Pandit K. G. Ginde (1925-1994) Early promise; (1925-1936) Krishna Gundopant Ginde was born on December 26, 1925, in Bailhongal, near Belgaum in what is now Karnataka state. He was the eighth of nine children. His father Gundopant was a licensed medical practitioner, and had a modest practice in Bailhongal, which was the main town of the taluka (a region functionally similar to a county). Gundopant was very fond of music, and especially admired the songs of Balgandharva, the famous exponent of Marathi Natyasangeet (stage music), featuring songs which were, typically, set to classical ragas, and which were one of the main vehicles through which classical ragadari music gained popularity in Maharashtra at the turn of the century. In those days, a full scale classical concert or Baithak was still largely associated with either the court of a maharajah or a wealthy nobleman, or to the salons of the courtesans many of whom combined the profession of music with a more ancient one. The former setting was not accessible to most middle class families. The salons of the courtesan, although easily accessible, were out of bounds for their bourgeois values. Thus, most middle class families had no specifically classical musical tradition in the home. Gundopant's musical yearnings found expression in the form of Bhajan and Natyasangeet. Each Thursday, there would be a regular gathering of the family (and friends and neighbours who might wish to join), at which singing devotional songs in Kannada and Marathi would be the main activity. If he was home for the holidays, Gundopant's eldest son Ramachandra, then a college student, would provide accompaniment on the dilruba (a bowed fretted lute, similar to the sarangi), and a younger son Govind would play the tabla. Krishna was allowed to keep time with the jhanjh (hand cymbals) almost as soon as he was old enough to hold them, and would do it very well already by the age of three. Gundopant also avidly bought phonograph recordings of the famous stage singers of the time, whenever they came on the market, and loved to listen to them and sing along with them, learning all the intricacies of each song. This was the environment that shaped young Krishna's musical inclinations, and by the age of five, Krishna had acquired a sizable repertoire of stage songs and bhajans , which he sang with considerable verve; so much so that he was invited to give a recital at a local festival at the age of six, which he brought off very successfully. Krishna also had heard some 78 RPM khayal recordings of the celebrated maharashtrian khayal singer Ramakrishnabuwa Vaze, (Vazebuwa), and could imitate them perfectly. The family recognized that Krishna had exceptional talent, and had begun to entertain the possibility that he might become a good musician.
A few years later, Krishna's eldest brother Ramachandra qualified as a doctor, and was trying to establish a practice in Bombay. (This was the same R. G. Ginde who later became an internationally known neuro-surgeon.). Although he was hard put to find time for it, Ramachandra tried hard to keep up a connection wish music, and in due course met V. N. Bhatkhande, who had by then clearly established himself as one of the leading musicologists of the day. Ramachandra had long nourished a hope that Krishna could get an opportunity to develop his musical gifts fully, and play a role in the renaissance of Indian classical music that was then well under way, thanks to the work of Bhatkhande and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Accordingly, he asked Bhatkhande for suggestions regarding Krishna's future musical studies. Bhatkhande suggested that Krishna be introduced to S. N. Ratanjankar, who was Bhatkhande's top disciple and a close associate in the archival work in which Bhatkhande had been engaged, and who had by taken over as Principal of the Marris College of Music in Lucknow. The idea was to seek Ratanjankar's opinion of Krishna's potential and to seek his help in the matter of Krishna's musical studies. Ratanjankar used to spend three months during each summer vacation in Bombay, during which time he would be practicing and teaching daily. With this in mind, Ramachandra arranged for Krishna to be brought to Bombay early in the summer of 1936, and Ratanjankar listened to the boy's singing. Impressed, he allowed Krishna to attend his daily sessions of riyaz and commentary, and to sing occasionally at those sessions. Krishna made such phenomenal progress during that summer that Ratanjankar was convinced that he boy had unusual