The process of self discovery
Sunta hai guru gyani, gagan me awaaz ho rahi hai... jheeni jheeni.” (The voice of the guru... divine sound originates from the sky)... the spiritual outpouring of a Kabir Bhajan explaining the underlying unity in the apparent duality of life filled the International Hall of Music at Kremlin, where the Festival of India was in progress.
Kalapini Komkali, renowned Hindustani classical singer and daughter of the legendary musician Pt Kumar Gandharva and eminent vocalist Vasundhara Komkali, has garnered many accolades and has carved a niche for herself in classical music scene
Sunta hai guru gyani, gagan me awaaz ho rahi hai... jheeni jheeni.” (The voice of the guru... divine sound originates from the sky)... the spiritual outpouring of a Kabir Bhajan explaining the underlying unity in the apparent duality of life filled the International Hall of Music at Kremlin, where the Festival of India was in progress. A three thousand strong audience mostly, Russians listened in silence and were mesmerised by the beautiful rendition.
Thunderous applause followed and the artiste was asked to sing the song three times, with the audience, asking for an encore each time. “Experiences like these give you a taste of bliss akin to the sweetness of nectar. I realised it was the sheer magic of the Sur (notes) that held them captivated, as Kabir Bhajans replete with spiritual intonations are difficult to comprehend by our own people, leave alone those from such a different and distant culture.
They made me aware of the power and strength of the basic notes of music that are divine, universal and all-encompassing,” says Kalapini Komkali, renowned Hindustani classical singer and daughter of the legendary musician Pt Kumar Gandharva and eminent vocalist Vasundhara Komkali. Inheriting the legacy of her father, who had a unique and distinctive style of music that refused to be bound by the tradition of any gharana. Kalapini has been rendering not only classical ragas but Nirguni bhajans and rich folk compositions of the Malwa region, dear to him.
Music was an inherent part of her growing years at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh and Kalapini soon outgrew her initial reluctance and dislike for music to start learning from her father in the early eighties. Music lessons with her father were tough and he would get angry and impatient being both a perfectionist and a musical genius. “Baba was a musician first. He never gave me any leverage as his daughter and being his student was a unique experience as he believed that music flowed from a serious thought process.
He never praised us as he had very high standards. I even cried during these sessions. The training was tough but well worth it,” she recalls. Although she was accompanying her parents on the Tanpura, Kalapini’s first performance with them was in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1985 where she was seated on one side, and her mother on the other accompanying their father. She was terribly nervous but the performance went off well and her father remained silent refraining from praise or criticism.
It was only when their host asked him specifically about her, and he said, “I give her hundred marks out of hundred for her concentration and efforts.” These magical words remain etched in her memory. Reflecting her father’s thoughts Kalapini believes that music is not merely a craft but also an art that thrives on being spontaneous and flexible. “It is a process of self-discovery and a connection with the audience that brings out different nuances.
At one level you sing for yourself but at another, you are also connecting with the audience and it is this dialogue that separates one performance from another,” she feels. Apart from her solo performances Kalapini has had the opportunity to sing with her father, mother and her nephew Bhuvanesh Komkali. Each experience has been different and embellished with a distinct flavour. “With my father I was the follower taking the cue and responding dutifully, with my mother it was a step further where we sailed together and with Bhuvanesh, I take the lead role,” she adds.
As a trustee of the Kumar Gandharva Academy she trains students, conducts workshops gives lecture demonstrations and organises music festivals in accordance with her musical lineage. Single by choice, Kalapini loves travelling to places known for their natural beauty or historical monuments. She is fortunate that her musical performances have taken her to different parts of the world fulfilling this passion. She is also fond of cooking and likes to innovate in preparing new dishes.
Her Hyderabad, visit was for two beautiful performances, a rare thematic concert “Rituraj Mehfil” (songs of spring) organised by Sanskar and the Secunderabad Club, and a concert of Nirguni Bhajans. Kalapini recalls her earlier visits to Hyderabad with her father, of which she has fond memories. “The audience here are discerning and enjoy the essence of classical music,” she says.
“Jo mein mahsoos karti hoon, woh aapko bhi mahsoos ho, yehi anand hai (when you are able to experience what I feel, that is a true bliss). “I have no favourite raag. When you gain mastery, every note is beautiful and holds you in its grip,” says Kalapini Komkali who believes that music completes her life and is both her journey and destination.