from Ratanjankar, but I don't know much about Modi, even I used to see him but I was too young to understand much more. Anyway, the first year is irrelevant now but I mean I did very well and in fact I topped the class and jocularly they would say, arrey tu Faiyaz Khan Te gamti na ( as a joke)
That's why in my book my chapter on music I called mala Faiyaz Khan vhaiychay and I'm still dreaming about it, but after the... for the second year the school had shifted to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan building and we started learning khayals. I mean this was more Swar gyaan and we had just barely finished Yaman when I had trouble with my voice because it started cracking up, futaila lagla, and they advised that at least for a year or two you don't strain it and take a break.
It was also necessary because by that time I was reaching end of my school career and so te SSC chi pariksha and all those pressures were also there the sad part was once I left there was a big break. Big in the sense 35 years. But anyway, it was quite that but in terms of formal training that was what it was.
So, mag college madhye gelya nantar. Ek tar college cha sagla vegla punha exactly when do I start again ya baddal guidance navta aani mag college madhye gelya var I became more of a theatre enthusiast.
(Then when I went to college. One thing, it was all different and then when do I exactly start again? There was no guidance about this and when I was at college I became more of a theatre enthusiast)
There I had exposure to greats like Chinatamanrao Kolatkar and Mama Pendse. They used to come to the college, people won't believe it today, they were being paid 100 rupees for one month's rehearsals you know.
TN: They used to direct your plays?
RB: They used to direct the collegians plays. I didn't act too much but I got lot of benefits from them in terms of what is theatre, sort of an assistant director to them. Then some bit roles here and there etc.
TN: What kind of theatre was it? Was it Sangeet natak or social plays?
RB: No they chose the plays and there were really classics. For example we had two plays by Mama Warerkar one was Jivashivachi Bhet and Bhoomi Kanya Sita was in fact first staged in our college and later on the professional stage by Jyotsna Bhave and we also had some other Atre's plays or some of the old plays Samshay Kallol and so on and so forth.
TN: Those were Sangeet Nataks?
TN: Those were proper...
RB: Some had music in it but music was not an important part. So that took me away from music to some extent. The compensating factor were two in the college, first my little knowledge of tabla, so for college programmes I would play tabla right from garba to whatever bhav geet and so on. The second was we had a friends' group, very unique, we still are very close friends after 60 years. Each one had a different obsession, somebody in economics, somebody in philosophy, somebody in music not as a formal subject but because of the deep interest.
RB: So tya velela radio var ratri chaan karyakram asaiche kimbhavna diwas bhar suddha (At the time there were really good programmes on the radio at night and even during the day) what they called marathon -somebody would sing in the morning, in the afternoon and evening, and mind you those days were not days of recording so the singer had to actually wait there throughout the day and sing live.
But anyway, for us as listeners everyday there was a feast. To add to that, post-Independence some of the greats started singing regularly, even Faiyaz Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan they would be fairly regular and the best thing was Dr. Keskar and their idea of national programme, with that deed taas (one and a half hour) every Saturday we would really listen to somebody really great some of whom we couldn't have listen to at all.
Like Bhaire Bua and Mirashi Bua and of course the South Indians which we didn't understand but they had some influence. One out of four programmes used to be on South Indian music. So we learnt a great deal through listening.
TN: From national programmes.
RB: So this 'shravana shiksha' I can say, and through that, that is why I said anytime though I was not having formal training I was with it -and there are two interesting things about it, one is since my business was publishing I would visit the printers, and the printing press in those days or probably even now the rhythm toh aata hi hai ( comes) while it is printing thak, thak, thak, the other is it gives a sound so it gives you shadja. So unconsciously sitting there I would start humming and singing to that tune. So that way and of course these festivals and listening to music otherwise, live, was also very much there and in those days that area - Grant Road where I lived, was really very vibrant.
Laxmi Baug was a centre, Marwadi Vidyalaya where I listened once only in my lifetime Faiyaz Khan Saheb, then I listened to Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan accompanied by Alla Rakha and Kishen Maharaj, double jugal bandi again at Marwadi Vidyalaya, it was unique and I can't imagine that they must have been barely 30 in those days and still their quality was all time great
TN: Marwadi Vidyalaya is in Girgaum?
RB: Very close to Opera House
TN: I was asking you where is Marwadi Vidyalaya?
RB: Marwadi Vidyalaya is very close to Opera House...
RB: and Deodhar school class is also there. Then this since Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan main building was not ready their programmes again, like Bhatkhande and Paluskar anniversary, used to be Talmaki Wadi and those days particularly when they were in place like Talmaki Wadi which is informal and not a theatre as we have NCPA whatever, they would be overnight you know.
TN: You mean the open air
RB: One after another and so many artists aani (and) sometimes particularly the last Saturday or something like that just as I am told about Savai Gandharva that next morning Bhimsen would start after you know people had sung the whole night so like that, and I was of course comparatively young, so sometimes I would doze off by and large I would listen to most of that music.
