Thursday, January 15, 2015

The making of a master musician in Hindustani classical music

Sumana Ramanan writes about Ulhas Kashalkar, a singer, in Caravan. Here's a passage about his training with Gajananbuwa Joshi, vocalist and violinist, and a well-known teacher and superb performer:
With the help of two scholarships amounting to Rs 600 a month, Kashalkar rented a small flat in Dombivli, the suburb just outside Mumbai where Joshi was based. For the next five years, Joshi poured himself into his student, taking him everywhere and teaching him during every spare moment. For the first seven months, Joshi worked with Kashalkar on only one raga, Yaman, often the first one taught to beginners. For Kashalkar, who had arrived with two MA gold medals under his belt, this was humbling. “He taught me numerous bandishes and taranas in a variety of talas in this one raga until I had mastered all of them,” Kashalkar said. “I then realised that our music just cannot be learnt in a classroom, only in a guru-shishya setting.”

Today we have an incredible window into this relationship: a benevolent soul, the late GP Thatte, recorded many of Joshi and Kashalkar’s lessons, and later uploaded them to the internet. Most of these audio clips are from three months in 1980, when Joshi travelled to Nashik to tutor the well-to-do Thatte. Joshi took his star pupil along to sit in, and taught him during the visit too.

Joshi had developed a highly sophisticated pedagogy. It included the use of sargams, or note patterns, to help students master a raga’s chalan, or characteristic gait, and build on this to improvise. In one of Thatte’s clips, for example, we hear Joshi drilling Kashalkar in the majestic Darbari Kanada, often called the king of Hindustani ragas. Starting with a few simple phrases, Joshi pushes his student to create ever more complicated patterns while gradually increasing the tempo. For over twenty minutes, Kashalkar follows his teacher’s lead, starting with some of the raga’s core phrases, such as sa-dha-ni-pa and sa-re-ga-ma-re-sa-re-sa, and embellishing these with just a note, then a few notes, then a longer phrase, until he establishes an entire soundscape.

Joshi also insisted on his students learning the basics of the tabla to help them master rhythm. Before every lesson, for twenty minutes, he made Kashalkar recite tabla bols, or syllables, in various talas, and taught him to create variations within the kaida and rela, both compositional forms for the tabla. “This method helps students overcome their fear of tala once and for all,” Kashalkar told me.

It was upon this rock-solid foundation that Kashalkar further built his skills. His energy as a student had also rejuvenated Joshi, to the extent that he started performing and accepting students again for the few years before his death, in 1987.
H/t 3QD.

No comments:

Post a Comment