A Short Memoir
Internationally renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Dr. Prabha Atre is perhaps the only performer who has also excelled as a brilliant thinker, academician, author, composer and teacher of music. She is the senior most front ranking vocalist in the country representing the Kirana gharaanaa, today. A Science and Law graduate, she also holds a Doctorate in music. A former Assistant Producer with the All India Radio, former Professor and Head of the Department of Music, SNDT Women's University, Mumbai, and former Producer-Director of the recording company ‘Swarashree’, devoted only to Classical Music, Dr. Prabha Atre has a rare blend of skill and insight. She has displayed constant innovation and creative endeavour which has distinguished her from other vocalists, both in the classical and light classical idioms. She is working as a committee member for several social, educational and cultural institutions.
Dr. Prabha Atre has been honoured with the National Awards - ‘PADMASHREE’, ‘PADMABHUSHAN’, ‘KALIDAS SAMMAN’, ‘SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI’ Award and ‘TAGORE AKADEMI RATNA’ in recognition of her exceptional creativity, highest artistic excellence, outstanding achievement and distinguished life time services in the field of classical vocal music.
Dr. Atre has authored academic books on the various aspects of music that are especially relevant to the present day performance. Her Doctoral thesis on ‘Sargam’ (सरगम) or the use of sol-fa names as musical material, is a pioneering work on the subject. Her very first book ‘Swaramayee’ (स्वरमयी) a compilation of her articles on music which has bagged the Maharashtra State Govt. Award is a classic example of her analytical approach and original thinking. Her second book ‘Suswaraalee’ (सुस्वराली) also received great accolades. Madhya Pradesh Govt. Hindi Granth Academy has published Hindi translation of ‘Swaramayee' and ‘Suswaraalee' with a view to take these books to Hindi knowing music lovers. ‘Swaraanginee’ (स्वरांगिनी), ‘Swaranjanee’ (स्वरंजनी) carry Dr. Atre’s popular compositions in classical, light classical music and bhajans. Her books in English ‘Enlightening the Listener’ - Contemporary North Indian Classical Vocal Music Performance' and ‘Along the Path of Music’ have helped the global music lovers to understand and appreciate the Indian art music objectively. Perhaps the only book of its kind, ‘Antahswar’ (अंतःस्वर) – a book of poems on music and musical experiences in Marathi and also in English by Dr. Atre brings out a different aspect of her creative musical personality. ‘AMRUTPRABHA’ – abhinandangranth (souvenir) – carries critical articles on the contribution of Dr. Atre to Indian art music from scholars (Indian and non-Indian), musicians, musicologists, critics, connoisseurs, lay listeners, students and family along with archival photographs. Dr. Atre’s books have been translated to Hindi, English and Kannada.
Dr. Atre is a ‘Top’ Grade artist of the All India Radio. Her sincerity to art and sensitivity to the times clearly surface in her thinking and singing. Whether it is khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa, ghazal or bhajan, she has a distinct style and typical ingenuity in design and presentation. Her pleasant and dignified presence on stage, her chaste and creative approach, her imaginative play with subtleties of tones and dynamics, her effortless control over intricate yet appealing phrases in aalaap, taan and sargam, her precise articulation of words and stirring portrayal of the emotional themes – all these make her music a singularly satisfying experience.
Dr. Prabha Atre was trained in the traditional `guru-shishya paramparaa' system by the late Sureshbabu Mane and his famous sister, Padmabhushan Hirabai Badodekar, both stalwarts of the Kirana gharaanaa and drew much inspiration from the styles of renowned maestros, Amir Khan and Bade Gulam Ali Khan.
Dr. Atre is an acclaimed guru both in performance and research. Quite a few of her students are well known stage and mass media performers. Dr. Atre has also been teaching at foreign universities as a visiting professor. Her public concerts, radio and TV programmes and lec-dems in India and abroad to audiences of varying tastes have always been highly appreciated.‘Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation’ set up by Dr. Atre aims to promote the cause of Indian classical music and performing arts. She has also established ‘Swaramayee Gurukul’which strives to bridge the prevailing gap between the academic institutions and the traditional guru-shishya paramparaa and plans to nurture talented students into professionals who aspire to take music as a career.
Late Sri. Dattatraya Pilaji nee Aabasaheb Atre - father – [retired Head Master – Rasta Peth Education Society’s School, Pune (currently named Abasaheb Atre Day High School & Junior College)]
Late Smt. Indira Atre – mother – [retired Teacher – Rasta Peth Education Society’s School, Pune (currently named Abasaheb Atre Day High School & Junior College), author of books – short stories and poems for children]
Late Dr. Usha Wagh nee Atre (Anesthethist at Jaslok Hospital and Cumbala Hill Hospital). Married to late Dr. Suresh Wagh (Neuro-Surgeon at Bombay Hospital). Have two daughters Smt. Kalpana Vaidya (settled in Mumbai) and Dr. Manisha Ravi Prakash (Gynecologist & Physician settled in the USA).
A. ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS
|1||Bachelor of Science||Ferguson College, Poona University.|
|2||Bachelor of Law||Law College, Poona University|
|3||Sangeet Alankar (Master of Music)||Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal|
|4||Sangeet Praveen (Doctor of Music)||Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal|
|5||Western Music Theory Grade IV||Trinity College of Music, London|
|6||Training in North Indian Classical Vocal Music: Traditional `guru-shishya paramparaa' system||Sri. Sureshbabu Mane and Smt. Hirabai Badodekar from Kirana gharaanaa|
|1||Have been giving public concerts all over India and abroad since 1955. (Specialisation in khyaal, thumri, daadraa, bhajan, ghazal).|
|2||Participated in prestigious Music Festivals (Government and Public), held in India and abroad.|
|3||Top Grade All India Radio Artist: National Programmes and other special programmes before invited audience.|
|4||TV Programmes in India and abroad.|
Uses her own compositions in concerts and presents specially conceived programmes like:
|6||Recordings produced by leading Music companies (list enclosed)|
C. Ph.D. Works on Dr. Prabha Atre
5 students have been awarded Ph.D. at various universities for their research work on the contributions of Dr. Prabha Atre
|1||Professor & Head - Dept. of Music, SNDT Women's University, Mumbai|
Visiting Professor at:
Private students since 1965, who have established themselves as:
E. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES
|1||‘Top’ Grade Artist of All India Radio|
|2||Examiner for Music (M.A. Ph.D. level) and Member of the Board of Studies in Music at various universities.|
|3||Judge of reputable competitions, scholarships, awards at the national level.|
|4||Member of the Public Service Commission of Maharashtra.|
|5||Participant in Seminars, Workshops and Lec-Dems ‑ National and International.|
F. PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYMENT
|o||Assistant Producer for Music with the All India Radio||1960-1970|
|o||Professor & Head – Post-Graduate Dept. of Music,SNDT Women's University, Mumbai||1979-1992|
|o||Chief Music Producer & Director - `Swarashree' Recording Company||since 1981|
|o||Visiting Professor at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada||1983|
|o||Visiting Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, America||1986|
|o||Visiting Professor at the Rotterdam Conservatory, Netherlands||1989|
|o||Visiting Professor at the Colorado College, Colorado, U.S.A||2000|
|o||Visiting Professor at the Music Conservatory, Montreux, Switzerland||2000|
|o||Visiting Professor at the Learn Quest Academy of Music at Boston, USA||2003|
|o||Visiting Professor at the Syracuse University, Syracuse, U.S.A||2008|
|o||Visiting Professor at the Learn Quest Academy of Music at Boston, U.S.A.||2008|
G. PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP
|o||Associate Founder Member and Executive Committee Member,
Indian Musicological Society, Baroda.
|o||Member of the Cultural Committee, Maharashtra Government||1981|
|o||Member of the Advisory Panel of the Central Board of Film
|o||Committee Member of the Sangeet Research Academy, ITC, Western zone (The Music Forum, Mumbai – a body representing personalities from different fields related to music)||since 1985|
|o||Committee Member of the Indian National Theatre||1987|
|o||University Grants Commission Member of the Panel||1987|
|o||Non‑official member of the Northern Panel of the Musical
Audition Board of the All India Radio
|o||Committee Member to formulate the National Policy on Culture, set up
by the Ministry for Cultural Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi
Member – Panel for Hindustani Music (vocal & light classical), Indian Council for Cultural Relations, working under the Ministry for Cultural Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi
|o||Member – Expert Committee to award scholarships for artists in
Hindustani vocal music, Dept. of Culture, Govt. of India, New Delhi.
|o||Committee Member to formulate the Government policy to preserve cultural diversity, set up by the Ministry for Cultural Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi.||2004|
Member of Advisory Committee – Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Maharashtra State.
H. FOREIGN TOURS, CONCERTS, LECTURE DEMONSTRATIONS, SEMINARS, WORKSHOPS, TEACHING
|1||U.K. and Continent||1969||6 months|
|2||U.S.A., Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore||1971||6 months|
|3||Kenya, Africa||1974||2 months|
|4||U.S.A., Canada||1976||4 months|
|5||Afghanistan, Iran||1977||2 months|
|7||U.S.A., Canada||1981||4 months|
|8||Dubai, Bahrain||1983||2 weeks|
|9||U.S.A., Canada||1983||6 months|
|10||U.S.A., Canada||1986||4 months|
|11||Moscow, Russia||1987||2 weeks|
|13||Doha, Bahrain||1991||2 weeks|
|14||U.K., Europe||1995||2 weeks|
I. OTHER INTERESTS
Formal training in Kathak style, participated in School, College cultural activities.
J. HONOURS / RECOGNITION
|1||Central Government Scholarship for Music, Delhi||1955|
Jagadguru Shri Shankaracharya - Sankeshwar, conferred title `Gaana Prabha'
|3||`Acharya Atre Award' for Music, Mumbai||1975|
|4||Appointment as `Special Executive Magistrate' by the Government of Maharashtra in recognition of services to the cause of Music.||1978|
|5||Visiting Professor at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada||1983|
|6||Indo‑American Fellowship for studying research materials used in
Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, America.
|7||Visiting Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, America||1986|
|8||Maharashtra State Government Award for book `Swaramayee'||1989|
|9||Visiting Professor at the Rotterdam Conservatory, Netherlands.||1989|
|10||National Award `PADMASHREE'||1990|
|11||National `SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI' Award||1991|
|12||`Sur singar Samsad: Sangeeth Peeth: Raseshwar Award', Mumbai.||1992|
|13||Felicitation & Publication of Gauravika ‑ `Gana Prabha' on 61st birthday for varied, outstanding contribution in the field of music performance and music education under the auspices of Hridayesh Arts, a reputed socio-cultural organization, Mumbai.||1994|
|14||Felicitation by Marathwada Sangeet Kala Academy, Latur.||1995|
|15||`Mahim Ratna' award by Shiv Sena Mahim branch, Mumbai.||1995|
|16||`Maauli Pratishthan' Award, Mumbai.||1996|
|17||Name included in the book `Daughters of Maharashtra' by US based
photographer Abhijit Varde and published by Kalnirnay group
|18||`M.N. Mathur Smriti Munch' award, Udaipur.||1999|
|19||`Swar Sadhana Ratna' award, Mumbai.||1999|
|20||Felicitation by Sanskar Bharati, Mumbai.||2000|
|21||Felicitation by Sawai Gandharva Vishwastha Samsthe, Kundgol.||2000|
|22||Felicitation by Law College, Pune||2000|
|23||Visiting Professor at the Music Conservatory, Montreux, Switzerland||2000|
|24||Felicitation by Global Action Club International, Mumbai.||2001|
|25||Acharya Pandit Ram Narayan Foundation Award, Mumbai.||2001|
|26||S.L. Gadre Maatoshri Kalakar Award, Mumbai.||2001|
|27||Felicitation by the Mayor of Indore.||2001|
|28||Ustad Faiyyaz Ahmed Khan Memorial Award (Kirana Gharana), nstituted by The Music Forum, Mumbai.||2002|
|29||National award `Padmabhushan’||2002|
|30||`Life time achievement’ award by the Pune University, Pune||2002|
|31||`Godavari Gaurav Puraskar’ instituted by Kusumagraj Pratishthan, Nasik||2002|
|32||Felicitation by the Mayor of Mumbai.||2002|
Felicitation by the Vasantrao Naik Agricultural Research and Rural Development Foundation, Mumbai by the then Governor of Maharashtra, Shri. P.C. Alexandar
|34||`Kala-Shree 2002’ award instituted by Business Express Group, Sangli.||2002|
|35||Felicitation by the S.N.D.T. Women’s University, Mumbai.||2002|
|36||Felicitation by the Fine Arts Society, Chembur, Mumbai.||2002|
|37||`Hafiz Ali Khan Award’ instituted by Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Trust, New Delhi.||2002|
Best ‘guru’ / Ph.D. guide – honoured with ‘N.D. Kashalkar puraskar’ by Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal
Swarsagar Sangeet Puraskar’ award instituted by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Mahanagar Palika, Pimpri.
Felicitation by `Gaanvardhan’ cultural organization from Pune on the occasion of its Silver Jubilee Celebrations
|41||`Swararatna Puraskar’ awarded by Mumbai Doordarshan (DD1) – Sahyadri||2003|
`P.L. Deshpande Bahuroopi Sanman’ by Sri. Ram Pujari Pratishthan, Sholapur
‘Govind Lakshmi Gourav Puraskar’ instituted by Saraswati Sangeet Vidyalaya, Bangalore for displaying constant innovation and creative endeavour in Indian classical music --- felicitated by the then Hon’ble President of India Shri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
|44||‘Kaka Hathrasi Sangeet Sanman 2003’ by Sankalp and Kaka Hathrasi Puraskar Trust, at Ahmedabad felicitating Dr. Atre as an author on Indian music||2004|
National ‘KALIDAS SAMMAN’ instituted from the Government of Madhya Pradesh, for exceptional creativity, highest artistic excellence, outstanding achievement and long time dedication in the field of Indian classical music.