TN: Talmaki Wadi the singing was in the open or closed?
RB: No Talmaki Wadi has a marriage hall kind of a thing
TN: It's a hall
RB: But it was vibrant and even now there are music programmes and other programmes but at that time it was the centre.
TN: Near Bhatia Hospital?
RB: Near Bhatia Hospital
SS: Which college you were in?
RB: Which one?
SS: You were mentioning about your college, which college
RB: My college was Elphinstone College, and Elphinstone College was very peculiar mhanje tithe vidyarthi arts la hardly chaarshe, paachshe astil baaki chaar-paachshe Science che te don varsha nantar (means there the students for Arts there would hardly be around 400-500, the rest 400-500 were in Science and after two years)
hundred percent of them would go for engineering or medical so they didn't have the strong sense of belonging.
But in spite of that Elphinstone had one of the finest theatre traditions partly because there was a tradition of calling these greats and they would come I don't know how? And you know it was not for money it was just to be in touch with the young and educated. Those people were generally not as well educated in terms of college education and they had maybe that complex that brings them in touch with the academic world.
TN: So you are talking about how you actually went to all these places to listen to some of the really great singers of Hindustani music and that in many ways helped you to develop a sense of what is the kind of music that you are interested in would like to pursue. Do you want to say something more about the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan under Chidanand Nagarkar and what it enabled what kind of people came there who learnt music there? Were they learning it as something that they need to know in order to be in touch with cultural practice or people like you who later became performers.
RB: You know Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was started by Munshi, K M Munshi and Lilavati Munshi, and of course there are many branches but I am told that not all the branches follow the same pattern. But in Bombay for some reason Munshis and particularly Lilavati Munshi was very keen on having a very strong music department so she approached Ratanjankar Saheb because he was the vice chancellor of the music college in Lucknow and he pointed to Chidanand Nagarkar who again was very young maybe 27 or 28, something like that.
So he was invited and I think it was his dynamism and his all round ability played a very big role in developing the institute and of course he had full support.
TN: You were telling us about the unique history of... Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
RB: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the other very peculiar thing of which today I may not be very proud of but as a historical fact I must mention ki aplya kade (for us ) all said and done this community spirit plays a big part, and somehow our Chitrapur Brahmins, a very small community, the total in the whole world is hardly 30,000 parantu (but) in terms of contribution to various arts it is incredible.
In films, for example we had in olden days Talgheri and Nayampalli and many others and later of course Shyam Benegal and many others, or my own son for that matter. But in music there were so many and the fact that Chidanand Nagarkar was the principal attracted a lot of people from the community, then of course the local factor then those who can easily go to Vidya Bhavan that was the second factor and thirdly well another peculiarity about this our small community not all of them were attracted by Agra Gharana there were those who went to Bhendi Bazaar Gharana those who went to Kirana Gharana. Sita Mulki for example was a disciple of Hirabai Barodekar and so on.
But still in those days Agra Gharana was very powerful and popular in Bombay with Vilayat Hussain, Latafat Hussain, Azmat Hussain, Khadim Hussain Khan. Khadim Hussain Khan was a very popular teacher who would go home and teach so that influence was also there and since Chidanand was Agra but with a little more nazakat, perhaps more rangila like Faiyaz Khan Saheb.
But even with an influence of Gwalior which made it a little more mild and not harsh as Agra is suppose to be. I think that also played a part, but this community I have no doubt played a part, and his charisma - personal charisma - that was very important, and I keep on comparing Kumar Gandharva and Chidanand Nargarkar though today people may not think it to be a valid comparison but I have seen Chidanand Nagarkar dance, I have seen him accompany great artists on tabla and harmonium and he was learning dance along with music at Lucknow from Shambhu Maharaj.
TN: Kathak he was learning Kathak?
RB: Nagarkar ha and so on. So all this must have played a part he was a wonderful speaker though he had hardly learnt four... chaar booka apan mhanto tasa mhanje (means) primary school because after that when his talent in music was spotted he was packed off to Lucknow. But he was a wonderful speaker. He learnt Sanskrit so much by himself that he would read the granthas in the original and by studying granthas he developed astrology, I mean just as an example.
RB:So that charismatic principalship and these feudal and local factors helped him have many students and of course there were many women and but there were boys also were learning and some of them really were very good. For some reason they didn't make any great impact but I have heard them in those days when they were hardly in the second or third year of the music classes but they had done wonderful work, and of course Chidanand would take them along to his own concerts and they would accompany him and so on. So I think we have to take into account his own role.
