The heart of the song

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 7 February 2019

Classical vocalist Pt Suhas Vyas shares many stories about his father, Pt C R Vyas who had brought out a book on his compositions in 1984. The Vyas family will be releasing the second edition of the book on Saturday

Art is never a singular piece of creation. It’s a layered tapestry, made beautiful and unique by several creative brains. Classical vocalist Pt C R Vyas’s collection of compositions, Raag Sarita is one such example.

The slim book containing 121 bandish (melodic compositions) was first released in 1984, on Pt Vyas’s 61st birthday, by Pt Kumar Gandharva. The book was much sought after in the academic world and the Vyas family decided to work on the second edition of Raag Sarita, which will now be released on Saturday morning by tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain.
Pt Vyas’s eldest son, Suhas, a classical vocalist himself, gives us an insight into how the book was conceptualised and recounts anecdotes which would interest any music connoisseur. 

Dissemination of knowledge
Settling down to talk about Hindustani classical music and the contribution of his father, Pt Suhas says, “In Hindustani classical music, many artists have made significant contribution and made the music system more rich. The artist, who makes contribution to bandish, is called Nayak, in musical terminology. Nayak means someone who creates something new. Another term is Vageykar. Agra gharana has composed maximum number of bandish. My father’s guruji Pt Jagannathbuwa Purohit alias Gunidas is from Agra gharana and Baba inherited his learning from his first guru Pt Rajarambhau Paradkar, who hailed from Gwalior gharana and Pt Jagannathbuwa.”

The legendary vocalist wrote bandish based on simple day-to-day incidents, like a friend calling out to Vyas, when he was in the market, engrossed in buying garland for his guruji or a wife complaining about his negligence towards home and hearth.“Baba used to work with ITC. Every day, during lunch hour, he used to jot down the thoughts or interesting details that he came across. And, he used to write bandish or notations based on these insights in another diary. He did this every single day,” says Pt Suhas, showing us the small diary.
He then goes on to explain the role of a bandish. “About 100 odd years ago, the raag had to be taught and memorised orally. The disciples couldn’t take down notes. Raag were taught through bandish, and not through aaroh or awaroh. Every bandish is meaningful and if a singer is talented enough, s/he can understand the scope of the raag through the former,” adds Pt Suhas.

It was musicologist V N Bhatkhande who first compiled several thousand bandish in a book, under the patronage of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad. For the book Raag Sarita, the senior Vyas was assisted by musicologist Dr K G Ginde. And, coincidentally, Dr Ginde’s guru-bandhu, Pt Yashwant Mahale offered his expertise in bringing out the second edition, which has added 40 more notations. 
How will this help the music tradition? “One,” says Pt Suhas, “it helps in conserving and archiving our music tradition. Second, new breed of artists, serious connoisseurs and students of music can discover something new from the notations. It helps in knowledge dissemination. To learn something new about the raag, you have to get at its heart and that is bandish.”

Pt Vyas’s contribution
Vyas, who is known for his Khayal gayaki, traverses the traditional path, but offers many new possibilities too. Says Pt Suhas, “As a musician, you have to understand what new aspects can be explored through the traditional knowledge and for that, you have to study the classical bandish. The old bandish were a little long and complex. My father’s generation of singers made them more simple. They avoided using bombastic words. Jagannathbuwa would often say, ‘You paint your face, don’t you? So beautify the mukhda of the song too’. Mukhda is the face of the song and Baba’s compositions have melodious mukhda. Earlier, I mentioned the term vageykar. Vageykar means someone who understands raag, taal, sur, sangeet and sahitya. Vag means words, geya means music, and someone who embellishes it is a Vageykar.”

Pt Vyas’s bandish are sung by artists of repute, who belong to different gharanas and that is something very significant. “Baba believed that his compositions shouldn’t be limited to only his gharana or his lineage. They should be accessed by all and sung by all. This is a measure of his popularity,” says Pt Suhas, who will be singing one of his father’s bandish in Raag Nat Bhairav.

Digging into another memory from the past, Pt Suhas says, “Jogkauns raga is Jagannathbuwa’s contribution. It’s a recent raag, about 75-80 years old. It was first sung by Pt Kumar Gandharva in Pune in 1948 or ’49. It was popularised by Baba and then many artists belonging to different gharanas began singing it. They still sing. Back then, there was a lot of discussion over this, and so my father composed a bandish which goes something like this — Suraj, chanda, jab tak phire, saban tore naam sumiran.’ The antara says, ‘Aiso Gunidaas tumake, amar dhun saat sapt sur mein, sunat sabhi log, jaan guni banaye’. Gunidaas was the pseudonym for Jagannathbuwa, while Gunijaan was my father’s pseudonym.”
An excellent piece of music is a perfect combination of sur, taal, literature and imagination. And, when the master musician embellishes it with his life experiences, the result is always sublime. Just like Pt Vyas’s contribution.

ST Reader Service
The second edition of the book Raag Sarita, organised by Kalavardhini Foundation, will be released by Ustad Zakir Hussain at S M Joshi Hall, Navi Peth, 9.30 am on February 9

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