‘Dagar Gharana Award’ instituted by the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation, Udaipur
Giants International Award 2005 for contribution towards music - honoured by Hon’ble Governor of Maharashtra, Shri. S.M. Krishna
‘Master Krishnarao Phulambrikar Award’ instituted by the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad for writings on Music
Honoured with the ‘Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Puraskar’ – felicitated by Bharataratna Lata Mangeshkar
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birthyear and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Swaramayee’, Mumbai at Mumbai
|51||Concluding artist at the internationally renowned ‘Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Sangeet Mahotsava’, Pune – honour bestowed in recognition of seniority and excellence||since 2006|
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birthyear and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Ashaya Club’, Pune at Pune
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birthyear and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Swaramayee’, Mumbai at New Delhi and Kolkata
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birthyear and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Swaramayee’ and Shri Ram Kala Vedike, at Bangalore
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birthyear and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Swaramayee’, Vasundhara Academy of Performing Arts and Raagmilan at Mysore
Felicitated for contribution towards Indian music by ‘Mee Marathi’ T.V. by the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri. Vilasrao Deshmukh
|58||Felicitated for contribution towards Indian music and on her 75th birthyear
by the citizens of Sholapur
Felicitated with ‘Pune Festival Award’ for contribution towards Indian music at the hands of Shri. Sushil Kumar Shinde and Shri. Suresh Kalmadi
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birthyear and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Swaramayee’ and Sri Krishna Sweets, at Chennai
‘Adishakti Jeevan-Sanman Puraskar’ by Agarwal Cultural Trust and Mahalakshmi Mandir, Pune
Felicitated on the occasion of 75th birth year and for contribution to Indian music by ‘Swaramayee’ at Pune. ‘Swarayoginee’ – title conferred by veteran theatre personality Shri. Prabhakar Panashikar on behalf of music lovers
Conferred the title ‘Sangeeta Kalanidhi’ for her outstanding contribution to Indian classical music by Hangal Music Foundation, Hubli, at the hands of Smt. Gangubai Hangal, the maestro of Kirana gharaanaa
|64||Felicitated by RAWA – Renaissance Artists’ and Writers’ Association for exceptional creativity, highest artistic excellence, outstanding achievement and long time dedication to Indian classical music||2009|
‘3rd Bismillah Samman Puraskar’ instituted by Madhu Murchhana, Mumbai in memory of Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khansaheb bestowed by
‘3rd Sawai Gandharva Rastriya Sangeet Puraskar’ instituted in honour of Pt. Sawai Gandharwa. Bestowed by Pt. Sawai Gandharva Vishwastha Samiti, Kundagol.
|67||Gururao Deshpande Rashtriya Sangeet Puraskar ‘Guru Gandharva 2010’
instituted by Gururao Deshpande Sangeet Sabha, Bangalore
|68||‘Puttaraj Sanman 2010’ instituted by Dr. Puttaraj Gawai Foundation,
‘Mallikarjun Mansur Samman 2010’ instituted by Dr. Mallikarjun Mansur Trust, Dharwar
‘Swarayoginee Dr. Prabha Atre Shaastreeya Sangeet Puraskar’ – national award instituted by Gaanvardhan and Tatyasaheb Natu Foundation to award and encourage talented artists
|71||National `TAGORE AKADEMI RATNA' instituted from the Sangeet Natak Akademi - the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, - the apex body of performing arts in the country, a one-time honour of Tagore Samman for her significant contribution in the field of performing arts, as a part of the ongoing commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabinath Tagore.||2011|
|72||Name included in national and international biographical works|
K. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
|o||Training to talented students in the traditional `guru-shishya paramparaa' system since 1970, by providing food and shelter. Nearly 15-20 out-station students have benefited. (Mumbai's living conditions today do not allow gurukul system for want of space and time).|
|o||Has been giving concerts and lecture‑demonstrations in schools and colleges all over India for the `Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture among Youth’ SPIC MACAY since its inception in 1977. This activity has helped in propagating and popularising Indian Classical Music among student community – rural, urban and cosmopolitan; and the focus has been `national integration'.|
|o||Working for `Sanskar Bharati' - an all India organisation propagating, preserving and promoting Indian culture among the society through lectures, workshops, seminars, concerts, training, etc.|
|o||Working as a committee member for several social, educational, cultural institutions have been trying to bring these institutions together and establish rapport between themselves for better understanding and better results.|
|o||Organising a yearly music festival for the past 16 years as one of the activities to commemorate the invaluable contribution made by the gurus Shri. Sureshbabu Mane and Padmabhushan Smt. Hirabai Badodekar to the cause of music. Senior top artists and accomplished young artists are participating in this festival and keeping the classical tradition alive and going. Three to four thousand music lovers attend this festival which has become the major festival in Mumbai.|
|o||Organised `Stree Guru Vandana' ‑ a festival/programme for the first time to honour well-known senior female musicians for their contribution as `gurus' (Aug. '96) – a historical event in the field of music.|
|o||Organising a yearly classical music festival, `Gana Prabha' for the last 5 years featuring young, talented artists and creating a much-needed platform as an endeavour to fulfill socio-cultural commitments.|
|o||In the year 2002 `Gana Prabha’ music festival was an `All Women Musician’s Festival’ having women performers and accompanists; the idea being to give platform, promote and project especially women percussionists as accompanists and soloists.|
|o||In the year 2003 `Gana Prabha’ music festival featured senior musicians who are around 75 years of age. It was to recognise the contributions of the maestros, to honour them and provide an opportunity for the music loving people of Mumbai to have a glimpse of their saadhaanaa.|
Chairperson of Rasta Peth Education Society – a leading educational association in Pune for the last 15 years. Has worked in different capacities in its governing committee for the past 22 years.
|o||Chairperson (Advisory Committee) of `Gaan Vardhan' ‑ a well-known music organisation, Pune, for the past 35 years. Gaan Vardhan organizes concerts, lecture-demonstrations, seminars, workshops and has thus helped educate the music lovers of Pune and around.|
|o||Established `Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation’ in 2000 which aims at preserving, promoting, propagating and popularising the Indian classical music and other performing arts.|
|o||Dr. Atre through her Foundation and otherwise has organized nearly 170 programmes, music festivals based on various themes since 1965|
|o||Has established `Swaramayee Gurukul’in 2003 at Pune. An unique institution, a dream project of Dr. Atre. It houses a gurukul wherein talented students who aspire to take music as a professional career can stay and equip themselves to meet the challenges of the profession. To facilitate this Swaramayee Gurukul provides training aided by a small auditorium, library of audio-video recordings and books, facility for audio-video recording etc., It provides a platform for mehfils, seminars, workshops, discussions, press conferences etc.,
The institution an endeavor to fulfill socio-cultural commitments aims to strive to bridge the prevailing gap between the academic institutions and the traditional guru-shishya paramparaa.
|o||Has been actively involved as a Committee Member of `The Music Forum, Mumbai’ – a body of representatives from all fields of music – artists, connoisseurs, music organizations, media – print and electronic, critics, academic institutions, music schools, national and international agencies, government organisations since the past 20 years.|
Organised a Seminar ‘Sargam as Musical Material’ followed by a Workshop on ‘How to Sing Sargam / Sargam Rendition’ in 2004.
|o||Organized ‘Amrut Prabha – National Classical Vocal Music Competition’ in 2008. Entries received from all over India and abroad were screened by a panel of renowned judges. The Final Round of the Competition featured upcoming talented artists from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chattisgarh and West Bengal.
The Competition held in three categories – classical, light-classical and bhajan was based on the compositions of internationally acclaimed Hindustani classical vocalist Dr. Prabha Atre.
|o||First of its kind television programme on DD Sahyadri based on this competition “Amrut Prabha’ – yuvakaanchi sangeet Pratibha’ wastelecast as 7 episodes.|
|o||Regular visits to ashrams and temples for exposing masses to Indian classical music through devotional songs.|
|o||Has been giving charity programmes in aid of good cause|
Contribution to Music
Major Contribution Towards the Enhancement of Indian Classical Music
Preservation, propagation, promotion and enrichment of Hindustani classical music by:
- carrying forward the Kirana tradition through performances, workshops, lec-dems, etc.,
- composing new raags.
- teaching students all over the world in both the traditions - guru-shishya paramparaa and institutional and bridging the gap between these two systems by establishing ‘Swaramayee Gurukul’.
- organizing multifarious cultural, educational activities including national music festivals, seminars, lec-dems, workshops, monthly baithaks to train audience under the aegis of ‘Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation’ established by Dr. Prabha Atre.
- pioneering work in popularising Indian classical music in the West by giving full length vocal concerts, lecture-demonstrations and workshops since 1970s.
- authoring academic books on the various aspects of contemporary music performance.
- composing bandishs in classical, light classical and light music to meet the changing trends in music.
- preparing and standardising - teaching material and methods for a new student of Hindustani music.
Avant-Garde Contribution in the Realm of Creativity and Performance
- Research work on ‘Sargam as musical material’ and its open advocacy in teaching and performances since 1960s. This has enthused and paved way for other genres like light music, film, fusion, etc., to use sargam in their presentations.
- Scientific, logical approach to -
- absence of antaraa and use of only sthaayi in the presentation of vilambit khyaal.
- use of complementary themes in vilambit and drut compositions of the same raag.
- interpretation of the raag rules adding new dimension to the established form of the raag.
- Prolific presentation of semi-classical music – giving it sophistication and modern flavour setting it apart from the rendition of the courtesans.
- Enriching Hindustani music by incorporating stylistic nuances of Carnatic music.
- Making Hindustani music more appealing by giving stress on the tonal quality, voice throw, pronunciation of words and portrayal of emotional content of the words as well as notes.
- Holistic approach towards the study of music in academic institutions by incorporating all the genres from folk to classical music and also film, theatre, Carnatic, Western, and World music (ethno-musicology) and other fields of knowledge related to music like psychology, sociology, physiology, acoustics, cultural history, literature, poetry, philosophy, etc.
Syllabus prepared and implemented for the Post-Graduate Dept of Music at the SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai while Dr. Atre was the Professor & Head.
- More than 500 pieces in khyaal‑taraanas, thumri‑daadras, bhajan‑geet‑ghazals.
- New Raags: Apoorva Kalyan, Bhoop Kalyan, Shiv Kali, Ravee Bhairav, Kaushi Bhairav, Bheemavanti, Madhurakauns, Bhinnakauns, Darbarikauns, Patdeep Malhar, etc.,
- Compositions sung by artists from all gharaanaas in their concerts and students in exams and competitions.
- Music compositions adapted to full-length dance programme `Swar-Nritya Prabha’ - choreographed by the famous danseuse:
- Dr. Sucheta Bhide Chaphekar - Bharatanatyam style
- Smt. Yogini Gandhi - Kathak style.
- Smt. Jhelum Paranjape - Odissi style.
- Music compositions adapted for Jazz by Ms. Susanne Abbuehl from Holland.
- Music composed for musical-dramas.
- Author of articles on Musical Themes in Marathi and English in newspapers and periodicals.
- Book `Swaramayee' (compilation of articles) first published in 1984 (revised 4th edition published in 2011) received Maharashtra State Government Award in 1989.
- Book `Suswaraalee' (compilation of articles, accompanied with illustrative audio CD) first published in 1992 (revised 3rd edition published in 2011).
- ‘Swaramayee’ in Hindi (translation of `Swaramayee' & `Suswaraalee' by Dr. Arun Bangre - published by Madhya Pradesh Govt. Hindi Granth Academy in 1996.
- Books in Kannada ‘Keluganige Arivu’ (translation of Swaramayee; accompanied with audio CD), ‘Swara Yaatre’ (translation of Suswaraalee) – translated by Prof. Sadanand Kanavalli in 2012.
- A book of poems in Marathi `Antahswar' published first by Granthali in 1997 (revised 2nd edition published in 2007). Translated in English by Prof. Susheela Ambike and published in 2007 as ‘Antahswar : Inner Music’.
- A book in English `Enlightening the Listener: Contemporary North Indian Classical Vocal Music Performance' (accompanied by illustrative audio CD) published in 2000.
- ‘Along the Path of Music’ – a book about music and musicians published in 2005.
- Book of compositions `Swaraanginee', first published in 1994 (revised 2rd edition published in 2006 – with notation and accompanied by illustrative audio CD)
- A book of compositions ‘Swaranjanee’ published in 2006 (with notation and accompanied by illustrative audio CD).
- Revised edition of books of compositions (in Hindi – accompanied by illustrative audio CDs) -
- ‘Swaraanginee’ (compilation of morning, afternoon and evening raags)
- ‘Swaranjanee’ (compilation of night raags)
- ‘Swaraanginee’ (compilation thumri, daadraa, ghazal and Marathi ghazal and bhaktigeet)
- English version of books of compositions – ‘Swaraanginee’, ‘Swaranjanee’ and ‘Swararangee’ with song-text meaning.