RB: And just later on he made his colleagues join, I mean Bhat saheb was there from the begining but then Ginde joined sometime, then C R Vyas was also teaching there for sometime, then much later I think when after Nagarkar it was Dinkar Kaikini who was at that time with All India Radio he came and took over, so it has a tradition of real ustad's heading the and now Dhruva Ghosh is the principal there but I don't know the present situation
But... so that also played a big part that Dinkar was a known performer
TN: What about other places where people were learning music at the time because clearly there were a lot of young people men and women who were into music
RB: Very much
TN: What other kinds of places?
RB: Well in that area and something which was known for a long time was Deodhar School because like this Bhatkhande that had that Gandharva Mahavidyalaya background and Deodhar and Kumar Gandharva were equally powerful. There were in Dadar this Narayan Rao Vyas and then Manhar Barve and many other schools. Of course in those days I was not even within the city traveling too much so I don't know too much about many others but like that there were pockets everywhere else.
TN: This was individuals teaching students not always number of teachers
RB: Normally it was a combination of a classroom approach, where ten students would be in the class, and then as they advanced first year and second year would be maybe ten each then gradually some would drop out. So finally when they came for the third or fourth year, the music graduation there would be only 2,3 or 4 so it almost became like sina-basina as we call it that way and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Now when... now I of course only for 2 years or so I had that class approach and then after a gap of 35 years I went back to Bhat Sahab and had a individual training. I can see the point of both. In the first it's good to compare yourself with what others are doing, it's also good to learn from the mistakes of others, because in a performing art here the mistake that you make and the mistake that others make is very critical aani (and) in fact one thing about Bhat Sahab is that he had that unique capacity to reproduce your mistake and then immediately to give what is the correct thing to sing.
Tumcha swar chukicha laga tar te chukichya pitch were mhanaiche aani mag aata barobar kuthe aahe te dakhavaiche. ( If you sang the wrong note he would point out at the wrong pitch and he would tell you the right pitch)
So you could understand it much better than just saying you are wrong a kind of a thing. Aani (and) this when it is done for a group of students it probably helps in swar gyaan much better. They had also developed techniques like palte. Palte sagle karaila sangtat parantu tyatna swar gyaan kasa develop karaicha vagere ase anek te Ratanjankarachya pustakat vagere suddha aahe te teaching methods.
( Everyone teaches you how to do 'palte' but to gain knowledge about music it was all there in Ratanjankar's book, these teaching methods)
RB: Khara mhanje (Honestly) I wished I had recorded my early lessons which would have been a very good practical text books for others but it has not been done
TN: So was Marathi the common language of instruction?
RB: By and large, by and large yes, though really for classical music Hindi is the language. I suppose Bhat sahab were asked to make a speech he would prefer to speak in Hindi but, in the class because everybody knew and that happens even elsewhere. I mean jocularly in a courtroom if everybody knows the judge also will ask in Marathi.
TN: But it's not that Bhat Sahab's native tongue is Marathi, it's just that it was the common language that everyone used.
RB: No, no it was Konkani.. I'm tempted to tell a little story about Bhat Sahab I mean he was really belonging to the math (monastery) in Shirali and it was expected that he will become a bhat-ji that is a priest in our Chitrapur math. But everybody in the family cannot just do that, so there was a bit of a problem but he had still not applied his mind, he was very young.
Then one Honavar Krishna Bhat who was a disciple of Kale Khan of Patiala gharana, he had some reason to go and stay there, he was really doing tuitions in Bombay but somebody said that you are likely to be involved in some law suit and the only way tyala utara evdhach aahe ki tumi gurusthani jaoon raha ( the only solution is to to go and stay at a place of some guru) . Mhanun te gurusthan mhanun matha cha ithe jaoon rahile ( So he went and lived near this monastery) and one day he was passing by and this Bhat sahab was singing a lullaby for his sister's child and listening to his voice he said, Ha changla gaato ( He sings well) those days it was not considered nice to learn music.
Tar tyani sangeetla ki ma tu asa kar sakali tumbrel ghe aani,( So he told him you do one thing come in the morning with the bucket) there were no lavatories so you had to go to the fields), tikade ye ma tithe me tula shikavto (come there and I will teach you there) Tithe ma te jhaadacha hey gheun tambura vagere karoon surwat keli ( There he made a tambura from the tree and started there) gradually his people realised that he is interested and they also realised everybody cannot get into this priesthood so, they sent him to Bombay with Krishna Bhat that is how he came to Bombay. Then there is a long story but I mean...
TN: So in terms of your own practice what made you come back after 30- 35 years?
RB: Actually, as I mentioned it was always there in fact ekda (once) foolishly when I was traveling in United States and I was singing to one of my friends without bandish or anything without any discipline just alaap or whatever...
He was very pleased he said apan ek mehfil karuya na (we should do a mehfil) and like a fool I almost said yes and I wrote to my wife ki mala kahi don chaar bandishe lehoon pathav ( that write me a couple of bandishes) fortunately she didn't do that or it would have been really stupid. You need lot of discipline and lot of... I mean ek bandish suddha shambhar vela mhatlya shivai ti kai aahe kalat nahi pan ( a bandish needs to be sung over 100 times to understand what it means) anyway it was still an active part of myself, but I was very busy with my publishing business and by that time I had two sons.
