Kishori Tai’s approach to art is what made her performances unique

Kishori Tai's swar, her musical euphoria, will live for as long as the world itself.

Written by Mahesh Kale | Pune | Published:April 4, 2017 9:48 pm
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Just last week, on the occasion of Gudi Padwa, I was invited to perform on the ghat of Ganga. It’s hard to put a finger, but there’s something divine and remarkably special about experiencing the sunrise on the banks of Ganga. Kishori tai’s music reminds me of that uniquely beautiful experience. The peace, the nuances of shades, the grandeur, and the inimitable freshness holds not only your attention, but also your soul. You are sure to go to a wonderland and be one with music, every single time you attended heard her sing, irrespective of when and where you listen to it.

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I remember one such dawn. After finishing my morning riyaz, I started listening to a playlist of Raga Vibhas, the raga I was cerebrating those days. And after a few versions by various stalwarts came tai’s madhya laya khayal in Roopak Taal ‘Narahari Narayan’. Calm, composed, calculated yet so vividly spontaneous, grand and lively. The way the dhaivat(the sixth note) was being carefully negotiated microtonally, you couldn’t help but anxiously anticipate it every time tai was in that note cluster. After listening to the first 10 minutes of this 55-minute rendition, I put it on repeat. And before I knew several hours had passed, unknowingly having bunked a few lectures at UC Santa Barbara.

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I think this remains, by far the best reason I’d bunked my lectures ever (although unknowingly).

While her craft is a never-ending topic for music academics world over, Tai’s approach to the art is what made her performances unique. You can easily sense that to her, music was a means to reach higher unexplored spaces and the transcendental quality of her performances bears a testimony to this approach. Tai said, Indian classical music is also emotional music (Abhijat Bhav Sangeet), where the burden of communicating the emotions was on the notes instead of words as in light music (Lalit Bhav sangeet). And she was fascinated about exploring the meaning of the unspoken emotions in the sub-crystalline form.

Tai’s passing comes as a harsh shock, still difficult to digest and impossibly hard to get over. The heavens got incredibly richer today, though. I can only imagine the reception party up there, as Tai joins Bhimsen ji, Ravishankar ji, Ali Akbar Khansaheb, Bismillah Khansaheb, Kishan Maharaj ji, Abhisheki bua and so many others. One can only imagine the gala musical fest they’ll be having up there.

Tai’s swar, her musical euphoria, will live for as long as the world itself. May her soul rest in peace!

Mahesh Kale is a Pune-based Hindustani classical vocalist.

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