Recordings & Books
Details of Recordings
raag Maru Bihag
|Dr. Prabha Atre classical vocal
|Dr. Prabha Atre classical vocal
raag Miyan Malhar,
kajri – raag Mishra Pilu
thumri – raag Mishra Khamaj
thumri – raag Mishra Gaara
|‘A Unique Musical Experience with Dr. Prabha Atre’||
|Niranjani - Vol. 1||
raag Puriya Kalyan
|Niranjani - Vol. 2||
daadraa - raag Mishra Bhairavi
Night ragas & Thumri to mark the 75th birth year
of the musical genius Dr. Prabha Atre
Rajanigandha - Vol. 1
raag – Shyaam Kalyaan
thumri – raag Mishra Des
Rajanigandha - Vol. 2
raag – Bihaag
daadraa – Maanj Khamaj
daadraa – Mishra Shivaranjani
Amrutprabha - Vol. 1
raag Miyan ki Todi
Amrutprabha – Vol. 2
Books & Publications
|SWARAMAYEE ♪||Compilation of articles on/related to music in Marathi) – awarded the Maharashtra State Government Award in 1989 – 4th revised edition||Bookmark Publications, Pune||300.00|
Articles on/related to music in Marathi) - 3rd revised edition
|Bookmark Publications, Pune||450.00|
|ANTAHSWAR♪||Compilation of poems in Marathi - 2nd revised edition||Bookmark Publications, Pune||50.00|
|SWARAANGINEE*||Book of compositions of Hindustani classical music with notation and illustrative audio CD -2nd revised edition||750.00|
|SWARANJANEE*||Book of compositions – Hindustani classical music with notation and illustrative audio CD||750.00|
|ANTAHSWAR: INNER MUSIC *||B.R. Rhythms||75.00|
|SWARAMAYEE||Translation of Swaramayee and Suswaraalee from Marathi to Hindi by Dr. Arun Bangre||Madhya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy||50.00|
|SHROTRUVIGE ARIVU ♪||Kannada translation of Suswaraalee by Prof. Sadanad Kanavalli – accompanied with a CD carrying illustrations/lecture-demonstration||300.00|
|SWARA YAATRE ♪||Kannada translation of Swaramayee by Prof. Sadanad Kanavalli||Kanva Prakashana||200.00|
|ENLIGHTENING THE LISTENER: Contemporary North Indian Classical Vocal Music Performance||(in English) – (accompanied with a CD carrying
|ALONG THE PATH OF MUSIC||A book of music and musicians||Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd||400.00|
|‘AMRUTPRABHA’ – ABHINANDAN-GRANTH||(Souvenir) – published on 75th birth year - containing archival photographs and critical articles from scholars (Indian and non-Indian), musicians, musicologists, critics, connoisseurs, lay listeners, students and family||R.S. Publishers Distributors||250.00|
Contact Details of Publishers
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1206-B/16 Jungli Maharaj Road, Shivaji Nagar, Pune 411005
|Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation||
17 Madhavi Society, 277C, Mogul Lane, Mahim, Mumbai 400016
"Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation"
`Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation' was registered in May 2000 by Dr. Prabha Atre, the noted Hindustani classical vocalist of the Kirana gharaanaa. Dr. Atre is revered as a brilliant thinker, performer, academician, composer, writer and guru. Honouring her contributions to the field of Indian music, Dr. Atre has been felicitated with many-awards, to name a few, the Maharashtra State Government award, Padmashri, the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Padmabhushan, Kalidas Samman and the Tagore Akademi Ratna.
The Foundation – a non-profit making organization has taken inception with a main aim to promote, propagate and popularize the Indian performing arts in general and the Indian classical music in particular; besides to spread Indian culture, Indian philosophy, fine arts, literature, and other fields of knowledge.
The Foundation's activities – to discover, encourage and establish rising artists; to organize cultural programmes, lectures, seminars, conferences, work shops, literary meets; collect, publish and produce literature, audio-video recordings, archival material; support needy individuals and institutions – facilitate to achieve the main objectives by joining hands with various personalities and institutions, Indian and abroad.
The Foundation has established `Swaramayee Gurukul' in 2003 at Pune. The institution an endeavor to fulfill socio-cultural commitments aims to strive to bridge the prevailing gap between the academic institutions and the traditional guru-shishya paramparaa. Gurukul runs classes at Mumbai, Pune, New Panvel and Solapur besides organizing music related activities – concerts and academic programmes.
Nearly 230 music related programmes – concerts, music festivals, academic programmes like seminar, workshops, lec-dems, music competitions, etc., have been organized by Dr. Prabha Atre and Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation since 1965.
The Foundation renders assistance to institutions and individuals working for a `cause'.
|P.S.: The Foundation requests philanthropists to donate generously for the `cause'.
(All donations to the Foundation are eligible for deduction U/S 80G of the Income Tax Act).
Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation,
17 Madhavi Society, 277C Mogul Lane,
Mahim, Mumbai – 400 016.
Ph: 022-24360713 Mob: 98204-68106
Swaramayee Gurukul was started in Pune under the aegis of `Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation' as a major step to fulfill one of the objectives of the Foundation. The Gurukul was inaugurated on 15th April 2003 by the Hindustani classical music maestro Pt. Bhimsen Joshi.
Dr. Atre spent her formative years in Pune where she was born, brought up and educated. Her attachment to the place made her choose Pune for the project.
Swaramayee Gurukul has been a dream project of Dr. Prabha Atre. It aims at bridging the prevailing gap between the academic institutions and the traditional guru-shishya paramparaa. The institution endeavours to fulfill socio-cultural commitments.
Swaramayee Gurukul plans to nurture talented students into professionals who aspire to take music as a career, by providing training aided by a small auditorium, library of audio-video cassettes and books, facility for audio-video recording etc., The mini auditorium is meant for mehfils, seminars, workshops, meetings, press conferences, etc.,
Swaramayee Gurukul besides imparting training in performance holds monthly traditional baithaks as one of its important activity to supplement lecture-demonstrations, seminars, workshops, etc.,
In its nine years of functioning Gurukul has made a marked beginning in that -
- Talented students from all over India aspiring to be professional musicians have been receiving music training.
- Foreign national students who are professionals in their respective fields are receiving training in the Hindustani classical style.
- Have branches at Mumbai, New Panvel and Sholapur. The Gurukul branches cater to the music requirements in the north Indian classical, semi-classical and light vocal music category and tabla and harmonium classes. Beginners and students in advanced category learn Hindustani classical music.
The emphasis is towards performance. However, students are trained and equipped to appear for exams of various Universities and the Akhila Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal.
- Monthly baithaks: Gurukul has organized nearly 150 monthly programmes / baithaks in its mini auditorium at its premises during the last nine years. The objective of baithaks is to rejuvenate the culture of the Bharatiya mehfils. In a live concert of Indian classical music, the presence of an initiated listener who is conversant with the concepts, material, technique and end structures, makes a lot of difference even at the level of entertainment. These programmes are not ticketed and are open to all music-lovers.
The baithak series is informal in nature trying to establish a rapport between the audience and the performer. The concert has the artist himself giving an introduction to his art, his formative years of training, the bandish (composition), his thought / approach to the raag structure, etc., At the end of the concert is held a dialogue / interaction session between the audience and the performer. The baithaks are organized by the students in terms of making arrangements for publicity, stage, sound, reception, presentation, hospitality, etc., All these activities give a good exposure to a learner who wishes to mould himself in all aspects of performance.
- Library of Books and Audio Recordings: a small library of books and audio recordings has been set up. The facilities are open to the music loving public also.
- Music classes: started Hindustani classical vocal music, Tabla and Harmonium classes for beginners.
- Kathak dance classes.
- Communication Skills and Personality Development classes.
- Yoga classes.
For the coming years the Gurukul plans to –
- start other dance classes like Bharatanatyam for children.
- Music appreciation courses - to help music lovers appreciate, understand music - mass education.
- Extend / expand the library and include video recordings as well.
- Start a recording studio to train the students in voice culture, self monitoring, assessing their own performance and also to get acquainted with the operation of the professional recording equipment.
The studio will be made open for public use in due course.
Apart from teaching music as an art form for entertainment the Gurukul considers music as a social need, a character building component, a cultural identity --- and as such the orientation of teaching methods also get modified.
1206-B/16 Jungli Maharaj Road,
(opp. Sambhaji Park; adj. lane to Hotel Shiv Sagar ),
Shivaji Nagar, Pune 411 004.
Mob: 98204-68106 (Dr. Bharathi M.D.)
86055-25853 (Mrs. Varsha Kirad)
1. What brought you to music?
Not coming from a musician’s family, I do not have any family background of music. Nobody even heard classical music in my family. Both my parents were teachers. My father was a headmaster in a school in Pune. He insisted that my sister and me participate in all the extra-curricular activities of the school. Singing was one of them. But I was not taking regular classes as such. It was, in fact, my mother’s illness that brought music into our house. She used to keep brooding over her illness. To divert her mind a haarmonium teacher was engaged. She could have hardly had four to five lessons when she declared she did not want to learn music. So, instead, I continued. I had already picked up a few tunes sitting by my mother’s side.
2. Where did you learn music and from whom?
I come from Pune. I was born, brought up and educated there. I learnt music in the traditional system – guru shishya paramparaa. I learnt classical music initially from Shri. Vijay Karandikar. Then, I went to Sri. Sureshbabu Mane and later to Smt. Hirabai Badodekar, the famous musicians from the Kirana gharaanaa (school) for advance training. In 1960s, when I was working with AIR Nagpur, I was exposed to Amir Khan Saheb’s style, which brought major changes in my musical thinking. I am equally indebted to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan for my thumri. Although I have not learnt from him directly, my thumri has its roots in his style.
3. You are a science and law graduate. What made you take music as a full time profession? Did you plan things this way?
Neither my parents nor I had planned things this way. I think I was destined to be a musician. Everything that happened took me to music. People started liking my music and they also offered remuneration for it. I think temperamentally I was most suited to music. Instead of dissecting frogs or defending criminals, singing was far better. After my college education, I joined the All India Radio in 1960. I resigned from there in 1970 and took to singing as a full time profession. However, in 1979, my interest in the academics of music led me again to join the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. I worked there as the Professor and Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Studies & Research in Music till 1992. I believe that a good performer needs to study and experience music from different angles. Luckily my work, both at the All India Radio and the SNDT University, did not come in the way of my giving public concerts, since most of the concerts are held at weekends. On the contrary, my association with the them has enriched my musical thinking and stimulated my creativity immensely.
4. When and where was your first public performance? Were you nervous?
My first public performance was in Ganesh festival in Pune. In Maharashtra, we have a tradition of celebrating Ganesh festival for ten days. In those days, there used to be just classical music programmes of top artists from all over the country. It was there that I first gave my performance. Yes, I was nervous in the beginning. But when I saw audience appreciating… openly saying “Wah, Wah” and clapping, I gained confidence.
5. Which is your favourite raag?
All raags are beautiful in themselves. But I like basic raags like Bhairav and Yaman. Raags which are complex in their structure and treatment end up in technicalities and fail to reach the soul. If I am practising a particular raag, I sing it in all the concerts for several months… after which I don’t sing it for a long time. However, I always enjoy singing Yaman. I have very fond memories of myself as a young student of music and Yaman — this was the first raag I learnt from my guru Sureshbabu Mane. Moreover for a beginner, this raag acts as a foundation to understand and learn other raags.
6. What are the distinct musical qualities of the Kirana gharaanaa?
The style of Kirana gharaanaa is characterised by note-by-note unfolding of the raag structure thereby exploring minute details of the structure. The notes have peaceful movements in the taal structure. ‘The essence is serenity with sweetness.’ In a way, Kirana is a withdrawn, introverted style; there is nothing showy, sensational.
Kirana’s treatment of tone creates a general soothing effect on mind. Each note is dipped in emotion and as such, involves even a common listener in music making. The voice straightaway touches the heart. One need not know shaastra (grammar) to enjoy Kirana music.
7. Kirana artists do not use their natural voice. They use falsetto, in other words, they use a crooning voice?
That is ironic. Kirana artists are very conscious of voice culture. Listen to Abdul Karim Khan. His voice is appreciated even today. Voice is the major tool with the singer to take classical music to the common man. You must understand that this is classical music and falsetto or crooning cannot meet the demands of classical music effectively. I would appreciate it if people stop making baseless comments. Each gharaanaa has different voice production to suit its style and presentation.
8. Kirana artists are not concerned with taal structure, or its tempo.
First you must get it clear in your mind, do you project raag or taal in classical music? You must remember that taal comes as musical material. It should be given importance as and when required in the development or elaboration of the raag. If you compose each phrase according to the structure and tempo of the taal, it will be a mechanical activity. It would sound like marching of the notes with taal. If you want to see the beauty of the raag in detail, you need to go slow, stand at one place, ponder and proceed. The slow tempo of the taal in the beginning helps this activity.
9. Kirana artists do not sing raag. They only sing notes?
A raag consists of notes. If your want to know raag thoroughly, you have to know the nature and beauty of each note of the raag in detail in the context of the said raag that you present. You do not expect to sing all the notes in the raag in every phrase. You have to deal with each note in the context of the raag personality. That is why, this note-by-note progression.
10. It is said that the thumri by Kirana artists does not fit into the recognized form of thumri as sung in North India?
This is a baseless statement. Those who say it have not heard Kirana artists seriously, have not studied thumri form properly.
If at all this comment could be applied and that too in a limited sense, it can be for the times when thumri was introduced in Maharashtra by Abdul Karim Khansaheb on the classical music concert platform. There are different baanis of dhrupad-dhamaar singing, there are different gharaanaas of khyaal singing. Then why limit thumri singing to Purab and Punjab styles only? It is a known fact that the beginnings of all art forms are under the shadow of some known form and they take time to evolve and establish their own identity.
The credit of introducing thumri and making it acceptable by the classical music audience goes to Abdul Karim Khansaheb of Kirana. He was perhaps the first classical singer in Maharashtra who introduced thumri on the classical music concert platform where only khyaal and dhrupad-dhamaar were presented. Thumri that Khansaheb sang had to be different from the sensual, erotic thumri sung by courtesans and its text also had to be dignified. Although initially, there was close resemblance between khyaal and thumri, over the time Kirana thumri maturing itself evolved into a beautiful distinct form. The Pahadi and other thumris sung by my guru Sureshbabu Mane is a classic example of how Kirana thumri was evolving. Roshanara Begum is another example of how Kirana thumri had taken different path for its expression. Manik Verma and Prabha Atre not only took further this Kirana thumri by adopting Purab, Punjab styles but also enriching it by assimilating new trends that entered into the music field.
11. How would you describe your music?
The base of my music is very much Kirana, but it has a modern context. My thinking has been enriched by practically every kind of music — Indian to non-Indian, from all over the world. Secondly, because of my strong academic background, training, exposure and experience, I do not accept anything blindly in the name of tradition. I try to be objective, analytical, selective in my presentation. It also has a modern touch.
• I look for tonal beauty; my notes are invariably charged with emotions.
• I try to bring in variation in tonal texture in addition to variation in volume to project emotional content.
• I make ample use of kan-swaras and smooth glides in the formation of phrases.
• I like to explore new, aesthetically beautiful phrases in the context of raag structure and specific genre (form) such as khyaal, thumri.
• My interpretation of the rules of the raag is not only on the basis of tradition, but it has also logic, reason and novelty. There is a proper balance between tradition and modernity.
• I see that at any speed, design and clarity are maintained in my presentation.
• I have special love for sargam phrases.
• My singing has strong affinity towards Carnatic music — raagas, gamakas and sargam.
• I use complementary literary themes in vilambit and drut khyaals in the same raag to maintain the mood of the raag.
• I am conscious about the clarity in the pronunciation of words and use them to lend emotional colour to the phrases.
I sing khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa and bhajan in my public concerts. I also sing ghazals in private sittings. It is a challenge to maintain distinct characteristics of each genre. It helps me to reach my listeners having different tastes.
