Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ustad Mehmood Dholpuri: Nobody on Harmonium..?

Our posts on lesser known geniuses who made our Music- Ustad Shaik Dawood, Ustad Nizamuddin Khan, Pt. Khaprumama, Pt. Nana Muley, Pt, Walwalkar, Pt. Sebastian d’Silva..not to forget Ashok Razdan, seem to draw the most eye-ball from our readership, and that is really heartening…

You remember the impish gentleman on the harmonium who for decades enriched vocal recitals to the entire satisfaction the greats of Indian Classical singing for All India Radio and Doordarshan, or is it Door Darshan…? Who can forget the sharp, if indulgent eyes with which he surveyed the scene…Ustad Mehmood Dholpuri…His performance was a feast not only for the ears, but also for the eyes…

A picture is worth a thousand words I sayyyy…

Music lovers had barely overcome their grief over renowned classical vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's death a few months ago. And now comes the news of the demise of the country's most acclaimed harmonium player Mehmood Dholpuri.

The article by Rana Siddiqui Zaman goes on to report tributes by eminent vocalists:

Classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal said: “I first sang with him in 1981 at Gandharv Mahavidyalaya in Delhi where I was participating in a programme called Navodit Kalakar. Since then I have been associated with him. The most admirable thing about him was that apart from his own gharana and its musicians, he used to give equal importance to other musicians of other disciplines and gharanas. He had a very big heart. I am very close to his family. All his sons have grown in front of me. He was the lovable ‘Mehmood Bhai' for me. His passing away is a personal loss.”

But there is something more to the story. Ustad Mehmood was the first Harmonium Player to receive the Padma Shri in the year 2006. This landmark Padma Shri spells belated victory for the endearing instrument on which Indian students first intone sa-re-ga-ma…be it Pta. Lata, or Pta. Asha, or Pt. Dinanath, or Pt. Robida, or Ustad Amir Khan or Ustad Allauddin Khan …or Missus and Carl von ‘Bailiff…

We have earlier referred to that ‘sordid saga ofAll India Radio’, where Pt. Keskar continued with the wayward Raj ban on this soft-spoken instrument called the Harmonium…why should the Pundits of Classical be so paternalistic we had asked…why can’t the listening be left to the listener…?

Here is the Ustad himself on the instrument, quoted by Anjana Rajan in The Hindu dated the 3rd February 2006:

“…Dholpuri, who teaches music besides continuing an active performing career and whose children play both the sarangi and the harmonium, takes a balanced view. "If the sarangi can produce meends and gamaks, which we cannot, the harmonium can produce chords, which they cannot, so there is no point in comparing the two."

This is what the well-known AIR artiste Pt. Naresh Kapuria said on the occasion:

"Main is award ko choomta hoon," he declares with enthusiasm. "I would like to congratulate the person whose idea this was. This is a great recognition for an accompanying artiste."

We again quote in support of the Harmonium Ms. Mudgal, incidentally, a senior of Missus at Allahabad University, a disciple of Pt. Ramashray Jha:

“The harmonium is a keyboard instrument brought to India by missionaries in the second half of the 19th century. Today, virtually every Hindustani classical vocalist specializing in khayal and thumri-dadra is accompanied by the harmonium, despite it being considered inappropriate for Indian music by many, including a certain John Foulds, who headed the Western music section of All India Radio (AIR) in the 1930s.

Foulds stated in an article that the inability of the harmonium to produce microtones or shrutis rendered it inappropriate for Indian music. His opinion led Lionel Fielden, controller of broadcasting for AIR (earlier known as the Indian Broadcasting Company), to ban the harmonium on AIR broadcasts in March 1940. This indictment by the British has continued to shadow the journey of the harmonium in India long after the nation became independent (till 1971)… If this isn’t a classic case of a colonial hangover, what is?

For an interesting ru-ba-ru with Ustad Dholpuri, accompanying one of our top Vocalists:

Kirwani by Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande:

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