Remembering Kishori Amonkar, for whom music was much beyond entertainment.
A musician who “saw” the raga, Kishori Amonkar sang with a deeply focused concentration, convinced that music was not just for entertainment. In the words of her grand daughter Tejashree “she did not like to involve herself in anything that took her away from music.”
Deeply pious, she used music to aid her in her spiritual journey. Termed aloof and arrogant, the iconic singer justified herself saying one needed isolation to delve into the music, to bring it out.
A classical doyen who inspired many, was followed and emulated by many can only be remembered fondly during her second death anniversary. Born on April 10 some 87 years ago, she passed away in her sleep on April 3, two years ago. Being an outstanding vocalist, an entire generation of vocalists strove to emulate her. She has influenced fellow musicians for the last 50 years, and the legacy she has left behind is unlikely to be matched in the near future.
She was hugely feted by vocalists of eminence.
According to Padmavibhushan Girija Devi, she was the type of singer that is born after 5000 years. Padma Talwalkar said, “Through “sur”(notes) she really showed us swarga.(heaven).”
“Her approach to Ragas was different - she was fearless; this was what made her music unique,” said Shruti Sadolikar.
According to Bombay Jayashri, Kishoriji had a searing quality in her voice; it was impossible not be moved by her.
This maestro often admitted she was not confident about a concert even after a lifetime of singing.
The loss of her voice for two years left her very insecure. She was known to have been quite superstitious. However, these human frailties enabled her to internalize her music deeply, to reach into the depths of ragas, giving her own interpretation.
Fiercely protective of her rights as a singer, Kishori Amonkar fought for her unmatched position in the world of classical music. She insisted on high fees, the best arrangements. Yet she was not materialistic at all and refused many concerts.
She never sang abroad feeling the time and effort involved was not worth it and that those who wanted to hear her sing could come to India to hear her.
As a musician she was unconventional in the way she handled notes, yet she was totally convention bound in retaining the sanctity of the classical tradition.
The “gharana” for her was limiting, music in itself was not. Termed a rebel musically, Kishoriji briefly sang for films too.
Affectionately called “tai”, Kishori Amonkar was motherly with her disciples. Raghunandan Panshikar, her disciple of 20 years, recalls he went to her when he was a young 17 year old.
She was quick to censure, but also equally quick to praise. He said she was always very warm and would prepare her favorite Konkani coconut sweetmeat and share it with him. He shared a special memory from the time he was suffering from brain tumour and needed a surgery. Didi (as he called her) said he needed help which she as a mere mortal could not give him. She introduced him to her spiritual Guru, for divine blessings, from whom he received “dikhsha” later.
The operation went off well. Raghunandan recalled, “for me, she was not just my mother, my Guru but also my Sad Guru”.
Kishori Amonkar’s music had, and still has the power to move and transport.