Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vijaya Jadhav Gatlewar – “I am disheartened by the lukewarm response to rare ragas”

Vijaya spoke to Deepak Raja on December 24, 2001

My father, DB Jadhav worked as a clerk in a Bombay textile mill, and was an empanelled vocalist of All India Radio. He had studied primarily with Natthan Khan [died: 1946], the nephew of Alladiya Khan of the Jaipur gharana. However, he had also studied with senior musicians of Agra, and Gwalior gharanas. Despite his diverse training, he performed in the Jaipur style. Once he came home from work, our home had only music, and nothing else. He had two or three disciples who took training with him every evening from 6 to 9. I overheard this training, and unknown to my father, started singing. It was only when I opted for music as a subject for my high school graduation that he discovered my talent. Thereafter, he took my training seriously. I became a permanent fixture of his evening sessions.

To speed up my progress as a performer, he encouraged me to enter music competitions all over the country. I competed in light as well as classical segments, and brought home a string of trophies. Once I had gained confidence, my father stopped my competitive activity, because he believed art should not be pursued like a competitive sport. But, by then -- I was 18 -- I had decided to pursue music as a profession, and my parents endorsed my decision. In 1977, my father placed me under training with Nivrutti Buwa Sarnaik, whom he greatly admired. At that time, my father was approaching retirement, and feared that he would soon be unable to pay for my tuitions. Dada [Nivrutti Buwa Sarnaik] assured him that he would continue teaching me free of charge if this happened. That very year, I was granted the Kesarbai Kerkar Memorial Scholarship of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, and my Guru was saved from having to make a financial sacrifice on my account.

Within a year of my starting training with him, Dada was invited to become a Resident Guru at the Sangeet Research Academy [SRA] in Calcutta. He wanted me to go with him, and my family readily consented. I trained with Dada at the SRA upto the end of his tenure at the Academy [1978-1993], taking only occasional breaks, after 1988, to be with my husband in Bombay.

In every respect, the SRA is an ideal environment for the serious pursuit of music. It has a beautiful campus in peaceful surroundings, and is equipped with an excellent library of recordings. During my tenure as a scholar, the Academy was also a goldmine of Gurus. Distinguished musicians from outside also visited the Academy frequently and performed.

The training system of the Academy is modelled after the Guru-Shishya Paramapara. Each Guru was assigned a maximum of two or three students. We lived on the same premises as our Guru, and trained under his supervision. Our days began at 4.30 am and ended only after midnight.

The personalised training at the Academy was a priceless experience for me. From the very beginning, Dada considered my early training with my father valuable, and started building upon it. At the Academy, his training became even more fine-tuned to my specific needs. Unlike Bombay, where his monetary compulsions forced him to teach a large class, the Academy allowed him to give personalised attention. He made me work hard on the fundamental refinements of my art, such as intonation, and voice-culture. Having excelled in competitions, initially I found these efforts humiliating. But he insisted on perfection, and had all the time and the freedom to pursue it.

At the Academy, I also got to learn Thumree from Girija Devi. She trained me with great affection. But, I did not become a Ganda-bandh [formally initiated] disciple of hers because it would have been impossible for me to do justice to both the genres.

In addition to giving me the best of my own Guru, the SRA also gave me what no individual Guru could have given me. The general sessions for all students included seminars, guided listening sessions, and group discussions, which helped me to acquire an understanding of different approaches to music, and the different genres. The Academy also promoted my career as a performing musician within India and abroad.

Dada loved the Academy so much that he wanted to die there. But, his health deteriorated dramatically in 1993, and we packed up when he decided he could no longer fulfil his responsibilities.

After entering the profession, I wonder whether spending so many years in training, away from the concert platform, was really worthwhile. I am disheartened often by the lukewarm response I get for presenting the rare ragas of the Jaipur-Atrauli tradition. But, gradually, I am getting a response from audiences who realise the rarity and the value of my art. Although I am not impatient for recognition and success, it would be nice to have it while I am still in the prime of physical health and creative energy.

© Deepak S. Raja 2001
Read a detailed profile of the artist in: "Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within Change".
The finest recordings of Vijaya Jadhav Gatlewar have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

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