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Journey through the Arts

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I revelled in the absorbing piece on Carnatic music titled “Crossing the Vindhyas” by Kamala Ganesh (EPW, 13 January 2018). It got me thinking about my own journey through the classical arts. When I was seven, I was initiated into dance by an elderly, single man from Kuchipudi, who lived in a single room around the corner from our home in Marredpally, Secunderabad, cooking for himself and teaching dance. I remember, I would dance without tiring, and the worn-down flooring in his room would crack, and he would spend the rest of his day cementing the cracks so that I could dance again the next morning. One day, a year or so later, he dropped dead while waiting in the queue for a bottle of milk early in the morning. I was too young to know that he had left us forever.

When we moved to Hyderabad soon after, in 1972, my mother heard a young talented vocalist, Vajendra Ashrit, at the Guruvar Mandal, a hub of Hindustani music where upcoming artists performed every week, and asked whether he would teach my sister and me, by then 10 and 11 years old respectively. I continued to learn under Vajendra Ashrit until I finished my MA. In 1986, when I moved to Delhi, he asked me to meet Pandit Amarnath of the Kirana Gharana, a disciple of Ustad Amir Khan. I sat in on Pandit Amarnath’s classes at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, ­silently absorbing his teaching for more than a year. I sang off and on, by myself, trying to repeat what I had heard.

On my return to Hyderabad in the early 1990s, I revived my contact with my teacher, who also began to teach my little daughter. But we trailed off. Now, finally, I have returned to music after 15 years. My voice is frayed, and I hope I can reinvent it. And I have moved from khayal to dhrupad!

There was a time when my grandmother, an accomplished Carnatic singer “with a voice like a silver bell,” as oneof her admirers described it, learnt Hindustani music from my music teacher’s guru, Bhim Shankar Rao, at the music college in Marredpally. This was in the 1970s and 1980s. We would sing together. Although I never learnt Carnatic and its grammar, I inherited a love for it from her. The vocalist Maharajapuram Santhanam and violinist M S Gopala­krishnan were her favourites. They are still my comforts.

Kalpana Kannabiran

Hyderabad

Updated On : 9th Feb, 2018

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