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Kumar Gandharva

Pt. Kumar Gandharva- The purpose behind a Tarana

Note- Tarana is a type of composition which generally does not carry any meaning. As per the trend goes, Taranas are sung in a fast tempo.  

Many times, it is seen that listeners as well as vocalists are not aware of purpose behind different types of compositions that are being sung. Ideally, everyone should do what Pt. Kumar Gandharva used to do- contemplation. I really like the way this maestro, Kumar Gandharva has put forward his original thoughts on different aspects of Indian Classical Music, Tarana not being an exception

I often used to wonder, why Tarana is sung in any particular Raga. It is made up of syllables which carry no meaning at all. What people generally think is, it is some kind of adventure in Classical Music. For casual listeners, Indian Classical Music is very slow, boring and monotonous. I know many of my friends whose interest levels suddenly boost up when any artist says that he will be performing a Tarana. Generally, Tarana is thought to be the athletic part of classical music, unfortunately, not only by casual listeners but even by the many of the most famous musicians.

Pt. Kumar Gandharva singing a Tarana Courtesy- FiIms Division (Hans Akela)
Pt. Kumar Gandharva singing a Tarana
Courtesy- FiIms Division (Hans Akela)

While listening to Tarana sung by different artists, I used to feel unsatisfied. The constant fight with rhythm and notes used to seem senseless. I remember a concert, where Pt. Mukul Shivputra had sung a Tarana in Bhairav Raga. It was an early morning concert organized on the birth anniversary of Pt. Kumar Gandharva in Pune. It was first time when I listened to a Tarana in Madhya Laya (medium tempo). Otherwise, it is always performed in Ati Drut Laya (Super fast tempo). I enjoyed that Tarana a lot. It had conveyed something- which was beyond words.

Still, I was looking from some statement or document written by some authority which explained why Tarana is sung or what is the purpose behind singing Tarana. They say, when you are searching for something seriously, you get it.  Last week, I had ordered for myself a copy of ‘Hans Akela’ , a documentary made on Pt. Kumar Gandharva. This documentary was directed by Jabbar Patel. Somewhere in this documentary, they have mentioned what thoughts he had about Tarana. As he says,

‘When singer sings everything, and still wants to say something more, something which he could not convey through the compositions sung, he sings Tarana- which has no meaning. ’

– Pt. Kumar Gandharva

 I found this explanation very relevant, authentic and having some experimental value. Pt. Kumar Gandharva has sung his Taranas in same way. They convey something which the words cannot.  

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Kumar Gandharva

Pt. Kumar Gandharva- The musician who made a difference

Whenever any famous musician from the world of Indian classical music is questioned about the quality of newcomers in the field, the answer we get is very positive. Almost all of them say that the young musicians are doing very good. If someone listens to some records of pt. Kumar Gandharva and then gives a thought to this question raised above, he will get depressed. Yes, there are many maestros listening to whose performances can make us doubtful about the  quality of new generation of classical musicians. But to compare with, I chose Pt. Kumar Gandharva. Certainly, there are reasons for the same.

For last many decades, the word innovation has been dominating every sector. Right from manufacturing to education, every field has been changed and affected by this word innovation. Though classical music is there for hundreds and thousands of years, many innovations have taken place into the world of classical music. These innovations are not ordinary innovations as they have not damaged the crux of classical music. If we make a list of all the creative and innovative musicians, certainly Pt. Kumar Gandharva has to be there in the list.

Pt. Kumar Gandharva made a difference in many ways- right from the quality of music to living life as a person. He practiced music when the field was not as glamorous as it is today. He performed, when artists were not paid as much as they paid today. Sound systems, infrastructure, publicity and hospitality were in much poor state at that time as compared to today’s scenario. But still, one can find peace in his music which is hardly visible today. Yes, he made a difference.

The other aspect of Pt. Kumar Gandharva which separates him from others is his capacity to experiment. While listening to his performance, one suddenly realizes that the canvas occupied by seven notes is infinite. He had the power to sing one line in infinite ways- each one of them being equally enchanting and equally creative.

By doing this comparison, by no way I am trying to say that all the artists from the young generation lag behind. But I will surely say that we have a lot to learn from Pt. Kumar Gandharva. As a student of Indian Classical Music, when I am learning any Raga, I listen to its rendering by different musicians. When I say musicians, it includes both vocalists and instrumentalists. In case of every Raga, I without fail listen to its rendering by Pt. Kumar Gandharva. He always has some different story to say. He opens up many new dimensions in that Raga totally unexplored by others. There are many musicians who have made a difference, but in case of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, the difference is huge with unfathomable impact.

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Kumar Gandharva

Pt. Kumar Gandharva : Famous Musicians of India

Lady Gaga, in her concert in India had said that she reads books by Osho and also she likes the concept of Rebel put up by Osho.  Lady Gaga also said that her journey has been that of a rebel. I am not right person to tell if Lady Gaga really had a rebellious journey or not; but if someone asks me about Indian musician, who was genius and also, who was a rebel, the name which will come to my mind is Pt. Kumar Gandharva.

Pt. Kumar Gandharva

Among all the famous musicians of India, certainly, Pt. Kumar Gandharva had a different fabric. One realizes this fact every time he listens to Pt. Kumar Gandharva. According to me, he was a real rebel. Pt. Kumar Gandharva , with his talent beyond all the limits, challenged, modified and renewed many conventions. Pt. Kumar Gandharva was certainly not a blind singer. He was a genius with highest level of awareness. He developed his own style to suit his voice, his musical thought. Pt. Kumar Gandharva can be said to be a ocean in himself.

I am not fortunate enough to see him performing. But yes, we have many of his concert recordings. Each of them is a masterpiece. One more thing which I like about Pt. Kumar Gandharva is that his music is for patient listeners. If you are not patient, you cannot listen to him. But for patient, aware listeners, his music is like ocean of insights, beauty and eternity.

I am also touched by the simplicity of Pt. Kumar Gandharva. He is an artist without most common attitude problems which artists have. Among all the famous musicians of India, certainly, Pt. Kumar Gandharva has created a unique place which is very distinct from other artists.