So my younger son who is now Satyajit Bhatkal the director he was learning sitar from this Prithviranjan De and he was really doing a good job and he was maybe around 14 -15 or so and he would have some difficulty and would ask me arre te hey kai ya raaga cha amuk kai, tamuk kai (what about this raaga, this and that) and I would tell him.
So one day he said baba you can't waste your talent, mhanje something what a father would tell son, it was a son telling me that you must do something about it. So one day I took up the courage and went to Bhat sahab and told him ki mala shikaicha aahe. He started laughing naturally 35 varsha jhaali kahi aathavta ka? Mhatla aata bagha tumi (it's been 35 years, do you remember anything? I said you see for yourself)
Tar tyani test ghetli ( So he took a test) but his teaching of swargyaan was so wonderful ke I had not forgotten so that problem was solved. So he said you can pick up and so we started. Second problem was I was still working. How to find time and so on traveling and things like that. Most people assume ke aata he don diwas jaanar mag band honar pan, (that he will go for two days and stop but) as I said it was really part of my personality so, I would plan in such a way that the days which were assigned to Bhat sahab I would try to be in Bombay and even in the office I won't take appointments at that time.
So that part I was very conscientitious the other part where I was shamelessly you know bejavabdar( irresponsible) - first I wouldn't do any riyaaz, I can't explain why but right from my school days I would only learn in the class. Pan ghari yeoon te riyaaz karna mala kadhi jamla nahi aani tyamule ( But after coming home and doing riyaaz I could never manage it and so) he would plead with me arrey thode tari he kar re (just do a little) so... I learnt with him for 27 years, so I take it as only 13 years that because you need to practise to know you know (not clear) but still for me joke karat asay ki Bhat sahabch mahjya vatini practice karatayet aani ( I would often joke Bhat sahab does the riyaaz on my behalf) in way that was true because of his habit of working on my mistakes that shevti tumhi riyaaz karta mhanje kai? ( After all what is riyaaz?)
Tumhi gaata mag tumchya chuka lakshat yetat vagere vagere tar here Bhat sahab ( (You sing and you find the mistakes etc. etc.) could do that tar here Bhat sahab would do that so probably I did get some benefit out of that but anyway, that is how I came back to music. Aani mag teen chaar varsha ashi geli, ( And then about 3-4 years went by) I was 45 when I restarted mag mahji vahini ( then my sister in law) who by that time of course had given up music but who was my classmate 35 years earlier. Ti ekda mag Bhat sahebaina mhanali aata ( So once she told Bhat sahab now) for his 50th birthday you must make him sing.
So then for 2-3 months tyani yaman agdi ghasun pusun sagla mag alaap kashe mag upaj kashe? mag taan kashe? mag bol taan kashe? mag taana kashya? asa karat karun ( he brushed up Yaman with me, what is alaap, and upaj, what is bol taan? and what are taanas and in this way) in fact I sang it for 65 minutes you know Yaman, that was my first mehfil one day before I became 50.
TN: And you have performing ever since, very regular performer
RB: After that halu halu (slowly) I mean but this is a being a... because in the performing field there is no shortcut to actually performing, making the mistakes and learning through mistakes aani ek mi pahila ki jar chook hoeel ashi bheeti vatli tar ti karavi (I have seen one thing that if you have the fear of making a mistake then you should do it) don't try to gloss over it.
It's better to do it and then improve on it. This is why learning also I can be a little vague and you know ha swar ikade aahe ka tikade aahe, pan mi to ghet ase ma te chookicha asla tar te sangaiche. Kinva taalachya drushtina mala sam hi vatli ki aata ti chookichi aahe pan vatli tar ghayichi ma te baghaicha kai hota te tasa chooka karat karatach shikava lagta aani pratek mehfilit me kahi tari chook karun shikat hoto.
(this note is it here or there, but I would still sing it if it's wrong he would tell me. Or from the point of taal (rhythm) if I felt this beat is wrong but if I would sing it and see what happens, you have to make mistakes while learning and in every mehfil I would make mistakes and learn)
Kadhi tari taala cha anadaz yaycha nahi, lai cha andaz yayacha nahi( sometimes I would not get the rhythm or I wouldn't be able to figure the tempo) kinva audience barobar rapport julaicha nahi I'll just sing but without any rapport with the audience as all these things you have to learn
TN: I'm always fascinated by the few people who decide that their engagement with music either is not complete or has to be for some strong reason through the learning of music, especially someone like you who took such a long break who has been interested in music but then wants to be a performer. So I'm very curious as to why that's important for someone who otherwise is not listening all the time, you know like being in mehfils, people love listening and feel that's enough engagement and today people collect the music it's so much easier now with everything available in digital format. So for the majority that's enough
RB: Actually I have known many people who learn and don't want to perform
RB: But for some reason, I believe not just music any art I mean let's take for example poetry if I write poetry, the poetry is worth what it is irrespective of whether it is published irrespective of whether I read it out and so on so forth. But I don't think it is complete unless it is communicated to somebody or the other one person, 100 persons or the whole world but unless that communication is completed the art itself is not complete because you really don't know what its impact is.