potential. By the end of the summer Ratanjankar went on to say that he would be willing to accept Krishna as a disciple in the traditional gurukul manner. That is, Krishna would move to Lucknow, and would live as a member of the guru's household; there he would continue his studies in close daily association with his guru. Ratanjankar emphasized that he would make certain that his young disciple would continue his academic as well as musical studies. Ramachandra received the suggestion with gratitude, and asked his father's permission for Krishna's accepting the offer. Gundopant relied on his eldest son's judgment, and agreed to the suggestion. He felt sure that an aspiring student could not find a better musical environment, and that Krishna would be looked after very well by Ratanjankar. Although then only eleven years old, Krishna greeted the prospect of moving to Lucknow to study with his new guru with great exultation; he seems to have already arrived at an inner certitude about how he was destined to spend his life. Krishna moved to Lucknow in September 1936, and became a member of Ratanjankar's household.Chhotoo, his guru's shishya (1936-1951). S. N. Ratanjankar was then the Principal of Marris College of Music, founded by Bhatkhande. His musical pedigree was impeccable. He was the star disciple of Bhatkhande in his musicological studies. By common consent, Ratanjankar was regarded as the leading musicologist of his generation, and the indisputable successor of Bhatkhande as a supremely authoritative arbiter of historical and musicological questions. On the other hand, Bhatkhande had placed Ratanjankar under the tutelage of the legendary vocalist, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, from whom Ratanjankar had learned the finer points of performance technique. Ratanjankar did not have the charismatic stage presence and the animal magnetism that often accompanies a performer of "star" quality, and would never achieve the wide acclaim as a concert musician accorded to vocalists like Faiyaz Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, or Amir Khan. But his control of tonality and tempo, and his ability to expound each raga in its pure form were univerally respected as being without a superior. At Marris College, Ratanjankar and
At the same time, Chhotoo's performing career was taking shape. With his guru's blessing, Chhotoo had performed solo many times on the radio, as well as at some prominent musical festivals, with notable success. On the other hand, Chhotoo had started performing in the dhrupad style in the jugalbandi (duet) format with S. C. R. Bhat, his senior co-student and erstwhile teacher. The Ginde-Bhat duo started to become well-known for their finely co-ordinated performances of nom tom alap followed by one or more compositions, showing a versatile grasp of khayal as well as dhrupad and dhamar techniques. They were also getting to be highly regarded for their vast repertoire of compositions in commonly known as well as in rare ragas and their unerring control of tala. Towards the end of the forties, it appeared as if the Ginde-Bhat duo had a reasonable prospect of a successful performing career ahead of them.
Meanwhile, the country was going through a momentous period of change, which culminated in India's independence from British rule in 1947. Political independence also brought with it an increased awareness of the validity of one's own traditions, the need to preserve and assert them, and the possibility of doing so before a naturally more sympathetic audience. A number of mechanisms, public and private, began to emerge in response to these needs. The performing arts had always been regarded as an invaluable piece of the country's heritage, and new structures of support and patronage would emerge to replace the relative absence of such support in British times. It was necessary, however, to build up an infrastructure which would be conducive to the continued support of the arts. Many leaders of the time were aware that one of the methods for doing this would have to be by widening access and exposure to music, dance etc. This thinking was, of course, a natural extension of the vision of Bhatkhande and Paluskar who had accurately foreseen the need for creating cultivated and discerning audiences for nurturing the performing arts. Persons like Annasaheb, who were in the forefront of policymaking in the musical scene at that time, were clear about the directions that would have to be followed. In the post-independence era, they saw both challenges and opportunitites.
