Kishori Amonkar: An Unforgettable Memory

5/8/2017 2:35:01 PM
written By : Anisha Sabhlok Print

The passing of music legend, Kishori Amonkar, brought back a treasured memory. In April 1985, I had the opportunity of attending a workshop conducted by her in Delhi. During one of the sessions, on our request, she deviated from the lesson to tell us about some of her early life experiences. 

As we mourn the death of a musical diva, I feel extremely privileged to have got an insight into the person Amonkar was. My notes from that session are precious. When asked by us students to narrate her life experiences, she replied “Oh! That’s a very short story!”

Among the great doyens of Hindustani classical music, Kishori Amonkar (“Tai” to her disciples) felt that her learning and induction into music must have begun in her mother’s womb itself. Mogubai Kurdikar, trained in the tradition of the Atrauli-Jaipur Gharana by Alladiya Khan, tried to impart the same sense of rigid discipline and devotion to the purest form of the art to her daughter in the early years of her life. However, the young Kishori, while imbibing the knowledge and skill, was yet to realize the depth of her own love for music and often resented the rigorous and repetitive practice lessons imposed by her mother. She aspired to be a doctor but her dream was cruelly nipped in the bud by an eye affliction during her BSc examinations. Failure deterred her and she announced to her mother that she did not wish to study further. She was married at a young age and settled down to a staid domestic routine of household chores and rearing children.

It was after several years of marriage that Kishori Amonkar’s urge to pursue music was rekindled. She learnt, practiced and performed at concerts and received many offers to sing for films (her rendering of “Geet Gaya Patharon Ne” is still remembered by many). This became a major bone of contention between the mother and daughter. Mogubai gave her an ultimatum: if her daughter chose to pursue a career in films, she was never to touch her mother’s instruments again. Relenting, she chose to follow the path prescribed by her mother. 

About this time, a tragedy occurred. Kishori Amonkar fell seriously ill and lost her voice. She recalled the anguish and emptiness of those years with pain. Yet, in retrospect, she considered it a blessing in disguise for it was the vacuum created by those days that made her realise that for her, being without her voice was “existing” not living. She would “sing” silently within herself, innovate, play and experiment with different instruments. In fact the Swar Mandal, a regular accompaniment in her subsequent concerts, was a habit acquired in those days of silent yearning. 

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