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Every student of Hindustani classical music journeys through innumerable hours of training sessions referred to as taleem (instruction), and countless hours of rigorous practice called riyaaz. In a performance or concert situation, an audience is required, but both taleem and riyaaz sessions are meant to be conducted away from the public gaze and in solitude. Often, special skills and techniques are passed from guru (mentor) to disciple during closely-guarded taleem sessions and there are several anecdotes about master musicians going to great lengths to ensure that no one could secretly eavesdrop on their riyaaz or taleem sessions. Therefore, it is only the favoured few who are privy to the practice or training sessions of great musicians, and more often than not, it is only a circle of disciples and close family members who are accorded access.

In a gesture of extraordinary and admirable generosity, the website www.gajananbuwajoshi.com has made recordings of maestro Pandit Gajananbuwa Joshi (1911-87) available free of charge for all who wish to learn from them. Remarkable in many ways, Joshi was an accomplished vocalist and an instrumentalist, a violinist to be more specific, and a musician whose quest for knowledge led him to study the music of three gharanas, namely Gwalior, Jaipur-Atrauli and Agra. The website set up to document and perpetuate the legacy of Joshi therefore, contains recordings from his live concerts, both as a vocalist and a violin player. The catalogue of recordings is rich and offers insights into well-known, and often sung, ragas, including Bheempalasi, Multani, Shuddha Sarang, as also rare ragas such as Khat and Khokar, usually presented by scholar musicians for an audience of connoisseurs. This makes it an invaluable resource for both advanced as well as junior students of music. Among the rare repertoire, offered magnanimously to music lovers and students, are recordings of forms like Khayalnuma (a tarana composition set to the slow tempo generally used for a slow-paced khayal), which are now rarely heard and sung.

But the pièce de résistance in a sense is the archive segment, which shares the taleem sessions of the great master teaching his disciple Ulhas Kashalkar, acknowledged as one of the most celebrated performers and gurus of the country. Recordings of these sessions could not have been shared online without Ulhas-ji’s permission and consent. And without doubt, his consent constitutes an act of immense generosity and reflects his liberal thinking. It is equally commendable that the immediate family of Joshi agreed to this sharing of his musical legacy, because had they dug their heels in and denied access, no amount of liberal thinking on the part of disciples could have worked. This wealth of information and music could well have been offered to listeners on a subscription-based or payment model, but the fact that it is made available free of charge is remarkable. In employing the online format to share this valuable archive, this website sets a wonderful example for the manner in which archives can disseminate and provide access to the great treasures of Indian music without exploiting the rights of musicians.

Also Read | Shubha’s previous Lounge columns

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