Among other institutions which were trying to contribute along these lines, there was the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, an institution founded by K. M. Munshi. It had established centers in three major cities, devoted to the work of propagating awareness of India's heritage. Its general ethos was overlaid with a heavy Hindu-chauvinist patina, but a subset of its activities, namely those that were concerned with music were spared this ballast. The Bhavan had started a music school in Bombay in 1949-50, and Munshi had recruited Chidanand Nagarkar, a brilliant (and mercurial) disciple of Annasaheb's, as the Principal of this school. In 1951, Nagarkar asked Annasaheb to help him recruit more staff. In turn, Annasaheb asked Chhotoo to go to Bombay to help in the task that Nagarkar had undertaken. Ever loyal to his guru's behest, Chhotoo agreed wihout any hesitation, and moved to Bombay in 1951. Although it was perhaps not fully appreciated by anyone at that time, this would turn out to be a decisive turn for his career. For Chhotoo, it would eventually come to mean that the road to a performing career would be (to quote Robert Frosts's evocative phrase) "the road not taken".Pandit Ginde; missionary, teacher and scholar (1951-1981) Chidanand Nagarkar was a brilliant musician. He was known for his fast-paced concerts, wherein he combined his thorough training with a supremely confident, flashy style. He was a man of the world, able to mingle with the mighty on easy terms. His assignment as Principal of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's school of music was initially to get the operation funcional and selfsupporting, and eventually to shape it into a musical institution of lasting impact. When Chhotoo arrived there in the summer of 1951, Nagarkar had started to assemble a faculty which a few years later would include : S. C. R. Bhat, C. R. Vyas, Alla Rakha, H. Taranath Rao. In the resurgent atmosphere of the years
In my view, there were several reasons for this. At the forefront were economic factors : the infrastrucure of a combination of government and corporate patronage (with all its faults), which drives the current musical scene in India had not yet been established. The founders of the Bhavan could not continue to support large deficits indefinitely. On the other hand, there was not yet a growth, numerically, in the audiences which could have supported the level of expenditures required to sustain an active program of the sort envisioned by Annasaheb and Nagarkar in the post-war inflationary period in Bombay. To add to this, there were some political factors as well. Ratanjankar had been closely associated with the system put in by the All India Radio which established categories for artists who regularly performed on the radio. Although a very necessary system for rationalizing what amounted to a system of state patronage, although on a limited scale, the manner in which this system was installed showed a lack of political acumen. For instance, several musicians who were senior in years and had been performing on the radio for some time were asked to submit themselves to an audition. (It would have been better to allow long standing arrangements to continue to run their course, and to install the audition system to affect only new entrants to the system). The sense of insult that this generated left a bitterness towards Ratanjankar which rubbed off on everything that was associated with him, and in particular on the Vidya Bhavan's school. Also, for a number of reasons (of varying validity) the prevailing attitude in Maharashtrian critical circles towards the Agra style of singing was that after the great Faiyaz Khan, it had lost its appeal and had reduced itself to a "dry" style, devoid of the emotive ingredients of wich the popular taste of the time was very fond. To add to these factors, there was the undeniable fact that nagarkar's fiery and imperious personality created a tense atmosphere which many musicians found difficult to bear day in and day out. All these factors conspired to a diminution in he role that the institution sought to play, and over the next ten years or so, the institution attained an equilibrium at a level quite different from the one which had been hoped for at the outset. As opportunities arose elsewhere, many faculty members left.
Gindeji (as Chhotoo was now known) perhaps saw this more clearly than most, because he always had uncanny clarity about the long-term musical aims that drove him throughout his life. Although he might have sensed a number of ways in which mistakes might be avoided, he was too loyal and correct to allow them to come to the surface. Throughout his life he was quite silent on his point. Until 1956, he remained on the Vidya Bhavan faculty. I do not know exactly the details of his status at the Vidya Bhavan from 1957 to 1962. I do know that the relation gradually became weaker until, finally, it ceased altogether in 1962, when Gindeji accepted a position as the Principal of the Vallabh Sangeet Vidyalaya, a brand new institution founded Swami Vallabhdas, who was the head of a fairly large Hindu religious group. Swami Vallabhdas was an unusual personality, definitely not according any stereotypical mould of such religious leaders. In his youth, in the thirties, even after he was the heir apparent as the head of the sect, he had opted to pursue musical studies seriously, and that too under the personal guidance of muslim musicians : namely, Faiyaz Khan and Atta Hussain Khan, at Baroda. This was very unorthodox, but he was able to retain the trust of the community in his rectitude in observing all the strictures which an orthodox Hindu would have to obey in that situation. Swami Vallabhdas was himself quite accomplshed and knowledgeable musician, and after he became the head of his sect had a dream of starting a musical institution under the aegis of his religious sect.