At times, I also sing thumri and daadraa in the same raag with complementary themes (like vilambit and drut khyaal). This is a new experiment but listeners have liked it.
12. One finds in your music a lot of influence of Carnatic music. Have you had any formal training?
Unfortunately, I did not get any opportunity to learn Carnatic music. I was exposed to Carnatic music when I was working with the All India Radio, Mumbai. I was very much impressed by their gamakas and sargam rendition. I wish I had some formal training in Carnatic music, it would have made my understanding of it easy.
13. What made you give full-fledged concerts of Carnatic raagas in Hindustani style?
Hindustani and Carnatic music are the two main systems of Indian music. The concepts of raag and taal are the same in both the styles; the two systems differ in their approach to these concepts. Their difference lies mainly in the ornamentation — the gamakas — oscillating the notes in a peculiar way and also in the treatment, arrangement and presentation of the musical material (saahitya, aalaap, taan, sargam). Naturally the resulting structures are different. The languages used in the two systems are also different.
The listeners of Hindustani music find it difficult to appreciate Carnatic music because of the ample use of gamakas (note oscillations) with which they are not familiar. The steady notes and slow glides in Hindustani music stand out against gamakas in Carnatic music. The problem of conditioning of the mind to a particular system is seen in the listeners of both the systems.
At the performance level, the borrowing of the raag scale and adapting it to the respective styles started long ago. To be able to understand and appreciate the other style it is necessary to know the stylistic nuances and expressions.
My attempt is to introduce these stylistic nuances of Carnatic music through specially composed bandishs in khyaal, taraanaa and also in daadraa and bhajan. Care is also taken to select raagas from Carnatic music which have no parallel scales in Hindustani music. For example, Hindustani Maalkauns resembles Carnatic Hindolam but Carnatic Kirwani has no parallel in Hindustani music.
This is not a transposition in totality of Carnatic raagas and Carnatic style to Hindustani music. This is an attempt to introduce Carnatic nuances into Hindustani style.
I am happy to see that audiences of both Carnatic and Hindustani music appreciate my effort.
14. As a musician, do you feel it necessary to get acquainted with the music of other countries?
Our technological age is continuously bringing us closer and closer. In recent years, therefore, our interests have become increasingly international in scope. We have to make sincere attempts to understand and appreciate each other, not only for smooth and better living, but also for survival with identity. Listening to music from other countries has inspired and stimulated my thinking, my creativity in music. It has also helped me to establish better rapport with non-Indian audiences. Music is said to be an universal language, but we forget that it is very, very culture-specific. It must be listened-to in its cultural context.
15. Which music has influenced your singing?
For many decades, I have been travelling extensively both within the country and abroad. Music of all the regions that I have encountered has touched my soul and given my music new dimensions. The fact is that, whatever I have listened, has made me think and I have imbibed things consciously, unconsciously I liked.
• South Indian music (Carnatic music) enchants me with its peculiar oscillations (gamaka) and sargam singing.
• Arabic music attracts me with its tonal quality, emotionally charged notes and its complicated twists.
• Film music has made me conscious of tonal quality of voice, ability to change texture, clarity of words, their musical pronunciation and effective emotional expression.
• Western music provokes me to think in new directions.
16. You have worked in Marathi professional musical dramas for few years. Did you have to learn naatya sangeet. Has naatya sangeet influenced your music?
Music is basically an auditary art. It transforms itself into visual art when it reaches us through media like dance, drama and cinema. This is because the respective medium has its own influence on it. Music gets composed according to the visual.
One must get trained before presenting a particular form on the professional stage. In my case, because of my classical, light-classical and light music background, I could present naatya sangeet effectively without any training. I picked up its nuances listening to it.
Drawing from classical to folk music, naatya sangeet has developed its own identity, its own indivualistic style. Specific harkats, swirling taans, singing the same line with variations, no strict adherence to the raag rules, mixing raags according to the singer’s choice, medium to fast tempo, clear diction of words with emotional appeal, overall catchy presentation — are some of the features of naatya sangeet. In addition naatya sangeet has a story to go with it, and also the glamour of actors and actresses — all this has a profound effect on common man. It is natural that musicians in Maharashtra also got influenced by naatya sangeet. However, with the entry of film music and its fast growing mass appeal, naatya sangeet was left behind.
At one time I used to sing naatya sangeet in my concerts, but later I left it as I found other forms more challenging. I don’t think naatya sangeet has influenced my music. Moreover, I like to keep different forms that I sing separate from each other. The reason why I left naatya sangeet is that one has to sing same harkats, same type of taans and same variations of the line; and also being in Marathi language it does not have much impact outside Maharashtra.
17. Between classical and light, which type of music do you like to sing?
I love both. They are complimentary to each other. In classical music, there is a lot of freedom for interpretation and individual expression. In lighter varieties, one is tied down to the words and the emotional content in them. Music comes here to beautify the words. It has no independent existence. I sing khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa and bhajans in my concerts and even ghazals in private sittings. It is nice to be able to sing different forms. Each has its beauty, demand and audience. One should know well how to keep them separate musically. Otherwise your khyaal can become thum-khyaal - a new variation of khyaal having lot of thumri expressions. We already have tapp-khyaal, where a khyaal rendition is influenced by tappa.
18. There are very few singers today, who sing khyaal and thumri equally well. Besides, you don’t sing the Kirana thumri which has typical Maharashtrian accent. Your thumri has a North Indian flavour and Prabha Atre stamp. How do you explain this?
Everybody cannot sing thumri because it demands certain versatility in voice modulation, a sensuous emotional expression, suitable temperament and imagination. Strangely, I never had any formal training in thumri and lighter varieties such as geet, ghazal and bhajan. When I was young, I have listened to Roshanara Begum, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and film actress-singer Noorjahan. I like both Punjab and Purab styles. In Purab style, there are long meends or glides with ‘pukaar’ and Punjab style has lot of murkis or ornamentations of unexpected note combinations. Besides, my interest in other kinds of music has enriched my thinking and expression. My strong background in classical music has also proved to be an asset in the elaboration of the thumri-text. Clear diction, judicious placement of words in the phrases, sensuous emotional expression, voice throw required for thumri singing, neat and compact presentation and certain amount of sophistication give my thumri a modern flavour.
19. Do you sing ghazals?
I love ghazal singing. I like its poetry which is rich in meaning and structure. Musically it is the most flexible form, which has borrowed from everywhere, developing into a beautiful genre. At times it sounds simple, but it can also be very complex in terms of tune and rhythm.
Like thumri, everybody cannot sing ghazal even if one has strong base in classical music. One has to have suitable temperament, flair and ability to express emotional content through voice modulation. In addition, one has to understand poetry well and the diction also has to be clear, especially when there are Urdu words. Today ghazals are written and sung even in other Indian languages and they have also become popular.
At one time, I used to sing ghazals in my concerts. But then I noticed that it does not go well with khyaal and thumri which are raag oriented genres. Ghazal is a word dominated genre. The poetry is important and also considerably long compared to khyaal and thumri bandishs. It builds up a different atmosphere.
Although I have given up singing ghazals in concerts, I enjoy singing them at home and at private mehfils. In 2008, during my 75th birth year, I have released a CD of live recordings of my Marathi ghazals, some of which are also penned by me.
20. But you sing bhajans in your concerts which are word-dominated and the poetry is long?
Music-wise bhajan singing fits into khyaal and thumri-daadraa genres, except that the poetry is long. It goes well with khyaal, thumri and daadraa. In addition, the poetry is devotional. It helps in building the total mood of the concert. Of course you have to choose bhajan which has a classical base.
21. What is the significance of the gharaanaa system?
See… what is important is that one should have a good base in music. The basic foundation must always be prepared by learning under one teacher. Once the student imbibes significant features of one style, he is ready for further development and creativity. Only then it is appropriate for him to get exposed to other styles. This is the significance of the gharaanaa system.
22. Do you feel that adhering to a gharaanaa restricts an artist’s creativity?
I don’t think a gharaanaa necessarily cramps an artist’s creativity; but at the same time one shouldn’t shut oneself from other gharaanaas. There is a lot to learn from exposure to other styles as well. When I was young, the main source to listen to music was the All India Radio. There used to be few live concerts and very few gramophone recordings available. There was very little exposure to music of other artists. The only source was guru and most gurus did not allow their disciples to listen to other musicians. There was no choice, but adhering to the system. Today artists have more exposure, more freedom. I am fortunate, my guru was very generous and broadminded. He allowed me to imbibe from other styles. I have learnt many things by listening to great artists.
23. Has guru-shishya paramparaa changed?
The old guru-shishya relationship does not hold good any more. Today, guru is not the only source of knowledge as he was some years ago. The advent of technology has converted music into a saleable commodity. One comes across market flooded with a large variety of music material — audio-video recordings, CDs. Then there are scholarly books on the theoretical aspects of music. For practical training there are music classes and academic music institutions offering degrees in music. By using these aids, a talented student can achieve a certain level without going to a guru.
24. Are you happy with your students?
There was a time when a student had to go in search of a good guru. Under the present circumstances, it is the guru who is in search of a good and faithful student.
I have had both good and bad experiences from my students. Well, one has to be fortunate enough to get good students — students who are talented, who have good voice, who are intelligent, hard working, dedicated, committed and faithful. The sole objective of the learner today seems to be gaining quick returns, fame and money by performing on radio, TV channels, bringing out recordings, giving stage performances, etc.
When a guru gives his lifetime’s learning, experience, time and energy, the least he expects from his student is that he will be given his due credit, especially when the student performs in public. There are people who take names of famous gurus under whom they have not learnt - learning one or two compositions is not learning in the real sense - just to promote themselves. Conversely, they would not think of mentioning the real guru’s name, who has slogged for years together to mould them, unless they felt they would benefit from such a mention. This is unfair and hurtful. If a student cannot bring any credit to his guru, the least he can do is not to hurt him.
However, it is true, there are teachers who exploit students. What is important and what matters is honesty and integrity on both sides.
There is no harm in learning different forms of music under different gurus at the same time only if necessary, but it should not be done in a clandestine manner. Just as one should not take treatment from two doctors for the same ailment at the same time (for his own benefit too), one should not learn the same form of music under two teachers at the same time unless he has mastered one style completely and is mature enough to decide what he wants. It is also a matter of ethics.
25. What are the important ingredients required for a vocalist?
For a vocalist, the main asset is voice. If the voice is not good, he may face instant rejection. It is like looking at a beautiful face and getting attracted without knowing the quality of its head and heart. Of course, the natural voice needs to be cultivated further.
Good breathing control is another important factor. Good tone and good breathing together can do wonderful things. The moment an artist thinks about an idea, he can present it with great ease. Voice is the only medium through which he can build his musical structure and good breathing is the backbone of good voice.
Good pronunciation of words and effective, proper projection of their emotional content are yet additional ingredients. Classical music conveys only musical meaning. A lay listener who is not conversant with the meaning of pure sound and rhythm patterns, perceives music through words and their meaning. The abstract quality of classical music takes on concrete meaning through judicious use of words in the phrases, in the development and elaboration of the raag and genre (form).
The singer has to update himself continuously and relate his singing to the contemporary scene. Although Indian music encourages blind imitation of the tradition, it also expects one to go beyond this stage and have his stamp as a creative artist different from his teacher and contemporaries. Sufficient insight and maturity are necessary for this.
26. What in your opinion should be the ideal accompaniment to vocal music?
The idea of ideal accompaniment varies from artist to artist. It should match with the artist’s style and his expectations. It must enhance the total effect of music that the artist intends to present.
Ideally, to create a fine, clean picture of music, a vocalist needs a plain curtain of base note and time cycle (taal). While taanpuraa provides a base note, rhythm instruments like tablaa/pakhaawaj, etc., provide taal (time cycle). Melody accompaniment is provided by instruments like haarmonium/violin/saarangi, etc., and also by voice (usually by disciples).
Hindustani music being an extempore presentation, there is a time lag between what an artist is singing and what the accompanist is playing. Accompanists naturally play on their instruments the previous phrase while the artist is already singing the next phrase. At times, the overlapping becomes very disturbing both for the artist and the audience.
Many-a-times accompanists go beyond the area that the artist is working in. They are expected to follow the main artist like a shadow and display their skill only when the artist gives room for such presentation. The volume of the speaker of accompanying instruments therefore needs to be adjusted as not to overpower the volume of the main artist.
Contrary to Hindustani music — major portion of the presentation in Carnatic music being pre-composed, accompanists go parallel and do not lag behind. It is also a practise in Carnatic music concert to offer almost equal opportunities to the accompanying artists for solo presentation.
27. You are a professional singer, what made you take academic work?
Academic study stimulates thinking. Thinking about different aspects of music stimulates creativity in performance. Blind following of tradition leads to stagnation.
28. How did academic background help your musical thinking?
It has helped me to look upon music with open eyes.
It makes me examine critically and objectively various things that are offered in the name of tradition and also helps me to seek new meaning of tradition in terms of our own times appropriate to what has come from tradition.
An academic background also helps in giving a broader perspective of the subject. In this mechanised age, we have defined many distinct fields of study and thought. Although each is confined to its own area, subject or topic, still each does bear a certain relation to many other fields. In case of music, it relates to psychology, sociology, physiology, physics, aesthetics, poetry, philosophy, etc. Thus, music needs to be studied and understood from different angles. Only then can one have a full understanding, complete experience of music.
29. What prompted you to work for a Ph.D. degree?
When one works for such a degree, one touches upon many points which one normally might not think enough about. This type of work helps reduce the gap between a performer and a theoretician.
30. Why did you choose ‘Sargam’ for your doctoral thesis?
The credit goes to our music critics and some senior musicians in Maharashtra. They objected to the use of sargam in vocal music for reasons best known to them. This made me think about the different aspects of sargam — its origin, its development, its utility in training, its potential in bringing variety in musical material and enriching overall expression of stage performance, its various styles of rendering, its ability to get adapted to various genres from classical to popular music. We can see that except folk music, sargam has entered into all types of music.
31. Despite your advocacy of sargam’s unique ability in enriching musical performance with strong reasons, some senior artists still oppose sargam usage in performance!