So from the begining that was my feeling my wife keeps on telling me that you are not a professional you should be happy just singing. I said no, no I want make others happy whether they are 5, 500, 5000 whether it's once a month once a year that's not material but it has to complete the circle and only then will I also feel what I'm doing.
The second thing is that, in a performing art as against poetry, quite often I don't know what I'm going to sing. It is as I sing that I develop it you know, whether it's mood, it's nuances it's technique, anything - aani aaplya hyachat toh vel hi nasto. Mhanje ekhadi jaaga aali mag toh tiya ghyacha ka nahi, kon tya tarenha samey var yaycha (Means if you have to change a note then should you sing the tihai and how do you come back to the rhythm) there is no consultation and there is no nothing on the spot do it and that is how you learn and that is the way you get pleasure out of it. So mala te nehmich asa vatla ki mala gayala pahije. ( So I always felt that I should sing)
Aani pushkal vela me pahile ki te ganayat nach mala shikta yeta mhanje ( I have noticed a lot of times that I learnt from singing ) its also learning process tenva mi mhatla ki aikoon jasa aapan shikto, riyaaznat jasa aapan shikto tasa mhanje taalmitna shikto, aani mehfilnatna shikto mhanje taalim, riyaaz and mehfil are ( that's why I said like we learn when we listen, we learn from practice, we also learn from training and from a perforamance means training, practice and performance are) three different things and you really don't know how the other thing will be.
RB: There are times mhanje (means) the great ones must have done it it many times pan kahi velela mi aadhi kadhi na gailela raaga vatata ki nah aaj ha gaila pahije thodi she tayaari karto tya shivai gaatach yet naahi pan me kai gaanar aahe hey mala mahit nasta. ( a lot of times I sing a raaga that I have never sung before because I feel I should sing it. I prepare a little, you can't sing without that, but I don't know what I'm going to sing)
Aata 6 mahina poorvi me Bairagi Bhairav gailo toh me shiklelo pan nahi pan te Chidanand Nagarkarche in memory hota aani tyanchya don sundar bandishi aahet so me tharavla ki aaj Bairagi Bhairav gaaicha. ( 6 months back I sang Bairagi Bhairav - I had not learnt it but it was in memory of Chidanand Nagarkar and he has two beautiful bandishes (compositions) so I decided to sing Bairagi Bhairav)
Mi gailo ma Sharafat vagere kahi recordings mahjya kade hote not of those bandishes but Bairagi Bhairav so tya padhati ni me shikoon ghetla manani me mag basoon gailo mhanje ( And I sang I had some of the Sharafat recordings not of those compositions but Bairagi Bhairav so I prepared accordingly and learnt it and I sang... I mean) I don't know what I had planned to do.
Tyamule te gaana ( And so performing (music) is very important, aani apan natakcha vela pahto na ki ekach natak me 10-10 vela pahila aahe ( even in plays some plays I have watched about 10 times) even the actor presents it with a slight nuance each time that is the beauty of a performing art.
TN: Were there many people in your circle who felt the same way? Did you have a lot of friends who also were interested in performing?
RB: Well, they will also have other ambitions and there is nothing wrong in that, that they would want to be known, maybe they would also like to earn and so forth for whatever reasons. I mean earning was never my role in this.
Aani... ambition yes I was as ambitious in the sense of konala kantaal yeta kamanaye (nobody should get bored). mhanje (means) they shouldn't listen to me as a obligation, they must get pleasure out of it hi ambition mala nakich aahe, pan mala motha mhatla pahije mala khoop invitations yeyla pahije vagere asa vatla nahi, aani jamnaar hi navta (that they should praise me or I should get invitations etc. I didn't want that and it was not possible)
mhanje ( I mean) at no stage was I free to make it my career. Even today though I don't do much work in my office. I write and I have many other obligations and hypothetically if I'm called on a concert tour I don't think I can give a month or two for only singing.
TN: So do you think all things that you do help your singing in someway?
RB: I think so, I think in fact we don't have to discuss my music but since we are on the topic there are two things which have helped me sing a little better than I would have otherwise, one is, that I don't have to sing. So I sing because I want to sing and I take pleasure in it tyamule te dalan dalna mhantat ki jasa lecturer kinva ( it's not a compulsion) like a lecturer every week he has to give 18 lectures that kind of a thing I don't and I don't have to do. So that is one great advantage .