One of the first things that Gindeji did was to enlist the support of his old teacher/colleague S. C. R. Bhat to join him in the enterprise. ( I believe that when he proposed the appointment, there was some budgetary difficulty. Gindeji is said to have simply offered to share whatever salary was allocated to him. Eventually, funds were found for the appointment.) Thus it was that the Ginde-Bhat duo became the guding spirits of that institution from 1962 onwards.
At the Vallabh Sangeet Vidyalaya, Gindeji assembled a well run operation, with a number of fine musicians to help him in the instructional tasks. However, it had been clear from the very outset that the institution had limited and well-focussed aims. It never was intended to be a musical center in the manner of the Marris College in its heyday. Thus for Gindeji, The next few years were crucial years of ambivalence as to what his life's role should be. His temperament was such that he would have been most fulfilled if he could have combined a life as the doyen of a musical center such as his alma mater in Lucknow, with reasonably frequent performance opportunities as a vocalist. The former role he could not expect at his new institution by the very nature of the place. On the other hand, for several reasons, some of which I will touch upon below, he never did succeed in those years in establishing a national presence as a performer except on a very limited scale. Gradually, he came to accept his vocation as a teacher and scholar, and devoted himself to the task of teaching and contemplation of the rich musical lore that he had inherited fro his guru, and from the countless musicians that he had come across over the years. For a less dedicated person, this could have been a compromise that would stifle all further intellectual growth. I feel that it was a remarkable feature of his personality that he was able to overcome the disappointment that he must surely have felt (and I know from allusions to this period in his conversation that he did feel some disappointment; who would not?) and construct for himself a mode of operation which he could sustain for a long time, which gave meaning to his life, and ultimately brought him a measure of recognition for his unique musical gifts.Acharya K. G. Ginde; The Musicians' musician (1981-1994) The particular method he chose was to think about and master the structural aspects of the Hindustani system so thoroughly, that he would come to be known as the undisputed authority on abstract theoretical questions as well as the tonal conventions that governed the practical performance of almost any raga, however abstruse. It is a well-known truism that when one is faced with the task of explaining an intricate subject to someone else, one is forced to clarify one's own thoughts about
I have referred above to the fact that Gindeji never really established a far-flung reputation as a performer. Partly this was because his approach to music was a bit too sophisticated for him to be ever accepted by the masses. He also did not sell himself to the "organizers" of the various festivals which became the chief vehicle for star performers. The years in the early fifties, when he could have been devoting his time to cultivating his audience, had passed, and the door once shut, could not easily be opened again. Finally, the continued strain of teaching had endowed his voice with a quality which was not always soft, and pleasing to mass audiences. He continued to perform sporadically, at conferences where other musicians would be the most ardent admirers of what he presented, but in the main his reputation began to grow because of unequivocal and authoritative explanations accompanied by delicate demonstrations of the most subtle aspects of the tonal conventions that were special to various ragas. By the time the eighties had arrived, Gindeji would be known as Sangeetacharya, (the preceptor of music), whenever people introduced him at formal assemblies. In the decade of the eighties, honours at last came his way. Two honorary degrees, the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar were some of the belated recognitions that came his way in the late eighties.
In 1985, when he reached the age of 60, many of his friend and well-wishers organized a jubilee celebration to honour him, which was attended by all the elite musicians of Bombay. The festival volume has many very interesting articles about him, by many of his close colleagues and associates. He wished to retire from his teaching duties at this point, but the Vallabh Sangeet Vidyalaya authorities would not allow him to withdraw from that institution completely, so he continued a part-time association with it till his last day.
