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Tune into country’s women pakhawaj players at fest in Pune

Tune into country’s women pakhawaj players at fest in Pune

The musician said that for many years, it was a popular belief that the Dhrupad style of singing was meant only for male singers.

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Artistes from across the country to perform.

For the first time, a three-day percussion festival in Pune — ‘Pakhawaj Parv’ — is bringing together women pakhawaj players from across the country. Pakhawaj has been, for years, regarded as an instrument played primarily by men.

The event started on Friday and will go on till Sunday evening at the Sawai Gandharva Smarak. It has been organised by the city-based Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal and Dhrupad Sansthan Gurukul of Bhopal.

Pakhawaj Parv is the brainchild of Akhilesh Gundecha of the famous Gundecha Brothers, the leading Dagarwani Dhrupad singers from Bhopal.

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“For years, it was believed that pakhawaj can be played only by men. But it is not written anywhere; even the sangeet natya shastra doesn’t say so. I personally believe that there is nothing in this world that can be done only by men or by women. Everyone is capable of doing anything. And playing pakhawaj is an art that can be learned and developed,” said Gundecha, pakhawaj guru and trustee of Dhrupad Sansthan Bhopal.


The musician said that for many years, it was a popular belief that the Dhrupad style of singing was meant only for male singers.

In 2004, the Gundecha Brothers established Dhrupad Sansthan Bhopal, where they have trained 10 woman Dhrupad singers until now.

“People say that playing a pakhawaj requires a lot of energy and hence only men can play it. On one hand, we call women a symbol of ‘shakti’ (power) and on the other, we doubt their capabilities,” said Gundecha.

Chitrangana Agle-Reshwal (42) from Indore, one of the senior-most woman pakhawaj players in the country, shared that she is the fifth generation artiste in the family to play the instrument.

“My father, who himself was an accomplished pakhawaj player, had taught the pakhawaj to my elder brother. While my younger brother underwent training in harmonium, I learnt kathak. I used to perform kathak on the ‘bols’ of pakhawaj, played by my brother. I always found myself attracted towards the sound of pakhawaj. When I asked my father to teach me how to play the instrument, he refused, saying ‘ye ladkiyaan nahi bajati’ (it is not played by girls),” she says, adding that she started playing the instrument on her own without her father’s knowledge.

One day, when he heard her playing the instrument, he thought it was her elder brother doing ‘riyaz’. Pleasantly surprised, her father told her, “if you are playing so well without any training, how good will you be with formal training”. That’s when she started learning the pakhawaj from her father, 33 years ago.

In the family of Anuja Borude, another pakhawaj player, she was the first one to learn the instrument. “My father used to perform in kirtans and that’s where my fascination for the instrument began. My guru also discouraged me initially. My father allowed me to learn pakhawaj, assuming I will give it up after a while. But I continued learning the instrument,” says 20-year-old Borude, who began playing the pakhawaj when she was eight years old.

The pakhawaj players at the festival include Shreya Bhilare, Tanuja Ghadigaonkar, Mahima Upadhyay, Chitrangana Agle-Reshwal, Prerana Munde, Gargi Shejwal and Anuja Borude. They will be accompanied on sarangi by Ustad Farookh Latif Khan. The festival will also feature a lecture-and-demonstration — ‘Samvaad’ — on its last day.

Renowned dhrupad duo Pandit Ramakant and Pandit Umakant Gundecha and noted khyal vocalist Shrinivas Joshi will present a duet concert of dhrupad and khyal styles of Indian classical singing. They will also discuss the similarities and contrasts between these two styles.