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'Listening to music can help you become a good listener'

Thursday, June 21, 2018
Photographs by Trupti Arekar

Amarendra Dhaneshwar, one of the most popular and versatile Hindustani classical singers and a social activist, apart from being a columnist for various newspapers, speaks with ADC's reporter Shaiber Raichur on his life journey. He also describes the time when emergency was declared in  1975

As an established classical singer, trained by the famous Neela Bhagwat from the Gwalior Gharana and having rendered over 400 performances, how would you describe your journey so far?
My life is full of happenings as I participate in various events. I was born in a middle-class family. My father was a government servant and my mother had received some training in music, apart from that nobody in my family was a musician. My parents were music lovers and so am I. It's very different when you are a hereditary musician and when you are not. I am not an hereditary musician and  I began as a listener.

I attended musical shows right from my childhood and used to feel the impact of music. The first person whom I heard was Pandit Ram Marathe, a well-known person and an excellent classical singer, at a private gathering which began at 9 pm and ended at 4 in the morning. I was the youngest member in the audience and everybody was wondering how a child could sit for hours and listen to music so attentively. During school and college when I used to listen to music I used to try to absorb and memorise the experience. I began absorbing music as a listener.

I watched lots of Hindi movies and tried to learn from them how to connect with the audience. I got married to Neela Bhagwat at the age of 32 and she used to train me for a while. After finding the experience very difficult I left it mid-way. Later on I was associated with social activism and was even  arrested when the emergency was declared. My journey was full of ups and downs.

Recently you refused financial sops offered to you because you participated in activities against the emergency. What have you to say about it and how would you describe the times when emergency was declared?
People did not like the emergency. One cannot imagine the situation during that time. People used to survive in a very suffocating atmosphere in the country and thousands were also put in jail. People whom I followed were my idols who had no fear, their aim was to do something for the people. This was something we did 43 years back and now the government wants to reward us with monetary benefits, which is not  fair. There are many projects and schemes which are important for the people and this money should be used for that. The decision to give us money is not justified and we don't support it.

Over the last eleven years you have been part of unique programmes showcasing the close connection between classical music and popular film music of the 1950's and 1960's by singing as well as through demonstrations, your views?
This is a big concept which was appreciated by the people on a very large scale. It created a connection between us and the audience sitting in front of us, so it was a great experience.

How much do you think is the importance of classical music in today's era?
It's very important as once you go out of India you will realise how well Indian classical music is appreciated in other countries. Classical music has a certain appeal, a certain attraction and is relevant for the people. This form of music has its standard and dignity.

Don't you want to pass your skills to others by starting an academy of music?
I don't believe in an academy but I have been passing my knowledge to my students.

Tell us something about your days with your guru Neela Bhagwat?
We used to spend our time discussing and talking about music all the time. I would not have been in music had it not been for her. The various aspects of music that she imparts is pure and I respect her.

Which classical singer's performance do you enjoy seeing the most?
I have seen so many performances from all the generations and I appreciate it and enjoy it thoroughly.

Was it difficult for you to be a performing musician as well as a music columnist?
As I am an insider in this field it has not been difficult for me but what I feel is you cannot just sit, take your pen and scribble a few lines. Music is a performing art and you have to be able to write or appreciate and most importantly you should know each and every thing about it. I write with affection as I know a lot of things about music and can relate to it.

What would be your message to the music students?
Keep listening to music as much as possible. During my time music was not available as easily as it is today. By listening to music you can help yourself  to become a good listener.

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