The day I first met my Guru Narayana Panditji is etched in my memory. The way the first meeting unfolded was no less than a cinematic experience. Those days I was learning music from Pt.Chandrashekhar Puranikmath Sir in Dharwad. My gurubandhu Sharada Bhat was already learning from Panditji and she used to sing Panditji’s bandishes in our music class in presence of Puranikmath Sir. I was greatly impressed by the lyrical and structural beauty of these bandishes. Within two months we had Gurupurnima concerts in our class and Panditji came as a chief guest to this function. He gave a lecture demonstration on ‘the development of Hindustani music from sthoola to sookshma’(coarse to subtility). He started with Dhrupad and beautifully unraveled the story of evolution in music with very apt and thoughtful compositions. This kind of ‘looking back towards our root’ was new to me and as I had literary background this analysis by Panditji caught me up. I have decided to meet him and asked Puranikmath Sir, and he completely agreed to do so.
In the meanwhile I gave my Visharada exam for which I had Ravikiran Sir as my examiner. And he was also thinking to go to Panditji soon. After the exam I went to Honnavar and saw RavikiranSir (my present Guru) there. I was travelling from Dharwad to Honnavar often, staying with him for a week and was learning from him. He had a big collection of traditional bandishes of different gharanas with their varied stylistics, Kumarji’s bandishes, Nirguni bhajan’s, Thumris, his own compositions, many interesting stories from the life of veteran musicians, his experience in Maharashta and about Maharashtrians love towards music and also many other philosophical ideas. As a teenager all these things are new and admirable for me.
His teaching was not at all conventional. He was showing the ‘raga rupa’ through different sparkling bandishes. Panditji used to tell that in any raaga rendition it is not right to fix that ‘till 20 minutes sthayialap, after that antaraalap, after increasing the laya first bola alap, bol tan, sargam and tan’ etc. In our rendition, totally we should nurture the bhava of that raaga in the boundary of chosen bandish and in chosen tala with pin pointed sur. Our rendition is not to define the grammar of that particular raaga but by upholding the ragabhava we should be able to reach every single audience weather they are learned or the lay men. For the practice of ‘kharaj’, ‘higher notes’, ‘tans’ he composed different bandishes, as he was thinking that students can achieve these things easily and happily singing compositions instead of indulging in repetitive practice sessions. So his compositions like ‘dasimai’ in Bageshree starts from lower dhani. And its complete progression is in lower notes. Likewise he has composed bandish in Bhairav and Marwa with different tan patterns. Those are ‘Gavu tore sang’ and ‘erilarungi’. To practice the taraShadja and upper notes, he used to teach a bandish in raag Todi, ‘kaiso mero yo’. The concept of presenting the raaga in respect to the chosen the bandish was taught to me by Panditji. He has composed 5,6 bandishes in one raga showing different angles of the same raga with varied bhava (emotion). He was searching for untouched nooks of the raga with utmost emotions ultimately heading towards sublimity. His bandish in Jhinjhoti ‘sakhihamari meet suraki’, its jodbandish ‘reshamakidor’, Bairagibhairav’s ‘akelimairahi’, malkaunsbandish ‘kaisesamajhavu’ and many like these could bring tears in the eyes of listeners. Once he got a phrase or appropriate word, he would be restless until he completes it. He used to hum that phrase by tapping his writing table and look for suitable phrases to flash. I feel I am fortunate to see and experience these moments with him.
The highest importance was given to ‘Sur’ (hitting the exact point of the note with flawless voice) by Panditji. Always he was insisting everyone to achieve the ‘jeer’ in their voice. Though I did not understand clearly what it is like and how to attain it, I could feel that quality in his music which is beyond all worldly expectations and desires which makes the music very much different and unique. He was always quoting Kumarji’s words that ‘searching for the middle point of each note is itself music’.Later, when I started learning from Panditji’s senior disciple Ravikiran Manipal, I could understand this idea little more clearly. Now I feel that while talking about ‘jeer’, he was referring to a properly cultured voice which compasses both base and head voice with perfect pronunciation. This voice will have good resonance, pointedness, throw and creates the ambience.
I was not having voice recorder when I was learning from him. But I was trying to understand and incorporate his thoughts and ideas in my singing all through these years. And after taking up this project I got an opportunity to go much closer to him and to his music. Ravikiran Sir also helped me a lot in this effort. The raga rupa hidden in these bandishes with underlying bhava made me to feel many a time that it needs more synthesis before presenting these bandishes. But perceiving it as my duty as a tribute to this great Guru of mine, I did this little work with lots of love and devotion. I believe with his blessings, this life with music would be ‘ananda yatra’ (joyful journey) as rightly coined by Panditji.