Raag Bhoop was her specialty and she thrived when she sang, especially the alaap.
In the 20 years that I worked with Kishori Amonkar as her tabla player (between 1983 and 2003), I learned three things — to be completely sincere about your art, to never leave any loose ends in a performance and to always put your foot down and never compromise if you are sure that you are right. What set Kishoriji apart from the rest was her sincerity and creative prowess. No two programmes were exactly the same, and the audience would wait with bated breath to see what she would produce. Raag Bhoop was her specialty and she thrived when she sang, especially the alaap.
Behind the success, though, is endless, sincere riyaz and Kishoriji’s dedication to her craft is what set her apart from the rest. She would go to sleep at 2 am, only to wake up at 4 am, which is Brahma muhurta (considered sacred for singers) to practice. For two and a half hours in the morning, between 10.30 am and 1 pm, and two in the evening, between 7 pm and 9 pm, she would sit with her students. Many artistes, as they begin doing more and more programmes, spend less time actually honing the craft. This was not the case with her. She even made sure not to do more than one programme a month, so that her creative process would not be hampered.
As fellow musicians working together, we never really had any problems. Yes, we had other differences, but we were able to sort them out. I suppose that is because we were so compatible onstage. In the 20 years that we worked together, we never had to have a single practice session. Many thought that she had a temper, but I think that was because she was very particular about what she wanted from a musician. Since we were compatible in the way we looked at our art, we never really clashed much with regard to music. Still, she was definitely unpredictable. You never knew what she would do or say next.
Two weeks ago she was at a concert in Pune and seemed fine even yesterday; and now, just as unpredictably as she lived her life, she passed away. I feel privileged that I was able to work with such an exponent of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, and will remember her fondly.