The second is that I'm not trying to achieve ki mala kahi tari radio var jaoon mala B grade cha A grade karoon ghyaycha aahe, kinva vagere asa hi kahi nahi so this my pleasure and the listener's pleasure is what is important for me and that helps me do a little better.
The second is of course my interest in literature and other things. (mhanje) I mean for example maybe I should mention this ki me 27 varsha Bhat saheban kade jaicho aani aathavdyat na do kinva teen diwas ( I went to Bhat sahab for 27 years and in a week I went for two or three days) depending on his health jaat ase ( I would go).
Tar mi samjat ase ki toch majha teech taalim aani toch riyaaz vagere vagere aani Bhat saheb gele ( And I would conisder that as my training and my practice etc. etc. and when Bhat saheb passed away) in fact the day he died I was suppose to go to him but in the morning he was not feeling well by evening he was no more.
Teen mahine me gailoch nahi karan te riyaazach karaichi savay nahi aani mag ekda mhaja mitra aala mhanun aamhi gayala baslo tar ( For three months I didn't sing because I was not in the habit of doing riyaaz, then one day my friend came over and so we decided to have a session) after 15 minutes I found that my stamina was over and my ideas were over, I mean nobody could realise because I had said that I'm the host so I'll only make a beginning and then others will sing.
But the fact was I couldn't have and then I decided that I must find someway by that time all the seniors of the same gharana karan itha aata ( because here ) at that stage gharana badloon (to change gharanas) would have been very difficult. Tar (So) Dinkar Kaikini was there and so on but they were also very old. So I had to find my own ways aani ma tabalji gheoon me suru kela aani ( so along with the tabalchi I started and) gradually I was able to go back, but what I was trying to talk about is something else.
Mag mahjya kahi goshti lakshat aalya ki keval je shikvaiche tasa me gana ( Then I realised something that just singing the way I was taught to) was the first phase but now it is for me to find out what I want to sing aani tyachat pahile gosht mala ashi lakshat aali ki mi konte shabd gaato ( and the first thing I thought about are the words I sing) it is important to me there are theories that they don't matter it is only the swara (sound) just as a painting doesn't have to be about anything but only the colours and the form and the balance and composition and so on maybe true and certainly it is true for instrumental.
And yet for me I mean I have to make my own decisions, it is important ki ti bandish kai sangte (what does the composition say?). Tya bandishi arthach nave tyacha mood kai? (Not just the meaning of the composition but what is the mood?) Aani toh gaatana (And while singing that) I don't have to explain, I should not explain, but I should know it from within and that should condition my singing.
Mhanje aiktana mala anek mothya gaikancha asa vatu lagla ki tyana samjha ek kedar madhli hi ek bandish aahe ki ji bhakti par aahe. ( While listening to a lot of great singers I have felt that if there is a composition from raaga Kedar which is on devotion) Dusri ek bandish ti ( The other compostion is) mischieveous aahe, teesri aahe ti shrungarik aahe (the third is based on shrungar) te sagle ekach gaanyat faar sundar gaana mhanje (this was all in one song means) I which I can't dream of, but they will use that only as something to hang that raaga on and te raaga gaatil, te taan gaatil parantu tyana tya bandishi cha kai sangaicha aahe he tyana aatoon hi jaanvat nahi aani ( they can sing the raaga, they can sing the taan, but what do they want to say through that composition they don't realise this from within and ) they don't worry whether the listener is aware of that and we all enjoy I mean it's not that we don't.
But I found it in adequate. So me aadi ti bandish kai aahe te pahto mag tya bandishi chi rachna kartana aata ( So first I see what the composition is and then while making the composition) just as a poet he may have had a other things in mind pan aapan ti poetry kahi tari ashi aahe asa samajto na ( we make our own interpretation right). Ta asa he bandishit he asa balance ka aahe itha pause ka aahe vagere ashya tarane ticha vichar karo aani te lakshat theoon ( Likewise in a composition why is the balance like this, why is this pause here and I think about all these things and keeping this in mind) of course there is a danger of getting mechanical but maaney (meaning) that is a matter of art. Pan tya padhatina me te present kela ( But that's how I present it)
Ata last year ek Punyala concert hota mahja aani tya divshi kuthun tari by chance mhanun apan Faiyaz Khan cha teen bandishi ( Last year I had a concert in Pune and by chance that day three compositions of Faiyaz Khan) ...
Faiyaz Khan was not a great poet bahutek saas nanand aani mahji asi samjut hoti ke te saas nanand kahi tari asa kartat. Pan me pahile teen hi hyacha madhye mood vegla hota. Tyancha reference veglya sandarbhat hota. ( But in all three compositions the mood was different and his reference was in another context). Aani if I tried to internalise it I would present it in a different way. If I just go by the sur it will be different.
