Our ancestors, i.e. forefathers of YT and Missus were in ancient times recipients of Royal temple grants in various parts of present day Maharashtra and MP. The centre-piece of the in-laws’ household happens to be a beautiful Rama temple at Sagaur in Madhya Pradesh, equipped with orchards and greens. The ancestors of Missus were more musically oriented, in fact, kirtankars who also used to be known as buas among Maharashtrians. Clever readers, chatur vachakani, of the blog will recall the story so far: our father-in-law, Pt. Balaji Pathak joined Pt. Bhatkhande’s band of faithfuls, became part of Gwalior Gharana, and went on to join Allahabad University as a Professor of Vocal Classical. After retirement he served Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth and routinely visited their centres including those in neighbouring countries where the art is practised.
Cut to Ramnavmi 2015…YT retired from Chabiwala Bank in the end of circa 2014 and was privileged to attend the Sagaur celebrations of the year. Of course, in the three-and-half decades of our marriage we have visited the sleepy little town several times.
Oblivious of His Rambo version, our Ram Mandir owes allegiance to the gentle Rama . The temple and the listeners of Sagaur have been delighted witness to many a classical baithak in the days when it was not all about money honey! and Masters regardless of their nominal religion -Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Ali Akbar and Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer, not to forget Gwalior greats including the Pandits and Vyases performed right inside the temple out of sheer devotion. Lot’s of folklore about the gunijan @ Ram Mandir, about which later…
What brings us here really is the treasure that the temple holds. No, nothing like the Padmanabh temple….no tales of descendants knocking walls for hollows or descending with metal-detectors…
The real treasures here were nurtured basically by Pt. Sharad 'Nana' Pathak, the previous care-taker of the temple who struck the Right Exit of the temple at a ripe old age, and joined Rama in 2014… He was the eldest cousin of Missus and a silent recorder and collector of recordings of small gatherings where the Pandits and Ustads let their hair down reputedly being in their elements. Nana, the quintessential Milind of Marathi Natyasangeet, the hoarder of makrand: nectar! All recorded with the artistes’ blessings of course, which is apparent from the tenor of the pieces..,Among the siblings, Nana was absolutely the most passionate about Classical, including Caranatic, and would drive to concerts like Tansen and Sawai Gandharva…Here is Nana at SG 1975 listening to none else than Pandit Bhimsen Joshi:
The picture is taken from the excellent Asavari drut on Youtube …
So… we cornered the enviable task of exposing the recordings to the classical loving public of course with the consent of the present mathadheesh!
The collection has seen around 70 years now. The compilers were working on senior posts with the Government, nursing the intent to organise and disperse the music freely in the open skies post-retirement, but the resolve was hardly aided by the durability of the media….As you can imagine, originally most of the recordings were on spools. Over the years many relatives attempted collation, particularly Col. (Dr.) Vijabhau who managed to convert many a recording into mp3, but pen-drives lose themselves so often I sayyy…and hence the task, in large parts, has to be repeated.
Alas..! when the spools were initially converted to cassette tapes, the written notes accompanying the spools were lost in many cases, although many have thankfully survived. The first two pickings of the harvest, assumed more than 60 years old (the universal copyright period) were recently published by Missus who is directing the task, being the expert. She calls her Youtube channel “Yamini Kalyani” after her favourite raga Yaman Kalyan. Some of the noise emanating from tapes could be eliminated with the help of Audacity, but it turns out that there is a trade-off between elimination of noise and amplitude (i.e. loudness). Here are the vintage BSJs:
The reception amongst aficionados has been most encouraging but as of now beg pardon, we have no reply to the queries about the location or names of accompanists. Hopefully someone may step in with clues. We hope to publish at least 50 recordings in due course! Mostly vocal, but including Dr. Rajam, MSG and KV on violin and Pt. Hari Prasad on the flute..