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Interview With Hindustani Vocalist Smt. Gauri Pathare

Shuchita Rao
06/07/2017

Smt. Gauri Pathare trained in the Kirana, Agra and Jaipur gharaanas gave a memorable concert at Learnquest Baithak on May 21. Shri Ramchandra Joshi on the harmonium and Shri Amit Kavthekar on the table provided excellent accompaniment to the artist who was visiting from India.

Smt. Pathare began the evening with khyal renditions in the ragas Gavati and Shree. In the second half of the concert, she presented the traditional khyal (Dhoondhoo varey saiyyan) followed by drut khyal (Dhan dhan bhaag) in Raag Nand . A variety of intricate Jaipur gharana signature taans (fast melodic movements) in all three octaves were presented with great felicity and ease. Two compositions authored by the legendary musicians, the late Smt. Kishori Amonkar (Dekho shyaam gehri neev)and (Shyam mora man bas kar leeno)the late Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki in raga Rageshree were the next offering in the classical music presentation. Attractive bol-taans, a tuneful perch on shadaj and fluid development of the raga marked the presentation. The artist was effective in showing creative possibilities of improvisation using a small cluster of musical notes as well as the sweeping scope of the breadth of the ragas across three musical octaves. Her taiyyari(musical readiness) was noteworthy.

A Dadra (Rung saari gulabi chunariya re), a Hori (Rang daarongi nand ke laalan pe), a Sant Tukaram abhang (Vitthala che jeevan), a Marathi Natyageet and a concluding piece in Bhairavi (Taare aisi maya) which came towards the end of the concert brought great joy to the listeners. The audience and accompanists warmed up to the sweet natured and humble artist instantly and made several requests for specific ragas which she honored graciously.

Shuchita Rao of Lokvani spoke to Vidushi Smt. Gauri Pathare.

Q. With your mother studying music with the legendary vocalist, the late Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki, your home environment must have been steeped in music. Could you describe your early years in music?

A. I was eight years old when I started taking formal lessons in music. When I was 10 years old, my parents took me for vocal lessons to a renowned teacher, Shri Gangadhar Pimpalkhare. This teacher’s students were shaping up very nicely as singers. When I started learning with him, Shri Sanjeev Abhyankar and Shri Rahul Deshpande were also learning from him.  At the age of 12 years, I gave my first one hour long performance.

Q. Can you tell us about your tutelage under the late Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki.

A. Abhisheki Buwasaheb was very affectionate to me and I was lucky to spend the last seven years of his life as his student. I learned the phrasing techniques of Agra Gharana from him. I used to ask him a lot of questions and he always indulged me by answering all my questions. Once, I asked him several questions about voice culture and vocal techniques and he suggested that I approach the renowned Dhrupad maestro Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar Saheb (who lived a short distance away from our house in Pune) for the answers. I had such a close relationship with Abhisheki Buwa that I jokingly told him he was sending me to Dagar Saheb because he did not want me to answer my questions. He was such a great musician - sometimes I would completely forget his stature and talk to him as if he were a family member.

Q. What did you learn from the musical interaction with the Dhrupad maestro Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar?

A. I had been searching for my own voice and for my unique qualities as a vocalist for quite a while. When students learn with a Guru, they unconsciously start mimicking the teacher. That makes them a good copy of the Guru. After learning from Padmatai for a few years, I felt I was beginning to sound like her. Then, the thought occurred to me. Why would an audience seek to listen to a copy when the original still exists? Dhrupad singing places greater importance on voice production (more than emoting through music). The Dagar tradition has time tested vocal techniques that have survived over 20 generations. Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar saheb gave me several sargams and paltas to work on and groomed my voice for about a year. Then, he told me that for the next 10-12 years I would need to reflect and amalgamate all the knowledge that I had accumulated over the years of music study. What I learned from him is actually a very vast topic. I just concluded workshops in the California Bay area and Toronto on the very same topics of voice culture and technique.