I consider it a great misfortune that I came to know Gindeji only very late in my life. Nevertheless, I had the good fortune to come to know him very well very fast. From 1986 to 1993, I was in frequent communication with him. During the first five years of this period, I visited India each winter for a period of three months each year. During these visits I had the great privilege of exended conversation with him, and also learned a great many compositions from him. During this time, he had started a project very dear to his heart. Namely to document completely all the compositions of his guruji, Annasaheb Ratanjankar. There were nearly 650 compositions in all, of which half had been printed in 1946-52. Gindeji had promised himself that, as a labour of love for his guru, he would complete the task of bringing into print the remaining compositions, and also make a recording of the compositions for archival purposes. These recordings were not intended to be in the manner of concert performances. They were short, 3 minute recordings whose purpose would be to document the nuances of the bandish as conceived by the composer, leaving the exposition to the imagination of the individual performer who would learn them. I consider it my great fortune that I was able to help him partially in this task. In the Spring of 1991, Gindeji visited Seattle, where I recorded nearly 275 of Annasaheb's compositions as sung by Gindeji. Shortly prior to that, he had gone to the Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta, where Vijay Kichlu had arranged for approximately 350 compositions of Annasaheb to be recorded, as sung by Gindeji. Thus between Seattle and Calcutta there is now an almost complete archive of Annasaheb's compositions. This is a very interesting set of recordings, which one hopes will receive attention over time for its musical content.
As his activities at the Vallabh Vidyalaya became less pressing, Gindeji devoted himself also to the task of publishing a new edition of the complete collected compositions of his guru. Three volumes have appeared. The volumes were printed from camera ready masters produced by hand by Gindeji. The calligraphy displayed in these volumes has to be seen to be believed. I have not seen anything like it in recent times. I can only compare the uniformity of stroke and the elegance of form to calligraphy from a couple of centuries ago, in the manner of medieval manuscripts. I recommend strongly that the reader seek out these volumes to admire the fantastic artistry of the volumes.
In the period from 1988 onwards, Vijay Kichlu of the Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta had also recognised the resource that Gindeji represented. With his persuasion Gindeji visited Calcutta a number of times each year, where he gave intensive series of lectures and demonstrations on the fine points of ragadari sangeet. These were attended by the faculty and students of the Sangeet Research Academy, who benefitted immensely from these visits. It was during one such visit that Gindeji suffered from a heart attack which took him from us. On July 13, 1994, he had just finished a lecture, and as he was proceeding to the lunch room, in the company of other musicians, he suffered a massive heart attack. The loss is great, for I believe that had he lived, his influence on other musicians would have continued to grow, and would have had a significant impact in molding the point of view of a number of fine young musicians such as the young scholars at the Sangeet esearch Academy. That point of view, splendidly whole and seriously detailed, is generally lacking in the training of the present generation of musicians. With Gindeji's passing, we see the end of an era. For he was clearly the last of the his generation who could claim to fulfill a standard of scholarship so grand that one could say "he doth bestride the world like a colossus". I mourn his passing, but comfort myself with the thought that he died in the service of the one thing for which he had lived : music. Very few people are so fortunate in the manner of their death.
Pandit K. G. Ginde died on July 13, 1994 in Calcutta
after suffering a massive heart attack. He was
visiting the Sangeet Research Academy, and
had just finished a
lecture/demonstration. Thus, he died as he lived, thinking and
living in the midst of music. His passing marks the end of
an era. What follows is a draft of an article about him that I was
invited to write. It will eventually appear,
after some revisions. I am appending it
here for readers of Sangeet, for their information. I would welcome comments. I
would also like however to request the members of this relatively small
group not to disseminate the article in its present form too widely just
yet. I would like some time to double check some facts, some
dates, etc. and also have a chance to rethink some
personal opinions that I have expressed herein.
P. S. The article has been written somewhat hastily, while I am on the road, and will surely suffer from a number of typos. I hope you will bear with me.
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