What draws musicians to Goa in September? – Lexicopedia

It is the annual Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki festival that celebrates the legendary artiste’s musical legacy

It is the annual Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki festival that celebrates the legendary artiste’s musical legacy

Come September, and it’s time again for Shounak Abhisheki to return to his native Goa to celebrate his father and guru Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki’s birth anniversary (September 21 is his 93rd anniversary) with a music festival. One of the most prolific and popular composer-musicians of our time, Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki has not only left behind worthy disciples, who have kept his cherished style alive, but also a treasure trove of rich compositions.

From the veteran Pt. Prabhakar Karekar to Devaki Pandit, he trained many students in the guru-sishya parampara, and for free. “He put us through a tough regimen. We woke up at 3.45 a.m. to the sound of my father’s riyaaz in kharaj (lower octave),” recalls Shounak, whose mother made him realise the importance of his musical inheritance.

The family’s link with Goa remains strong; their ancestral home is Mangeshi. Traditionally priests, they were entitled to do abhishek at the Shiva temple there, and thus were given the honorific ‘abhisheki’.

Shounak Abhisheki

Shounak Abhisheki
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Initially, Shounak trained under his father’s students, Pt. Raja Kale, and Pt. Sudhakar Devale. “They made me learn several bandishes by heart. By the age of 10, I didn’t know what the ragas were, but I knew the compositions. After that I trained under Kamal Tambe, a senior student of Mogubai Kurdikar, who strengthened my foundation. At that time, my father used to travel for more than 20 days a month. When I was around 15, I started learning from my father, and also travelled with him.”

One admires the sense of proportion in Shounak’s singing. At a concert in Delhi, he regaled the audience with several rare raags. “After I had learnt a raag, my father would tell me who I should listen to singing it. I remember after learning Abhogi, he told me to listen to Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and Ustad Amir Khan’s versions. He taught me to be honest with my music. His advice comes through beautifully in this song: ‘Kahat man rang, aap range bina, kaise range koi’ (if you do not drench youself in the hues of music, how can you make the audience experience it?).”

Remembering his training, Shounak says his father was a man of versatile interests. “He loved literature, painting and several other art forms. He encouraged me to see the beauty in them and incorporate that into my music. He used to say don’t just admire a good painting, absorb its aesthetics. It is a misconception that there is no relevance of ‘sahitya’ in Hindustani music. Yeh amurtya sangeet hai; an abstract art, but it does need the prop of lyrics to enhance it.”

An erudite singer himself, Shounak talks about how his father knew hundreds of compositions, not only from the Gwalior Agra Jaipur tradition, but also from the Khurja gharana. “He learnt from Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan for 10 years, and Pt. Jagannath bua Purohit, who I think were the main influences in his music. Of course, he also learnt from Jaipur doyen Pt. Gullubhai Jassdanwalla, and from Baba Sahib (Azizuddin Khan, grandson of Ustad Alladiya Khan). The Khurja gharana raags are different, their Nat Kamod is different to what is commonly rendered. Baba also sang a lot of Pt. Ram Ashrey Jha’s compositions and those of his gurubhai, Pt. C.R. Vyas.”

Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki composed for 17 musicals, the first being ‘Matsyagandha’; he was also a popular abhang singer and composer, he sang Rabindra sangeet too. “As far as new raags are concerned, my father was not really drawn to creating them. He did incorporate two Carnatic ragas in his repertoire — Amritavarshini, in which he composed two bandishes, and Manoranjini. He also liked singing ‘jor’ raags like Hindol Bahar, Triveni,” says Shounak, who wants to give back to the music world through the many festivals that he organises in memory of his father.

The annual Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki festival will be held in Goa on September 24 and 25.

The Delhi-based critic specialises in classical music.

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