If one decides to use one’s authority and popularity for opposing sargam and satisfy one’s ego, what can you do? Do these artists have any logic, reasoning for not using sargam? It should not be a personal liking or disliking. In my Ph.D. thesis on ‘Sargam’ and in my books I have explained in detail why sargam needs to be used in training and performance. The multi-dimensinal ability of sargam has taken it to almost all genres from raag music to film, pop, fusion, jingles, etc.
One comment: “Sargam should not be used as aalaaps but as taans”. Another comment by those who at times use sargam in their concerts: “We use sargam only to make the listener understand our musical activity”, etc. Performance and lecture-demonstraton are for two different purposes. Why make performance a lec-dem? These artists do not want to accept that sargam has a distinct quality, utility and effect in music making like other musical material — aalaap, taan and bols. If they do not have objection for meaningless syllables in taraanaa then why do they object to the use of musically meaningful syllables of sargam? By expressing their views on sargam through media, these artists are not only confusing younger generation but are also doing harm to music as an art.
Sargam needs to be rendered meaningfully, aesthetically; otherwise, it is going to sound like ‘dry’ grammar. The limitation of an artist should not be projected as the limitation of sargam. I hope these artists will realise this soon.
32. Why did you leave your job at the All India Radio? Don’t you think it would have helped your career?
I loved my job at the AIR. It got me involved with different types of music - from folk, film, light to Carnatic music. It also gave me considerable exposure to Western music. Secondly, as radio is purely a microphone media, I realised the importance of voice culture and acoustics in tonal quality. Thirdly, it gave me an opportunity to conceive and produce new programmes, opportunity to learn the techniques of recording and editing. The required technical equipment and other facilities were easily available and I could experiment without any difficulty.
I do miss working on these areas, but then, one also looks for variety in life and betterment of oneself. After working for 10 years, I opted for being an independent singer.
33. Performers do not generally like to teach. Why did you take up a job at the SNDT University?
I joined SNDT University because of my strong interest in the academic study of music. Also, I honestly feel that teaching makes performance a conscious activity. It makes one think about the practical as well as theoretical aspects of music. One has to be clear in one’s mind about the ‘why this phrase’ and ‘why not that’ in music, in order to be able to satisfy the probing questions of the modern generation. The content of what is taught and performed, and its relevance to the old treatises and tradition on one hand and the changing times on the other, needs to be constantly reviewed. In a way, a performer is also a teacher. He teaches the masses how to listen and what to listen. He cultivates their taste indirectly. Performing and teaching can be complimentary. Only thing is that, like performing teaching is also an art. One has to cultivate it and also like it. Then only one can be a good teacher. I feel it is my responsibility to pass on the knowledge and experience I have gained to the next generation.
34. What do you think of music education in India?
Whatever music education is there - private or institutional, is not always being done quite properly.
I am a professional singer, a product of the traditional guru-shishya system. I have taught privately for nearly 45 years and for 13 years I was actively involved with institutional teaching. I find that both the systems lack in something because they take a singular approach. In guru-shishya system, the accent is on performance; while in institutional system, the stress is on the academic, theoretical study of music.
The traditional guru-shishya system needs to be supplemented by an enlightened theoretical education and the institutional system must make provision for individual training in performance. We have also to think about mass education to train listeners if we want to improve the quality of music in general.
There are many aspects of music and there are many fields related to music that have been ignored in music education. A satisfactory msuic education must offer a wide choice of activities. Again, it has to be job oriented. Only then, can we expect more people to get involved with music seriously.
35. With your modern, rational outlook towards music teaching, were you able to bring in changes at the SNDT University?
Yes, I think so. I left my job at the All India Radio so that I could have freedom to do what I wanted to. I had realised that only singing was not enough; I needed to go into other aspects of music — especially academic study to understand other aspects of music.
I am a science and law graduate. My personal interest and academic background had made me independently take exams in music. While working in the AIR I took Western Music Theory exams conducted by the Trinity College of Music, London. After leaving AIR I also did my doctorate in music.
I was happy when I got the opportunity to work as the Professor and Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Studies & Research in Music at the SNDT Women's University, Mumbai. The infrastructure and facilities required to study music from different angles, to understand its interrelation with other fields of knowledge was all there. Also there were different opportunities like seminars, work shops, lec-dems, training programmes, writing papers, etc., which helped me improve my knowledge about music, which stimulated my thinking and also enriched my performance.
After examining the existing syllabus, teaching methods, I realised that I had to work on these areas first. It has become essential for a student of music today not only to understand and appreciate his own music, but also the music of various other cultures and changes that take place when different music cultures come in contact with each other. This will not only help preserve, protect one’s own music-culture, keep its identity in tact, but at the same time enrich it through exposure to other music-cultures.
The syllabus I prepared was very comprehensive. It dealt with almost everything in Indian music and topics related to Indian music at exposure level. In addition to classical, light-classical and light music, it included folk music, film music, Maharashtra’s theatre music, Carnatic music, Western music, World music and other topics related to music like psychology, sociology, physiology, physics, aesthetics, poetry, cultural history, philosophy, religion, etc. Since there was no written material available on the respective topics, I had to meet, discuss with different experts, read relevant books and prepare notes for the students. I was also able to persuade some faculty members to write books on subjects like psychology of music, sociology of music, etc.
Along with theory I also managed to get Carnatic musicians who taught kriti, tillaanaa, jaavali compositions to our students. Just by reading theory how can a student of Hindustani music understand the niceties or learn to sing Carnatic music?
To prepare material on World music or Ethnomusicology was the most difficult task. The Indo-American Fellowship program helped me to undertake courses in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A. I collected some recorded music, books in consultation with the faculty there. All this came very useful. SNDT University, probably was the first to offer a course in ethnomusicology.
36. Should there be standardisation in the material and teaching methods of Hindustani music as it is in Carnatic music?
A standard, formal structure for a new student aspiring to learn Hindustani music should be there as it is in Carnatic music. The understanding of note positions, their different combinations and different laya (tempo) are the basic things a student has to learn in the beginning before he actually starts working on raag and taal. Once he is equipped with this material, it should be left to the guru and the potential of the student how the training should proceed. At present, I am working on the standardisation of the material to be taught to the beginner which will help him understand sur, lay, improve his voice range, stimulate his thinking to compose phrases in any given context, in different tempi and acquire skills to present the material effectively.
37. What is your experience with the universities abroad?
During my concert tours and teaching assignments at the universities abroad, I was exposed to research work and methods which encouraged new ways of thinking about a musical culture which included objectivity, analysis and communication. Unlike musicians in the West, who have generally equally well developed skills in theory and performance, musicians in India tend to remain passive, even scornful towards an academic approach to performance because they think it has no practical value. By and large, the guru-shishya paramparaa has also encouraged this attitude by demanding blind submission to the guru’s authority. Unfortunately, even if musicians are thoughtful, their lack of communication skills and formal theoretical training in music prevents them from effectively expressing their ideas. Hence, the typical image of the uncommunicative musicians.
38. Do you believe in raag-ras and raag-samay theories?
I am not a strict follower of these theories. I find them more of a conditioning of the mind. They have been deeply embedded in our psyche due to age-old practice. We have to understand that they have lost their relevance with the passage of time. Today we are away from nature, living in closed walls. Our life style has also changed considerably. How do you then relate raag and time?
Secondly, raag is an abstract concept. Attempts have been made to transform this abstract into concrete by providing visuals, associations, meaningful words, specific time of the day and night, etc. The ras experience therefore cannot be same to all. It is very much subjective and varies with each performer and listener depending on his upbringing and state of mind.
It is a fact that raag can be performed effectively without knowing its time, and so called ras. Similarly, a listener enjoys music without knowing its time and ras. Raag character is intrinsically related to its musical material, its treatment and tempo. Its characteristic phrases and their flow give it its musical identity. It is the quality of performance and the state of the mind of the performer and listener which are responsible for the enjoyment of raag. It is the aanandaanubhooti which is shared by both the performer and the listener.
The fact that ancient or later authors have not discussed ras theory in the context of raag means that they had realized that it would not be proper to apply ras theory to the abstract art like music, abstract concept like raag.
39. In a khyaal performance what do you achieve by dropping antaraa of vilambit bandish and reducing it to only sthaayi?
Why not drop antaraa if its pupose is served by sthaayee? Even in arts, survival is through necessity. For the sake of novelty, one can also add sanchaari, aabhog or convert it into ashtapaadi having 8 sections. Secondly, the purpose of khyaal genre is to project raag’s beauty and convey its musical meaning. The words of the bandish colour the notes with their meaning and also obstruct the formation and flow of the phrase. Thus, smaller the bandish, fewer the words, freer the notes from the words and their meaning. From ashtapaadi to dhrupad-dhamaar to khyaal is a continuous logical reduction in the length of the bandish — 8 parts to 4 to 2 to 1 part which we need to understand. Vilambit Khyaal is the only musical form which can maintain the abstract quality of music inspite of using meaningful words.
40. Can the deletion of antaraa of vilambit khyaal bandish be applied to madhyalay and drut khyaal bandish? Do you perform accordingly?
Before answering this question, one must take into consideration the fact that during elaboration whether it is vilambit khyaal or drut khyaal only the mukhdaa of the bandish is used. Entire sthaayi or antaraa is not sung every time the unit of improvisation is completed to land on the sam. Not only that, in the entire presentation of raag, the full bandish is sung once or twice with sthaayi and antaraa. In madhya or drut lay bandish, because of its tempo, singing of the entire bandish is important from the point of view of audience; singing only mukhdaa again and again may lead to monotony. The lay listener enjoys the raag through words of the bandish. Thus, in madhya or drut lay khyaal because of the tempo, bandish assumes separate identity. The audience enjoys raag more through bandish. For him the abstract in raag becomes concrete through words of the bandish.
I sing the entire bandish of madhya and drut lay khyaal;even repeat it two, three times because it assumes an independent entity. In a programme based on the compositions of classical music, only madhya and drut lay compositions are selected because tempo of the bandish makes it more appealing, more reachable to the common listeners.
41. Why are you called an avant-garde artist?
It could be because of my different thinking, different approach to music concepts, music material, treatment and presentation.
• Perhaps first research work on ‘Sargam’ and open advocacy in its favour by incorporating it in actual presentation since 1960s.
• Use of only sthaayi of the bandish in the presentation of the vilambit khyaal.
• Use of complementary themes in the compositions of vilambit and drut khyaal according to the name of the raag and time of the day.
• Interpretation of raags rules on the basis of logic, reason and novelty without deviating from tradition.
• Composing new raags.
• Treatment and presentation of semi-classical music — thumri, daadraa — giving it sophistication and modern flavour setting it apart from the rendition of the courtesans.
• Experiments towards exposing Hindustani music audience to the stylistic nuances of Carnatic music — helping in further enrichment of Hindustani music.
• Holistic approach towards the study of music — reflected in the syllabus prepared for Post-Graduate courses — M.A., and M.Phil., for the S.N.D.T. Women’s University, Mumbai as the Professor & Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Studies & Research in Music — first of its kind in the country — the syllabus covered different categories of music — Hindustani music, Carnatic music, Western music, World music (ethno-musicology), light music, folk music, film music, theatre music, and related subjects like psychology, sociology, physiology, physics, aesthetics, poetry, cultural history, philosophy, etc.
42. What do you think is your contribution to the field of Indian classical music?
Many generations of great musicians in the past have poured in their knowledge and experience in the vast ocean of music. My contribution is not even a drop. On the contrary, it is music which has contributed a lot in shaping my life. I am grateful to God for this precious gift. Music has taught me to look for beauty, purity, divinity and universality in whatever I do. It is the best medium to experience, express and share these fine qualities of life and nature around. I do not know about my contribution, but I have been doing various things:
• Preservation and promotion of Hindustani classical music by carrying forward the Kirana tradition .
• Propagation of Hindustani classical music by teaching students all over the world in both the traditional guru-shishya paramparaa as well as the institutional mode besides conducting workshops and giving lec-dems.
• Pioneer work through popularisation of Indian classical vocal music by giving full length vocal concerts, lec-dems, workshops all over the world since 1969.
• Academic books on the contemporary performance.
• Compositions in classical, light classical and light music.
• Standardisation of the teaching material for a beginner in Hindustani music.
• Established ‘Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation’ to cater to the multifarious activities relating to music in particular and the performing arts in general.
• Started ‘Swaramayee Gurukul’ to bridge the two systems of teaching — traditional guru-shishya paramparaa and institutional, for students aspiring to take music as profession.
• Organising music festivals such as the famous national level ‘Sureshbabu Hirabai Smruti Sangeet Samaroh’ and ‘Gaanprabha’ at Mumbai as well as the monthly ‘baithaks’ at Swaramayee Gurukul, Pune, wherein artists of all generations participate.
43. What do you consider is your most significant achievement?
I sing like Prabha Atre and nobody else. The joy of making good music and passing on the joy to my listeners is what I feel very good about. There are other related activities like composing, writing which have Prabha Atre stamp. This identity in the music world, I think is a significant achievement.
44. Are you in favour of theme-based programmes?
Yes. Theme based programmes make one think differently, stimulate creativity, and most importantly help to educate audience. I have occasionally presented theme-based programmes like:
• Bhairav prakaar — theme of the compositions in these raags is Lord Shankar. Bhairav is another name for Lord Shankar.
• Kauns prakaar — theme of the compositions in these raags is Lord Krishna — presuming that Kauns has some relation to Lord Krishna’s uncle Kauns.
• Malhar prakaar — theme of the compositions in these raags is monsoon season/rain.
• Kalyan prakaar — theme of the compositions in these raags is Lord Sri. Ganesha.
• Sur Sangam — Carnatic Raagas which have no parallel in Hindustani music are used in Hindustani style with compositions specially composed to emphasise sargam and the nuances – gamakas — special to Carnatic music.
• Light classical forms —presenting thumri, daadraa having complementary themes in the same raag one after the other like vilambit and drut khyaal in the same raag.
• Raagdarshan — presenting different genres like khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa, bhajan in the same raag — each genre brings out a different beauty of the same raag, maintaining its identity.
• Marathi ghazals and bhakti geet — presenting with classical music treatment whilst maintaining their identity.
Besides my own concert presentations, I have organised other theme-based programmes with the help of other artists like:
• ‘Stree guru vandana’ — all female gurus were felicitated for their contribution to their field of performing arts, and their disciples performed.