Q.  You have had systematic training in the traditions of three different gharanas (traditions) – Kirana, Agra and Jaipur. How would you say that your music has changed or evolved over the years?

A. There are several full-fledged art forms that have fixed outputs and need sustained practice. The “khyal” art form in contrast is volatile by nature because it lends itself to improvisation. A khyaliya cannot be stagnant – they must listen to themselves and evaluate themselves in greater light with better understanding. With age their music should acquire a maturity. I started my music lessons in the Kirana tradition and learned “sur-lagaav” and how to rest on notes, to focus and concentrate energies on developing the notes. With Abhisheki Buwa I learned many principles around phrasing and stylistic features of the Agra gharana , with Padma Tai I learned how to groom my voice and aesthetical nuances. I believe that all female vocalists must learn from other female vocalists for an extended period of time to imbibe presentation aspects. Over the period of five years between 2009 amd 2013, I worked reflected deeply on my strengths and limitations as far as my intellect, temperament and vocal skills are concerned. I have developed a unique and consistent style that does not come across as a patchwork of the all the training I have had in different gharanas. It is an individual style that has evolved after years of music training and self-reflection.

Q.  You present classical music and semi-classical music in all your concerts. Do you feel that the two styles need or demand different human temperaments?

A. I must first say that even within the area of classical music, there are choices to be made even in how the genre of khyal is presented. Khyaliyas have different human temperaments and approaches. For instance, an artist like Vidushi Kaushiki Chakraborty who I adore for how beautifully she packages her musical presentations ornaments her alaaps while an artist like Pandit Ram Deshpande revels in layakaari. Each of these artists comes into their element when they express music through their natural strengths or fortes.

It is not that classical and semi-classical music need different temperaments, it is that as an artist, you have to merge and become one with whatever genre you are presenting. If I am attending a pooja, I may not wear any jewelry but if I am attending a wedding I may wear heavy jewelery. If I like the blue color, I may wear a lighter texture sari in the summer and a heavier blue silk and complement it with a shawl accessory in the winter. When one sings a bhajan, one must be able to present the bhakti-ras, when one sings a thumri, one must be able to portray emotion, when one sings a semi-classical piece like a hori, one must be able to show a little “chichorapan” (naughtiness). They can all be in the same raga, but every genre has its own color and needs a different treatment.  Some artists specialize in certain genres – Smt. Shobha Joshi is great at singing thumri. When it come to my strengths - I love alaaps and get lost in them – that is where I relax and come into my element.

 

Q. I noticed that you share an excellent rapport with your audience. You made yourself accessible to the audience at Learnquest baithak so that they became comfortable in talking openly to you, making several farmaish (request). Your teachers Padmatai and Abhisheki Buwa maintained a distance from the audience and did not talk much during their concerts. Is there a special importance interacting with the audience holds for you?

A. It is true that my teachers believed that one should talk less in performances. The idea was that the inward eye has to be kept open during a performance and thoughts were to be primarily conveyed through music. This according to them preserved the intensity of the performance. Some musicians talk so much that the whole performance becomes a casual affair. In the last 5 years, I have developed a knack of relating to audiences. I don’t speak at every concert but intimate settings like baithaks promote a conversation in contrast to say, an auditorium setting. The needs and desires of the audience coupled with my own mood combine to yield the output for my performances. If I simply point out to the audience one sentence “here, take a look at the composer’s angle in this composition” it gets them thinking. I like us to become like one family engaging with music together.

Q. What is your vision for the next ten years of your life?

A.  I have taken myself for granted up until now but now I must take care of my health. God forbid that my music thoughts keep increasing but my capacity to deliver the thoughts through singing somehow does not. I must do more of chintan and manan (deliberate and reflect about music). God has a plan for me and I will sing as long as he wants me to. I will always have one beautiful thing to fall back on and that is “teaching music”. I have taught for ten years and my students are singing well. Some are classical performers, some are singing jingles and some are singing playback music. I would love to devote more time to teaching. I also have one more desire – it is to open a specialty restaurant where I feed people dishes made from my signature recipes.  



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