Vagaries of Health and the Music in You

Health and music of a Sadhak.

Like everybody else,the musician too is susceptible to the vagaries of health and age. Both take a toll on him. But do they affect his music in terms of his performance and memory? I am reflecting on this subject after experiencing a brief illness for exactly a month and after turning seventy four and had to do my musical seva on 31st December at my guru’s samadhi on his birthday celebrations in Dharwad. I have never missed this occasion since 1992. Every birthday of his on 31st December, my disciples, my sister (Neela) and I do our music seva before his samadhi to derive musical Gyana and Drishti from him.

According to my experience, a vocalist must stop performing when his swaras are not stable. If he notices the slightest tremble in his voice in terms of stability of swaras, he should seriously think of refraining from singing in public. Those who still have stability in their their swaras can sing, like my father-guru did until he was eighty two! After he underwent dialysis, he sang vigorously for the next three years, without any problem!

I had gone through serious ulcer problems and had to be hospitalised for a week in Dharwad before this year’s birthday celebrations of my father-guru. And I was very weak and feeling drained of all energy. All my disciples and my sisters had asked me not to sing for long but to just pay my obeisance to my guru. There was nothing, no particular Raga, not even a contemplation about what to sing, in my mind. When Smt. Chandrika, my disciple, asked me what I would like to sing, I suddenly felt I should sing Lachari Todi, which I had not sung in a public performance. The time, eleven a.m, was right for the raga and my sister,Neela Kodli, had sung Jaunpuri before me. In the greenroom, I just sang for five minutes to warm my voice. I came to the performance place before the samadhi of my guru and bowed before his resting place, praying that he should hold my hand and enable me to sing in this difficult time of illness. The first notes, I caressed gently and felt I could sing! Then, I took re…ni sa re g…m… and the raga began revealing itself. Bandish was “Mai tose naahi bolu, bolungi piharawa mai” in Jhaptal. My guru had taught it in Jhaptal,although traditionally it is in Dhrut teentaal . To my surprise many new phrases revealed themselves and I was able to delineate the raga for 29 minutes, and I stopped. Then I announced the name of the raga and saw atleast one person who had ardently heard my guru and me for a number of years saying “Oh, all these years I had never heard Lachari Todi!” I could see one of my sisters waving her hand and saying “Enough, anna. You have just recovered from a debilitating illness”. But something within me prompted me to sing more. I then began Sughrai (also called Din ka Kanada)” Piya banajara…”, for another half hour. And that went off with the full vigour that it deserves. One of my listeners said “Oh,you shook our hearts with the great vigour of your singing. We didn’t see the illness, only you must have felt it”.

I now feel that it is God’s grace and guru’s blessings that made me sing like that when I was still recuperating from the illness. Apart from the Riyaaz, what is required at such and at all times is the support and blessings of God,Guru and Gharana, i.e., if you have faith in them. I fully realised that day that my disciples to whom I have been telling all through their learning career saw with their own eyes that my refrain of God,Guru and Gharana holds true!
What I would like my young musicians to understand through this experience of mine is that although we as individuals sing, it is not enough. God, Guru and Gharana must always hold our hands and take us through this arduous, but satisfying, journey. Only then true music happens and uplifts the performer and the music lovers.

Let God’s,Guru’s and Gharana’s blessings be on all of us!

(I wish to tell my friends that if the recording is of good quality, I will upload it on You Tube. The performance was in open air and the extraneous sounds could have got into the recording. I do know that some of you must be waiting to listen to the Aprachalit raga, Lachari Todi)