• ‘Women Musicians Festival’ (including women accompanists for tablaa and haarmonium), symbolising women empowerment.
• ‘Swar-nritya prabha’ — well known Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Sucheta Bhide Chapekar, Kathak dancer Smt. Yogini Gandhi and Odissi dancer Smt. Jhelum Paranjape choreographed items based on my compositions which were adapted for their respective dance form.
• ‘Naadavaleli akshare’ (syllables immersed in music) — programme based on my compositions in classical, light-classical and light music.
45. Why is classical music not popular?
Classical music is not popular mainly because we do not have enough knowledgeable listeners; knowledgeable, responsible critics; conscious patrons, sponsors; and effective government machinery. There is no provision to train our masses.
To be able to appreciate classical music, one must understand the meaning of pure sound and rhythm patterns — the musical meaning of music. To do this, one needs background, study and contemplation. The common man has no opportunities, no facilities to learn classical music. Moreover, he has no patience for this. He naturally turns to light music, which is word oriented, rhythm dominated and less of pure musical improvisations. This music is simple, full of emotions, has catchy rhythm and easy to identify with.
Secondly, classical musicians tend to give more stress on the theoretical aspects, on the technique, thereby making classical music dry and lifeless. They forget that theory is to guide the progression and technique is only the starting point. Unless classical music identifies itself with life, with nature, with known and the ‘unknown’, it will not reach common man.
Thirdly, we must realise that classical music is an abstract art and is not the music of masses. It is a product of a more deliberate aesthetic shaping process. A lot of thinking and experimentation has gone behind its formation. To expect classical music to become as popular as film music would be wrong.
46. How can classical music be popularised?
Does that mean that classical musicians have to attract lovers of popular or film music and make attempt to switch over their taste to classical music. Classical arts are always going to be appreciated by restricted audiences because people differ considerably in their abilities and tastes. With proper measures, the size of the audience can definitely be increased but it will never compete with pop audience. To take classical music to the masses, actually the issues to be considered are its changing patronage and the conscious, active participation of mass media, music institutions, and support from private and Government cultural institutions. A compulsory cultural training in schools and colleges will develop a wider perspective of life and promote better understanding of the classical arts.
47. What is the future of classical music?
Classical music will definitely live in some form as it has in the past —from ashtapadi to khyaal. Classical music represents purity, beauty, divinity and universality. It has that abstract quality which makes it comprehensive, covering known and ‘unknown’. Today’s most popular form - khyaal, representing classical vocal music has been changing and adapting itself to meet new situations, to cater to new demands. The new wave of ‘free expression’ that has entered every field has also affected khyaal considerably, but its fight to survive as a separate aesthetic form is really commendable. Let us wait and see what we get after khyaal.
48. What do you think of today’s audience of classical music?
The patronage of arts has passed from princes and aristocrats to the common man and commercial institutions. The new audience comprises common man, whose taste is cultivated by popular music. He is more demanding and less patient. The popularity of film music in general has brought with it a number of problems and responsibilities for the classical artist. The classical musician is expected to be well versed in all aspects of the art. He has to be proficient in practically all the forms - khyaal, thumri, bhajan, etc. He must be able to hold the interest of his listeners.
49. Why do we always talk of only classical music when it comes to music appreciation or music education? Don’t we need special training to appreciate other forms?
Yes, you are right. When it comes to music education or music appreciation, the focus has always been on classical music. This is because, to be able to perform or appreciate classical music, one needs some study, training or background.
I always wonder when people say, they like geet, ghazal, bhajan, film music, etc. Liking and understanding are two different things. Understanding and then liking is the ideal situation. Are we able to distinguish between good and bad music - whether it is classical, light or any other kind? Unless we understand the meaning of the structures that are created through sur and lay, we cannot claim to understand even lighter forms of music. There has to be special training for all types of forms from classical to folk. Encouraging, promoting right kind of music is everybody’s responsibility.
Again is music education only for performance? Even to achieve high level of competence we have to think about related aspects, activities, people involved in it like gurus, organisers, listeners, critics, teachers, writers, composers, instrument makers, audio technicians; dealers in CDs, videos, books; manufacturers of audio equipment; journalists, publishers, recording companies, academies, private institutions and so many others who ultimately help to enrich the content of music and its presentation. Music is also related to other disciplines like psychology, sociology, cultural history, physics, physiology, philosophy, religion, poetry, aesthetics, etc. Music is applied in areas such as physical exercise or aerobics, medical therapy, psychotherapy, plant therapy, etc. For each of these professions and specialised areas, a highly specialised training is necessary in addition to basic training, understanding of performance and the ability to analyse music.
The institutional system must make provision for individual training in performance and mass education to train listeners. Without enlightened listeners music cannot grow. It is they who will control the quality of the various forms of music.
It is seen that music is related to so many different fields of knowledge and they all cater to the excellence in music performance. To get more people involved with music seriously, music education has to be wider in its choice of activity and job-oriented. It must also provide economic incentive to pursue it as a vocation. Most importantly, music should not be only a means of entertainment.
50. What purpose do the ‘music festivals / conferences’ serve?
I am not sure whether today’s music festivals always serve useful or wholesome purpose. The conferences have created economic problems (publicity, high fees, etc.,) affecting our traditional chamber music concerts or mehfils which have not been merely venues of entertainment but also workshops where music is being made and revitalised by the mutual response of the musician and the audience. Instead, these conferences seem to foster the commercial elements —showmanship, playing-up to the gallery, so often dominant in our music today. That is why, I prefer to sing in mehfils.
51. What made you to go abroad?
Pandit Ravi Shankar has done a great work by introducing Indian music to foreigners. But what they heard was mainly instrumental music. A full concert of vocal music was a novelty to the non-Indian audience, then. My attempt was to expose them to the beauty of vocal music, which is the ‘soul’ of Indian music.
I am probably the first female Hindustani classical vocalist who toured extensively in the 1970s to give full-length concerts in the West.
52. What is the reaction of the western audience to our music?
By and large, people there are very appreciative. The discipline and receptivity of the audience is something that has to be seen to be believed. They are very sincere, serious listeners. They come prepared.
53. There are very few women music composers in classical and light music. When did you start composing?
It was my need. After my guru Sureshbabu Mane passed away, I could not go to others as I was very much attached to Baburao. I could not put anybody in his place. I wanted to sing raags I had not learnt from him. Where to get bandishs? Who would have agreed to teach me without making me his shishyaa? It was a lonely musical journey of search.
I discovered my ability to compose when I worked in the All India Radio. In the beginning although I composed out of necessity, I soon got interested, almost obsessed with the composition work. It was a new challenge to my creativity. It is really a great advantage to be able to compose. I think it is necessary to have a composition, which matches with and suits your style and temperament. It is wrong to mutilate somebody else’s composition to suit your requirements.
I am happy that my very first composition in raag Marubihag ‘jaagoo main saari raina…’ recorded with HMV company in 1971 is still very popular and when one talks about raag Marubihag they refer to my recording of Marubihag. Even after 40 years this record is selling very well. Almost every music loving family has this recording. After Marubihag, I started singing only my compositions in my concerts — whether khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa, bhajan or ghazals.
54. What are the special features of your compositions?
My compositions represent specific raag and form. They exhibit raag's beauty, suggest new directions to explore and develop raag structure; offer different points, centres in taal cycle for creativity and for landing on sam. The themes, words of compositions are simple and musical. They reach common listener directly helping him enjoy raag music.
55. Your compositions have been used for various classical dance forms. Did you have to compose specially for them?
It is necessary that one composes according to the type of a form, its demands. In my case it so happended that whether it was any dance form or any particular situation in a drama, the concerned artists used my composition they liked. Some changes had to be made in the compositions according to the needs, but the beauty of the original composition was maintained and the most important thing was that my permission was taken for such changes. On some occasions, I have also composed specially according to the demands. In a dance programme, the tempo has to match with the movements of the body, the foot work. The musical material like sargam, taan used in the composition has to go with the movements of the different parts of the body. I enjoyed watching my compositions taking concrete form through body movements and expressions – the abstract becoming concrete through dance.
56. Your compositions have also been used for Jazz and Fusion. Any special compositions for that?
The composition must represent the form. Listening to the composition, it should be possible to identify and name the form. It is not always possible that a composition composed for a particular form adapts itself to another form or medium. The main problem is taal and tempo. The contours of the bandish need to be changed accordingly. This is possible only if the composition has the potential. May be, my compositions meet this requirement. Whatever the medium, whatever the form, they colour themselves accordingly.
My student Susanne Abbhuel, a Jazz singer from Holland, has produced a recording using my compositions. I enjoyed listening to it immensely.
57. Have your compositions been published?
Yes. There was an increasing demand from the music lovers and students to publish my compositions. That made me work for ‘Swaraanginee’ which was first published in 1994. This is probably the first book of compositions by a woman performer who also happens to be a composer. The second edition of Swaraanginee and the second book of my compositions ‘Swaranjanee’ were published in 2006. The compositions cover khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa, tappa, chaturang and bhajans. Both the books are accompanied with illustrative CDs and notation.
The third revised edition of ‘Swaraanginee’ carries compositions of morning, afternoon and evening raags, while second revised edition of ‘Swaranjanee’ has compositions of night raags. In these editions there is addition of new bandishs as well as new forms covering dhrupad, dhamaar and trivat. Another new book ‘Swararangee’ comprises compositions only of light-classical music. Along with thumri, daadraa, Hindi ghazalsand bhajans, it also includes Marathi ghazals and bhakti geet. The three books together have nearly 500 compositions in all.
I feel happy that many students and artists are singing my compositions in their exams and programmes. These books have a demand outside India as well. The English version of these books has an added feature – it carries song-text meaning which will help reach non-Hindi music community.
58. Who wrote poetry for your compositions?
I do not know if one can call song-texts of my compositions as poetry. Unlike in light music, where one person writes poetry and another composes it, in classical music the poet and composer generally happen to be one. May be this is because, music comes first in classical music and words act as musical material. In my compositions words are musical and simple and they reach audience without any difficulty. I have not learnt Hindi language as such, but have a flair for it.
59. What prompted you to take to writing?
Like teaching, writing on music is also complementary to performance. It brings clarity and precision in one’s thinking and action. I have put down my thoughts and views in the form of articles. My articles have been on various musical themes written for different occasions. Classical music is an abstract art of sound and rhythm patterns which convey only musical meaning. Unless one understands this musical meaning, one is not likely to appreciate it. I wanted to reach lay listener through the medium he understands — words and involve him in my music making. ‘Swaramayee’ is a compilation of some of the articles. I was simply thrilled when this book got the Maharashtra State Government award in 1989. My second book ‘Suswaraalee’ is also a compilation of my articles. Madhya Pradesh Government Hindi Granth Academy has published Hindi translation of both these books in 1996. Swaramayee has entered into 4th revised edition while Suswaraalee (accompanied with an illustrative audio CD) has entered into 3rd revised edition.
60. Have you brought out any book in English?
Yes, there are two books. My first book ‘Enlightening the Listener: Contemporary North Indian Classical Vocal Music Performance’ was published in 2000. It is accompanied by an illustrative audio CD. I am happy that the book was released by our then Prime Minister Hon’ble Shri. Atal Behari Vajpayee.
‘Along the Path of Music’ is the second book which was released in 2006 by the then President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam.
Both the books have been published by one of the leading Indological publishers of the country M/s. Munshiram Manoharlal of Delhi. They have been well received by academicians, musicians and lay listeners — in India and abroad.
61. What inspired you to write poetry?
My mother has written stories and poems for children. May be I have inherited that talent.
I am not a poetess. Poetry is just an extension of my musical expression. ‘Antahswar’, was released by the well known poet Mangesh Padgaonkar in 1997. Most of the poems express my musical experiences. Antahswar is probably one of the first books expressing musical experiences through poetry. It was translated into English by Prof. Susheela Ambike and was published in 2007.
62. There is considerable amount of writing related to technical aspects of various fields of knowledge. However, such work does not find place in literary meets/festivals. The same is with literary awards. What do you think?
It is a fact that technical, theory related writings on arts – performing and non-performing; on science, technology, nature, wild life, tourism, sports, etc., are not looked upon as ‘literature’. It is only novels, stories, poetry and likewise popular forms which go under ‘literature’. If literature is the mirror of nature and human life, then reading material specially prepared for the subjects like science, technology which are also part of today’s life need to be considered as literature. It is a very difficult task to develop effective language for communication in technical fields. For this, experts from respective fields have to coin new words, develop vocabulary and create suitable language to describe concepts, principles, theory and related technical processes to make communication workable. In fact, ideally experts from literary and technical fields should come together and try to come up with a standard language for communication in such fields.
It is necessary that writings in all fields should be recognised by suitable awards and honours. The panel of judges should include technically knowledgeable people with writing skills along with experts from literature who have knowledge in other subjects. It is the duty and responsibility of cultural institutions and state governments to assess and honour the contributions of individuals and organisations in all fields including literature.
63. What do you think of music as a career for women?
India is a modern, democratic nation. Nationalism and renewed interest in the traditional values were important aspects of the 20th century. Arts have acquired a new dimension in today’s age of science. This new consciousness gets expressed in the way music and musicians are respected in the society today.
The status of women has improved considerably with the result that our society’s attitude towards women in performing arts has also changed. However, there are difficulties of the profession itself.
The commercial element which has entered into the world of music today has created new problems. Public relations and publicity have become most important part of the profession. A woman musician surely has problems unless her family members — father, brother, husband, son, other relatives, friends help her in ‘public relations’ work or she takes help of some agency. I think that only with sincere love towards music can one hold on to this profession.
Secondly, there is no security. One has to be patient, hardworking and prepared for sacrifice.
Thirdly, since family unit is the primary cell of Indian society and the role of women is still that of a wife and a mother, her career would have to be fitted into the duties at home, which call for quite a bit of compromise.
64. It must not have been easy for you to make a career in classical music?
You are absolutely right. First of all, I don’t have any family background in music. Nobody in the family had even listened to classical music. Then, my guru Sureshbabu Mane died early. Hirabaiji also retired from the performing field early for health reasons and most important of all, I have no Godfather, no community support.