Tar mala asa vatata ki je kahi thoda mala kai yeta tyacha ha thodasa advantage aahe ki he itar kala kinva, itar ayushat je hai mi shiklelo aahe tyacha kuthe tari hyacha var parinam hotoy. Aani punha mi tya ziddhina gaat nahi ki mala ( So I feel whatever little I know, I have a little advantage like other arts whatver else I do in life and what I have learnt it has impacted this a little. And again I don't sing with this motivation that) I want to conquer the Everest or something like that and that makes it a little smoother and so that's my feeling I don't know.
SS: Just wanted to go back to where we had begun actually, the places that you used to go to listen to music. Just to give us a sense of all these places that you mentioned, which were the communities that were attending these performances or setting up these places where performances... was there a way in which you could say?
RB: Nahi tyachat kahi gamti sangnya saarkhya aahet me te jaaticha sangitla tar kahi jaati aata ( In that there some fun stories like the one I told you about caste some castes)strangely Parsis took a great deal of interest in our music in fact initially even Bhatkhande was helped by Parsi Gayan Samaj and so on and so forth.
So he audience madhey Parsi asaiche, Marathi astatach ( so the audience had Parsis, Marathis would be there too but) pan Marathis were more, on the one hand Natya Sangeet vagere (etc.), bhaav geet hyacha var jaasta influence hota, aani tyatnatyat classical he hota aani tyachat he je thoda he community feeling saangitla ki ( (bhaav geet had more influence and within that classical and that had the community feeling that I told you about) by and large the Marathi audience would go for Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi or something like that and rarely for Vilayat Husain, it was very strange.
Me madhye( In between) I was writing about Vinda Karandhikar the poet but as a music lover and once I met him at Amir Khan's concert I felt so happy otherwise te mhanje Bhimsen aani Kumar Gandharvachya palikade jaatach naahi ( I mean they did not go beyond Bhimsen and Kumar Gandharva). More because they are Maharastrians, not because they are not great. They are great you know pan veg veglya tarecha ( different kinds) then he became really fond of the Agra and so on and so forth.
And in his old age when he couldn't go out te muddam ashe casette jamvoon aikaiche aani mag mala mhanaiche tumchya paramparet le asle tar mala aanun dya vagere. ( he would collect casettes and listen and would tell me bring some from your tradition etc. etc.)
Tar (So) to some extent our stratification applies even in music asa mala svatala vatata aata ( that's what I feel) ata (now) because of this very strong... ata say Suburban Music Circle at Santacruz is 75 years old and very high tradition of classical music tyamule (so) I was able to listen to different musicians, different schools so.
TN: So was Suburban Music Circle primarily Maharashtrian? No Suburban Music circle, it was primarily Maharastrian?
RB: Tabalchis? Suburban... well again no there, there are two communities, one is Chitrapur Saraswats and the other is Gujaratis. There are Gujarati members and also that concert used to be held at Gujarati Sabha for a long time. Don't take it as water tight but I mean by and large.
RB: The other sad thing now is that you will hardly find people below 40 at any of these concerts. They are generally older people... even college madhye vagere (in college and all) ... samjha ( for instance) Poddar College mahja mitra tithe (my friend was the) principal hota every year for Ganeshotsav he would call Kishori or somebody of that stature. Gardi asaichi pan te friends of his students koni yet nase (would not come). Aani that to take my family, while my siblings were all interested in our music, the next generation and the generation after that is all western music. In fact my grand daughter is a professional western music singer. So... nothing wrong in it but I'm telling you how there are certain peculiarities that are developing.
TN: But surely there are lots of young people who are learning music and some not so young who are probably now in their 20's who are performing. Of course they may not be thousands of them but still you find all generations in music
RB: No, no and I'm always proud of them I mean they are willing to take.. first of all aplya hechyat khoop varsha lagtat (in our tradition it takes a lot of years) you can't overnight sing properly. Tyanchat kai hota mala mahit na ( I don't know what happens in their tradition) so I will not comment on that. Parantu itka aani (But so much and) except for the few at the top. For the others it's a very hard career if they want to take it as a career.
Pan tari suddha kartat and pushkal aahet ( But they still do it and there many of them) and particularly tabla that is another peculiarity I have noticed ki aata te kahi Parlya la dar mahinyala vagere programme hotat ek tabla aani ek vocal. Tablyala khoop mula yeoon bastat ha...tabla jhala ki te nighoon jataat. (So at Parle every month there are programmes one tabla and one vocal. For tabla there are a lot of kids and they leave after tabla.)
I don't know the reason... Aani vajavnaare suddha khoop changle loka aahet. Aata mala saathi la tablyala mhanje (Even the musicians there a lot of good people. Even when I need a accompaniment for tabla) I have plentiful choice. Baaki ( Rest) harmonium vagere (and all) very difficult. Aani gaanare suddha tya manane kami ( And singers are also few in that sense) mhanje those who reach that level aani tithe ( and there) maturity also plays a part, not just the training kahi jana mi pahile aahet ki te riyaaz kartat khoop practice kartat aani ( some people I have seen they practise , they practise a lot and) and are very keen about it. Ambitious also, tyamule taana bina faarach tyani kaam kelala aste. Pan aatun toh ek jo mature approach lagto toh nasto.