Secondly, this field has changed considerably. Public relations now play an important role in publicity and image building and temperamentally, I am not a very social person. Under these circumstances, I cannot expect anything better. Of course, my listeners have always been with me. It is only on their unflinching support that I have come this far.
The words and letters of praise of my listeners are a great treasure for me. I feel encouraged when I see my listeners taking notice of my work in the field. I am very happy with my audience. They have made me ‘Prabha Atre — the artist’.
65. Because of the uncertainty of the profession as a classical musician, do you believe that it is important to have an alternative career option…? Isn’t it practical to do so?
It is always nice to have an alternative. It leads to an added sense of security. However, achieving excellence in the desired field requires 24 hours dedication and sacrifice expecting no returns. I think this also applies to other professional fields.
66. Today the number of artists creating new raags is far more than it was before. Is there so much dearth/need of raags? Have you composed any new raags?
We have a vast treasure of traditional raags and their compositions. The scope or freedom a musician gets in Hindustani music to create ‘new’ in already existing raags is unlimited and unparallel. Creating ‘new’ in existing raags is more difficult than creating new raags. However, it is the artist’s urge, need, and that is why each generation has added new raags, new compositions which have stood the test of time.
I have created few raags like Shivkali, Ravee Bhairav, Kaushi Bhairav, Bheemvanti, Apoorva-Kalyan, Bhoop-Kalyan, Patdeep-Malhar, Darbari-Kauns, Madhura-Kauns, Bhinna-Kauns, etc., and also composed about 500 bandishs in various raags. I have tried to assimilate changes taking place in the field of music and communicate something different through these raags and bandishs. I am glad listeners have liked them.
67. It is said that artists today take lot of liberties both with established raags and traditional bandishs. What do you say?
Lack of standardization, strict adherence to bandish, predefined development of raag, and in addition, the movement of free expression in the field of classical music — because of all this there is no accountability. ‘Who’ will ask ‘whom’?
Firstly, there are gharaanaa-wise differences in the same raag. Secondly, there is no written music, but only oral tradition.
During extempore structuring of raag, the changes are introduced slowly, subtly, knowingly, unknowingly. These changes get assimilated in the stream with time and later become tradition. Music thus keeps on changing, growing by these subtle changes. The changes come to stay when they are accepted by the lay and knowledgeable listeners. However, there should be some logic, thought behind what one does and consistency in the presentation.
In cases where the artists play with the notes of the raag at their whims, without following raag rules, why not prefix word ‘mukta’ to the name of the raag? For e.g., mukta Bhoop, mukta Bageshree, etc., In thumri, daadraa performance, this practise is already in vogue — word ‘mishra’ is prefixed to the name of the raag to allow notes not in that raag. For e.g., mishra Khamaj, mishra Tilang, etc.
A creative artist has always taken freedom to interpret raag rules in the context of changing times and logic. But he must always remember his responsibility not to misuse this liberty by using his authority and popularity.
68. Your rendering of a few raags like Maarubihaag, Shyaamkalyan, Jogkauns, etc., differs from that of your peers and contemporaries. Can you please share your thought as regards this.
Raag is an abstract concept in Indian music. It comes into being in a seed form in the creator’s mind and keeps growing like a mighty tree, maturing through contemplation, deep reflection, and its actual presentation by its creator as well as by other artists who take a liking for it.
It is because of this limitless potential of a raag that every time it comes to life through performance, it takes a new look. The freedom an artist gets in interpreting the raag rules has further made it possible to bring variety in raag’s structural details. However, while deviating from the established norms, there has to be pre-thought, good reasoning and logic. Not only that, one has to be consistent while detailing the raag structure.
Yes, some of the raags that I sing sound different. It is because the way I approach its structure, the way I interpret its rules. However, I am aware of what I am doing. It is not taking liberty or acting according to whims. It is a conscious decision, act. For e.g., In Maarubihaag, I avoid using Shuddha Madhyam because Maarubihaag can do without Shuddha Madhyam and can still maintain its characteristic features. Shuddha Madhyam shows its face occassionally like Komal Nishaad in raag Kedar. Similarly, in raag Shyaamkalyaan, I emphasise Kalyaan ang without breaking raag rules. In Jogkauns I use Komal Nishaad like in raag Jog. The main point is how one presents one’s thoughts in actual performance with consistency.
Raags are also governed by science – shaastra. I am happy that my ‘so called’ deviations have been accepted even by knowledgeables and they have come to stay.
69. Can a raag like Darbaari be sung or played in 14 minutes. Do you feel this is far too short a time?
It is not the length of time that brings out the essence of a raag. We have recordings of old masters wherein they have sung or played raags effectively in 4 to 5 minutes.
70. Some classical musicians claim their music to be ‘divine’, ‘that they get connected with the supreme’, etc. What about your music?
As far as I am concerned, I want to be a good musician. I want to be sincere with my art, my profession and my audience. As you can see, music today has become a saleable commodity and all marketing strategies are being used by the musicians to get the top position in the field — exhorbitant fees, five star hotels, executive class travel, glamour, media exposure, publicity and other similar demands are well known. The more expensive artist, the more sought after he becomes. This situation has worsened with the corporate sponsorship promoting a few.
We are paid performers; in a way entertainers. I do not know if we can call our music as divine. It can only be good or bad music. The least we can do is, to be honest to ourselves, to our art, and audiences.
71. We have stories like raag Deepak setting fire, raag Miyaan Malhaar bringing rains. Do you believe in this?
Sound definitely has power. It has effect on mind and nature. Sound therapy is also gaining importance. May be in future, by combining certain sounds we can expect rains. However in recent years, I do not know, if any musician has brought rains by performing Malhaar or lit lamp by singing Deepak.
72. Should Indian Classical musicians do fusion music, which is catching on?
The fact that fusion music is catching on, reflects on us — the listeners. In today’s commercial world, music has become a saleable commodity. Perhaps, it is the need of the time, and that is why, Indian classical musicians are drawn towards fusion. There can be various other reasons also in addition to ‘creativity’. Fusion in itself is not a bad music. We must give it time to evolve and mature. I only wish that musicians involved in fusion music help popularise good classical music. Every form of music has to stand the test of time. Let us wait and see —what happens with fusion music or which path it takes in future for its survival.
73. Should classical artists do films?
Why not? If one is talented, one can do many different things. Why only films?
74. Should artist get involved in social movements? Are you associated with any social work?
Yes. He must. Artist is also an important member of the society. He should actively support social causes and movements. What is minimum expected is that he be sensitive to the needs of others and actively participate at least, in his area of interest, work and not leave the movements only for activists and the affected.
The credibility of an individual will depend on the issue for which he stands, voices for. We have seen people of eminence — of all ages and walks joining the Indian freedom struggle.
I have tried to do my bit by associating with socio-cultural and educational institutions. I have been an active member of Spic Macay and Sanskar Bharati. I have also held various positions in different organisations and today chair the Rasta Peth Education Society which caters to the educational needs of the economically and socially backward eastern parts of Pune. I have supported and participated in the anti-corruption movement.
75. Don’t you think that good performers should take the lead to educate the audience? If they don't, mediocrity, gimmickry in music would take over and be recognised as the best?
I wonder if our artists are conscious of their responsibility towards the society. ‘Survival of the fittest’ applies to music also. But to realise that ‘fittest’ is not necessarily the ‘best’, will take time. In this context, we need to think about music education for general public. We need to introduce music in our general education — right from Kindergarten. At least we can inculcate taste for good music, we can make our audiences aware of good and bad music. An educated audience can put a check on music and musicians, and help music grow in the right direction.
I in my small way, ‘am educating the audience through singing, teaching, writing.
76. Is live-audience for classical music dwindling? Where do organisations like Sanskar Bharati and Spic Macay stand in their contribution?
It is true that the audience factor has become unpredictable. Tickets, no tickets, upcoming artist or senior, popular artist — you cannot make any equations. This is true also for films which is a very popular medium.
Organisations like Spic Macay, Sanskar Bharati, etc., are definitely making efforts to educate listeners. But this is not enough. Music must become a part of our general education. There has to be a provision for mass education.
77. Are music companies serious about their job? Are they promoting classical music? Are they promoting new talent?
Recording companies are not charitable organisations. They want to make money. If consumers fail to do their job seriously, they cannot be blamed. Listeners like variety in terms of artists, raags, themes; so they get exploited — different combinations of raags, themes, artists under different titles; but the contents remain the same. Whom do you blame?
78. Should there be corporate sponsorship?
Corporate sponsorship has become indispensable. They have not only spoilt our artists and audiences, created financial problems; but have also brought in commercial element into music. Artists are asking for more and more money and audience don’t want to pay to listen to classical music.
Under the present circumstances, without corporate sponsorship, how are the organisers going to pay artists’ fees running into lakhs? Are artists willing to accept what comes through only gate sale tickets? It’s a vicious circle now with no immediate solution. The interesting part is, to become a popular, star artist one has to work systematically, consciously. Talent alone does not give one that position.
I only wish that the corporate houses support the ‘cause’ and not promote particular artists.
79. What do you feel about reality shows?
I feel that reality shows are on of the best media for talent hunt. Besides, the contestants also get required financial support for training. They are taught how to present themselves and their art, how to communicate with the audience, etc., However at times one wonders, ‘whether things are going too far?’ One can understand that one should have pleasing manners on the stage. But, the increasing dance element in such programmes is alarming. Music is primarily an auditary art. Should it be transformed into visual art and to what extent?
What is going to happen to these talented youngsters? Will they stay with their art? Will they grow? Who is going to take care so that they do not go crazy with the money and fame they receive overnight. Should there be any undertaking from these candidates so that they continue with their training in music seriously. It is important that they are provided with good education and facilities to progress.
Secondly, reality shows on TV channels are based on film music. The direction in which film music is going today, one finds less and less of Indianness. The influence of Western or non-Indian music is on the increase. It is not that the ‘new’ music is bad. But no TV channel seems to think seriously about Indian classical music that represents our great tradition and culture. Will not this lead to forgetting our identity? Common man is already moving away from Indian classical music as a result of continuous hammering of ‘new’ popular music through these shows.
80. What do you mean by fusion music?
Fusion means coming together of two different things and emerging into a third entity. In the context of music, when music from different cultures interact with each other and come up with a new form, it is fusion music.
Music has been changing with time and it would be wrong to name this music as fusion music. It is a natural process of evolution. From Vedic music to the present day khyaal representing raag music is a long journey. Can we call this journey a journey of fusion music? Can the ‘give and take’ between various gharaanaas be termed as fusion music? Is tapp-khyaal a fusion of tappa and khyaal or thum-khyaal a fusion of thumri and khyaal? We must understand that tapp-khyaal and thum-khyaal are not fusion music, they are modified forms of khyaal. In this case, two forms having common elements like milk and water have been mixed with each other. However, mixing milk and lemon will give a totally different product — paneer. This is fusion. If one does not agree with this logic, then we have fusion music since ancient times, and all musicians are fusion artists.
Indian film music has used the concept of fusion very nicely and has offered excellent examples of fusion music. Elements like note combinations, expressions, voice throw, manipulation of tonal quality, instruments having different tonal quality and playing different beat combinations from different cultures have been taken and used effectively in film music. The concept of harmony used in Indian film music is the best example of Fusion music.
81. You are a classical singer. Do you listen to film music, pop, or similar type of music?
Every music has something ‘good’ to offer and we must look for this ‘good’. To me, music has only two categories - good and bad. We all know that, all classical music is not good music only because it happens to be classical music; similarly all film music is not bad. Our problem is that we are conditioned in our listening habits. In fact, film music has widened the scope of Indian music. It has projected a different side of Indian melody and has given birth to Indian `harmony’. The variety film music has presented before us in terms of tunes, rhythms, tonal textures, expressions, structures, etc., is amazing.
I agree that pop and disco music is very ‘loud’, at times even noisy. But it has made even the common man turn to music. I am sure eventually, this form will mature and make people aware of the beauty of sound and rhythm. In fact, what we should be doing is, to exploit these light forms consciously to propagate classical music.
82. What do you think is the reason for not having reality shows based on classical music?
Reality shows for classical music on TV channels have many problems. It is very difficult to present classical music in 4-5 minutes as is heard in the recordings of maestros of yester years. It needs a lot of expertise and experience. Each participant needs to be given atleast 10-15 minutes. Can TV channels afford giving this much time? Will they get sponsors? The most important thing is that audience for classical music is very small. A good listener of classical music requires training, background. Does the listener have time? It is important that programmes projecting Indian culture and classical arts are looked upon as a socio-cultural responsibility. This responsibility needs to be shouldered consciously from government to common man. Will our TV channels look into this issue with due seriousness and give place to Indian classical music in their programmes?
In 2008 during my 75th birthyear celebrations, ‘Swaramayee’ (group of my admirers and students) organised in different cities, music and dance programmes based on my contributions. As a part of the celebrations they had also organised “Amrut Prabha’ - National Classical Vocal Music Competition’ based on my compositions in classical, semi-classical and bhajan categories. The competition was broadcast serially on DD Sahyadri national TV channel. It was heartening to note that the entries for the competition had come-in from abroad also. I think anything is possible if one is committed to the ‘cause’.
83. What do you think of newspaper criticism?
Being a part of the mass media, newspaper coverage/criticism today has become a powerful means of publicity and, therefore, one can imagine what important and crucial role the critic plays in shaping public opinion about an artist and his art. Unfortunately, the importance of serious criticism is realised by few. Authority, sincerity, sense of responsibility, awareness of the changing times, practical experience, honesty and objectivity are some of the things one looks for in criticism.
It is a sad situation that with the working knowledge of music and writing skill, anybody can become a music critic today. Rarely musicians and critics have a cordial relation. There is a great danger that the future scholars of music might look upon these reviews, articles as source material for their research work.
We do not realise that music criticism is a serious discipline and needs special training. Ideally, only such candidates who have academic orientation, who have training in music can perform a little and have good writing skills should be employed by the press.
84. Although one of the best, finest musicians, how is it that you are the least recorded artist commercially? Same with your public concerts, radio and TV programmes.
I have not been a career conscious artist, although I have taken music as a full-time profession. I am to be blamed for keeping myself away from the media like Aakashvani (radio), Doordarshan (television), recording companies and other publicity channels.