(So the taans they put in a lot of effort. But they don't have that mature approach from within)
Mhanje Kaikini mhnaiche ( Meanks Kaikini used to say), there is first where you remember and sing then you remember and sing try to sing something like that and then the creative process. Te creative paryant pohchaila you need something very different not just taalim tar... ( To reach that creative level you need something different not just training)
RB: Aankhi ek choti gosht saangto mhanje he kasa ki aata NCPA, Nehru Centre vagere ashya jaaga jhalelya aahet kinva next level la Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan mhanje they are big halls aani tumhala comfortably basta yete, AC asta vagere vagere sagla changla aahe yet the real fun of our music is samor basun (not clear) shakya toh khaali basun aani thodasa ghadyala kade na pahta mhanje that indiscipline is really very important aani I miss that very much.
(Another small thing, now there is NCPA, Nehru Centre and these places or next level Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, I mean they are big halls and you can sit comfortably, the AC etc. is good yet the real fun of our music is to sit in front and possibly sitting on the ground and without looking at the watch, means that indiscipline is really very important and I miss that very much.)
In my childhood when really sleep should have been dear to me I spent overnight, I have attended concerts like that. Aata Chidanand Nagarkaranchi mala athav ta ki aata Suburban Music Circle la te samjha nau la suru hoiche ratri mag saadharan ek don taas jhalya nantar mag ek break gheyche ek taas bhar kinva paun taas mag parat suru karaiche mhanje asa karoon mag teen chaar vajta te sampaiche.
( I remember Chidanand Nagarkar at Suburban circle if he started at nine in the night then after 1 or 2 hours he would take a break for an hour or 45 minutes but he would begin again and it would end at 3 or 4 o'clock).
Pan apart from the length of time the informal atmosphere and the amhi suddha baslelo ase na relaxed aani same thing aata pahilyanda ithe NCPA la concert suru jhale sagle jaana ase baslele that is not the way. Kadhi aa, ba, waah kya kahich nahi mhanje agdi artificial asu naye parantu natural tari yayla pahije ki nahi?
( and we also sit there relaxed and the same thing the first time here at NCPA the concert started and everyone was sitting that is not the way. At no point was there a 'aah. waah kya, nothing. I mean it should not be artificial but there should be some natural response).
Tar to ek farak kahi tari padelela aahe. Aani dusra kadachit me dusrya velela mhatla aahe ki sponsorship mule pushkal vela kai hota ki ( So that is one difference now. The second thing I must have said it because sponsorship) the sponsors take the tickets but do not necessarily attend so in these big halls quite often there are blank islands and that also spoils the fun. So te Mehfilichi tumhi aata tumhi ambience mhatlya var ekdum athvan jhali. Ti majja hoti na ti kharokharach mahatvachi hoti.
( So when you said about the ambience of the mehfil I thought of this. That joy that was there it was very important)
SS: Yeh mehfil kahan khan ho rahi thi? Kinke gharo mein? ( Where were these mehfils happening? At whose houses?
RB: In those days one of the important things was this Ganeshotsav. Ganeshotsavala I have heard Hirabi Barodekar, Bal Gandharva I have heard many people
TN: This was in the 60's? In the 1960's?
RB: Ha ha ( Yes)... A little earlier also perhaps mag halu halu te kami hovoon adheek bhaav geet, gajanan vagere shuru jhali pan (not clear) (But slowly that became less and more of bhaav geet, gajanan (not clear) started) at least the music was there now I think it is only film music and whatever is there, that's my impression ithe tari.
I'm told in the north for example this Dassera those ten days there's lot of dangal they call it aani but it is more noise than music but anyway it's musical and so on. But I have not... no personal experience of that, so ...but... there are of course wonderful festivals like Jalandhar and Delhi, Shankar Lal and so on so forth sagla kai me gelelo nahi. (I have never been there)
Pan dusra kai jhalay aata ki purvi me aata Nagarkar udharan deli ki ekta toh charr taas ganaar kinva ya padhati te concert hoiche aata te koni arhda taas paun taas ghadalya kade pahun kahi velela TV kade suddha pahun ke tv la sangitlela asta. Tar ti majja kashi parat yeel mala mahit nahi (The other thing that has happened earlier, I gave you Nagarkar's example, one person would sing for 4 hours or the concerts happened in this manner. Now someone will sing for half an hour, someone else for 45 minutes, people looking at the watch, sometimes even looking at a TV. I don't how you can bring back that joy) but I would really prefer small concert halls with that intimate way of listening
TN:What about baithaks? RB: Yes, in those we don't spend time collecting the audience.