I worked with the All India Radio for 10 years; and at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai for 13 years. I also worked as Producer-Director for Swarashree Recording Company for many years. But it never occurred to me to use my positions to project myself. Let alone this, I did not even accept offers that came my way. I have lost many opportunities like this from career point of view. My admirers feel bad and blame me for this. But I am made differently.
Friends keep telling me, “It is the need of the time that one has excellent public relations and good knowledge of marketing technique. One has to be in the lime light all the time. Who has time to find out what you are doing?” I think there is some truth in this. One needs a different saadhanaa for this. I am not at the beginning of my career. So it does not matter now. What matters is, I sing well. Temperamentally, I am most comfortable and happy communicating with my audience — singing in a mehfil. I have been able to survive in the field fairly well, and that too without much publicity. Isn’t that great? Well, I realize with good planning and conscious efforts, things could have been better.
85. There is a long gap between your first LP and later recordings. How many recordings are available in the market today?
There is a gap of almost 20/25 years between the release of my first LP and the later recordings. I am to be blamed for this. There were many opportunities, but I did not take them seriously. Today I realize, how important it is to have your recordings in the market to reach your music lovers. Through them you get continuous exposure and this way you bring your listeners closer, build your career.
I think there are about 20 recordings in the market which include khyaal, taraanaa, thumri, daadraa, bhajan and ghazals. Some more will follow soon…
86. Don’t you find it strange, that despite your acclaimed and well acknowledged accomplishments as outstanding performer, composer, academician, writer and guru, you have figured in the list of Government awardees very late? Also you are not a regular member of the Government delegations sent abroad.
I wish we all know the basis or the norms, the expert committee follows for preparing their list of awardees and selecting delegates for abroad on official tour, etc.
I agree that from career point of view continuous exposure through mass media, Government invitations, awards, etc., are very important. But temperamentally, I am not very social, career-oriented. I am most happy when I do my riyaaz, when I sing for my listeners. Talent and success do not necessarily always go together. God has given me a precious gift — music. Listeners are my biggest award. When it comes to material gains, I take an attitude of ‘wait and watch’.
87. How did you feel about receiving the ‘Padma...’ or other national awards?
Of course, I felt happy. Better late than never. You know, my Padmashree award itself came very late, when I was sixty. Then again there was a long gap of twelve years and came Padmabhushan. I wonder if I will be alive to receive higher awards.
As long as one is active in profession, awards do matter. They are regarded as the indicator of his success as a musician. But how many are aware that awards are not necessarily given on the basis of talent, scholarship.
In my case, Government recognition has come very late. It is almost like receiving “Wah, Wah” appreciation after the concert is over. I am sorry to say this, but, a timely reward is very important in an artist’s life. I have observed that those who manage to keep themselves in limelight and maintain good PR are considered most eligible for such awards irrespective of their expertise and contribution. Media is also playing a great role in building image of these artists.
I have been in this field for nearly sixty years with no PR. Is it not strange that when the entire music world recognises and appreciates my work and achievements, the government machinery takes long time to notice and that too not with deserving reward.
At the same time I would also like to say that awards give only momentarily happiness. The real award for a musician is his success in music itself and his listeners - without them, awards have no meaning. They remain either on the paper or sit in the cupboard. I would only say that one should have faith in one’s talent so that one does not lose heart.
I pray God that he blesses me with good music till my last breath and my listeners to share my joy.
88. Do you feel that the governments are doing enough for the cause of music and musicians?
This issue needs to be attended at two levels — state and centre. The responsibility of promotion and propagation of music primarily lies on the state governments and later comes the central government into picture.
The state governments need to identify the art forms, artists, assess their contribution and later document them for archival purposes. They should also promote and propagate these various art forms, give due recognition to the artists at proper time and recommend their names to the central government for important positions, awards, foreign delegations, etc. The members of the selection committee should have credibility. These experts should be from the respective art forms. There should be a separate award for each art form — both at the state and centre. The centre has also to formulate the norms on which the states should work in this regard. It goes without saying that there needs to be transparency at every stage.
89. Are you satisfied with the way in which Maharasthra Government is working in this direction…
The situation in Maharashtra is not very happy. It pains to say that, while most of the states have separate academies for various art forms, which are active and also doing great work of documentation, Maharashtra Government did not have one for a long time. It is now quite some time that an akademi (supposed to be working for all art forms) has been there, but for reasons unknown, it has not been functioning.
Another important point is that many artists from outside have found Mumbai, Pune very remunerative from all aspects and therefore have decided to stay in Maharashtra. These artists are at an advantageous position. They are recognised both in their home state and also in Maharashtra. There is nothing wrong in this. But, the plight of the artists who are born in Maharashtra, but poor in Public Relations fail to attract the attention of the Government machinery and do not get due recognition. They are also not considered by other states for any honour as they are ignored by their home state.
In fact, it is the responsibility of the state government to identify deserving personalities and honour them befittingly at the proper time. Unless these measures are followed strictly, the state cannot do justice to arts and artists. It is the responsibility of the state to see that their artists are honoured and represented at the centre and at various other diasporas at proper time.
I am a proud Maharashtrian — born, brought up and settled in Maharashtra. What has the Government of Maharashtra done for me in my 80 years? I cannot think of a single occasion when the Government of Maharashtra has offered me even a flower for my accomplishments. Talent, merit and contributions have no place in government machinery. Those who cannot promote themselves have to take a back seat. It is surprising that without any State Government support, I have received recognition in terms of awards/honours at National and International level.
90. Have you any regrets?
This question has two facets.
It is nice to be able to sing and share that joy with others. It is equally nice to be able to enjoy good music. Music has opened before me an undescribable beauty of sound. This beauty cannot be compared with anything around in the world. It has made me look inside, helped me meditate and go close to that ‘unknown’. Music has given meaning to my existence.
Well, when you look at music as a profession, to be in it is not a very happy situation. It is no more merit-oriented. Publicity has assumed unthinkable dimensions. Public relations, glamour, image building are directly related to money, fame, awards and many such things. You have to learn to blatantly promote yourself to sell, say like any other commodity in the market. Otherwise you sit at home and be happy with whatever comes your way.
91. What made you to start your Foundation?
I have been organising programmes related to music on and off since 1965. I had established ‘Sur-Bahar’ music circle and organised bi-monthly music programmes and music festivals at Rang Bhawan (open air theatre at Mumbai) between 1965 - 1970. Since 1991, I have been organising a national level music festival ‘Sureshbabu Hirabai Smruti Sangeet Samaroh’ in memory of my gurus, the doyens of the Kirana gharaanaa, where senior as well as talented artists of the next generation are participating and keeping the classical tradition alive. Three to four thousand music lovers attend this festival which has become the major music festival in Mumbai. I have also been organising ‘Gana Prabha’ festival since 1999 to provide a platform for young talented artists.
I realised that having an institution would help organise such festivals and other activities related to performing arts. Thus ‘Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation’ took its inception in May 2000.
92. What are your future plans?
I am working on a few projects:
• I have started ‘Swaramayee Gurukul’ at Pune in April 2003, as one of the major steps in fulfilling the objectives of my Foundation. It has been a dream project of mine to set up a unique institution which houses a gurukul wherein talented students aspiring to take music as a professional career can stay and equip themselves to meet the challenges of the profession. I believe, by housing students of music and helping them to focus only on music, I will have better results. In a way gurukul system ensures total dedication to the art.
To facilitate this, Swaramayee Gurukul has been providing training aided by a small auditorium, library of audio-video recordings and books, facility for audio-video recording etc., It also provides a platform for mehfils, seminars, workshops, discussions, press conferences, etc.,
The institution aims to bridge the prevailing gap between the academic institutions and the traditional guru-shishya paramparaa.
I am working towards establishing the infra structure. I wish the institution receives national and international recognition. I owe this to my nation, society, gurus and audience.
• There is a continuous demand from my students and music lovers to come-up with audio-visual recordings which will help in learning and appreciating (with understanding) Hindustani classical music.
• To publish a book on standardisation of teaching material for the beginners in Hindustani music, something similar as in Carnatic music.
• And most importantly, to sing till the last breath and keep composing, writing, teaching.
93. What is the greatest challenge for you as a performer of classical music?
Classical musician has to face audience, the members of which are at different levels in terms of understanding technical aspects. He has to reach to all of them — critics, musicologists, connoisseurs, lay listeners, etc., and make them participate in the making of music. I believe this is the greatest challenge for a classical music performer.
94. How do you feel completing 80?
That I am with my music at 81 is the happiest thing in my life. Taking even one step on the path of saadhanaa is difficult. I have walked a long way. It is comforting and encouraging to know that at 81 I am not alone. I have a big family of admirers and students. I have to keep walking. The journey of saadhanaa is an unending journey of search for perfection. I am sure that my music lovers will be with me with the same love and warmth in my future endeavours. I thank them all.
95. What makes you going?
One has to have dreams to fulfill. The feeling of incompleteness, striving for perfection makes me going and I know it is an unending path.
96. What is the ideal of your music?
My music should have Prabha Atre’s stamp. Meaning, my music should identify with me; in the sense that it should reflect my thinking and my musical values. It should have qualities of both the heart and the head. It should sing through time and place i.e., it should not be confined to a place or period, but it should strive to be universal.
97. What fears you the most?
With ageing if I am unable to sing what I want to — fears me the most. I do not know if I will be able to cope up with such a situation. I only pray God that he takes me away before something like this would happen.
98. What is your average day like?
I get up around 5.00 A.M., do some exercises, yoga, pooja and sit with my taanpuraa. Then, a couple of students, little housework, incoming phone calls, correspon-dence, reading, listening, watching TV, visitors, some students, more music, cooking etc., and then bed-time. However, everything I do is connected with music. I believe that music is a 24 hours job.
99. Are you religious minded?
Yes, I believe in God. He has given me precious gift — music. Music is my religion. I worship music.
100. Given a chance to start all over again, what would you want to be and why?
Of course, a musician. I am still far from my ideal. It is a saadhanaa of many births. I would like to be a saadhak always and then a performer.
101. What do you want to be remembered as?
A good human being.
'5th Swarayoginee Dr. Prabha Atre shaastreeya sangeet puraskar' distribution ceremony, Tilak Smarak Mandir, Pune - 14-9-2014
Pt. Vijay Koparkar receiving the 'Swarayoginee Dr. Prabha Atre shaastreeya sangeet puraskar' from the hands of Dr. Prabha Atre. Seen are (left to right) Sri. Sharang Natu of Tatyasaheb Natu Foundation and Sri. K.G. Dharmidhikari, Chairperson - Gaanvardhan, Pune.
|Pt. Vijay Koparkar giving a Hindustani classical vocal music concert accompanied by Sri. Srikant Bhave (tabla) and Sri. Rahul Gole (harmonium).|
RASTA PETH EDUCATION SOCIETY, Pune
invites you for
awards instituted by Dr. Prabha Atre in memory of her beloved parents
Guruvarya Aabasaheb Atre Puraskar to
Sri. Anna Shirgaonkar (social activist from Dabhol)
Indira Aabasaheb Atre Puraskar to
Sri. Milind Sabnis
(teacher from Pune, hailed for research on national songs)
at the hands of noted educationist
Dr. S.N. Navalgundkar
Abasaheb Atre open air theatre, Rasta Peth Education Society premises
(352,Somwarpet, Aabasaheb Atre Chowk, opp. Ladkat Petrol Pump, Ph: 26120449)
Time:Saturday - 30th November 2013 at 5-30 p.m.
"Amrut Prabha" – National Classical Vocal Music Competition’
"Reality shows are bombarding TV audience..."--Santoor Maestro Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma
"Provide platforms to the talented youth of classical performing arts."--Dr. Prabha Atre speaks at National classical vocal music competiton based on her compositions
Pune, 7th Nov. 2008: ‘National Classical Vocal Music Competition – Amrutprabha’ based on the compositions of Dr. Prabha Atre was held in honour of her contributions to Indian music on the occasion of her completing 75th birth year. Dr. Atre is amongst the very few Hindustani classical vocalists who is not only an outstanding performer but also a brilliant thinker, distinguished composer, noted academician, acclaimed author, revered guru and sensitive poetess.
’Swaramayee’ – a group of Prabha Atreji’s admirers from all over India’ had organized the competition with an objective to explore and promote the best available talent in and outside the country. The competition included classical, semi-classical and bhajan categories. Candidate in the age group of 20 to 40 years, not ‘A’ graded artist of AIR were eligible to participate. Recordings received from all over India and abroad were assessed by an expert panel. The final round of the competition had participants performing who were from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chattisgarh and West Bengal. Dr. Suhashini Koratkar, Dr. Vikas Kashalkar, Dr. Shobha Abhyankar and Pt. Vijay Bakshi judged the competitors.
Ms. Chetana Banawat of Rajasthan bagged the First Prize in Classical, second prize in semi-classical and bhajan categories. Ms. Arati Thakur of Maharashtra won the first prize in the semi-classical music category. While Ms. Mrunmayee Siknis of Maharashtra won the second prize in the classical music category the third prize was shared between Ms. Ashwini Bhagane of Maharashtra and Mrs. Ashvini Modak of Chattisgarh. The First prize carried a cash award of Rs.10,000=00, Second Prize of Rs.8,000=00 and Third Prize of Rs.6,000=00 along with a memento and certificate. All competitors who entered the Final Round received a certificate.
Santoor maestro Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma distributing the prizes said: “Television viewers are being bombarded with reality shows connected mainly with film songs in the name of providing platform to hidden talent of the country. Quality of the traditional music in the country is an indicator of its cultural health. It is the responsibility of the Society to encourage and provide platform to the talented upcoming artists and students of classical performing arts”.
Dr. Prabha Atre replying to the honour bestowed said: “We are only projecting film music and is Indian music only film music? Our traditional classical music or raag music is the soul of Indian music which we seem to neglect. Everything in nature changes with time, so also music. Tradition is not a stagnant pool. It flows with time accommodating new changes and that is why we need new compositions for classical music. The so called traditional compositions were also ‘new’ at one point of time. We need to encourage new talent and national level competitions is a powerful tool to identify talent in classical music”.
The recording of this competion was telecasted as
"AMRUT PRABHA'- yuvakaanchi sangeet pratibha'on DD Sahyadri in December 2008. Watch Video Recordings of the program below:
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