I have been singing for the last 27 years. I have not learnt music through any formal education. I began singing as I continued to listen to songs on the radio. I performed on stage for the first time at the age of nine. I never looked back from there on. I kept achieving newer heights of success as I continued singing. I was not falling short of anything for that matter. Nevertheless, somewhere in one remote corner of my mind, I continued to feel some regret that I had not learnt music formally from a Guru. I came to Bapu and my formal education in Music began here.
On the insistence of my friend Sheetal, in the year 2004, I came to take Bapu’s darshan. In the beginning, I would come on a Thursday, take his darshan and would return. However, slowly I began to take part in the activities of the Sanstha. As I continued, before I could realize; I had become an integral part of the family of shraddhavans. I began to acknowledge Bapu as my Sadguru. What caught my attention the most was the fact that my Sadguru, behaved and looked like any one of us. Just the way we go for a movie, he goes for a movie with his family. He goes out on a picnic. All of this felt unique. It touched a chord deep inside knowing that my Sadguru was as normal as any one of us. Particularly, I was quite delighted to know that just as I loved music, he loved music too.
Bapu had started teaching Marathi language to those whose mother tongue was not Marathi. Besides teaching all of us Marathi, he would teach us several other things. Through these classes, I witnessed huge transformational changes taking place in my life. Let us take an example of a simple film song. Who does not like songs from old Hindi movies? Typically these songs are sung by a hero for a heroine or vice-a-versa. Wonder what would happen if we were to sing the same songs for one’s God?
Music is expected to arouse certain feelings in one’s mind. When one sings a movie song with the intense love for God, those emotions do reach God. Bapu presented me with this thought. I had not only heard these songs earlier but I had continued to sing them for years. However, now I feel different when I sing the same very songs. My mind gets taken over by feelings of devotion. Madan Mohan is Bapu’s favourite musician. Bapu can choose to listen to some of his songs such as woh bhuli daastan, yu hasaraton ke daag, aap ki nazaron ne samajha, lag jaa gale, innumerable number of times in a day. I also feel that he would feel the same level of happiness listening to them even if it meant the nth time. Bapu’s favourite singer is Mohammad Rafi. Bapu talks quite highly about him.
Bapu’s love for music is not limited to songs from Hindi movies. I slowly began to understand that he understood music deeply. On every Thursday, at Harigurugram, a Satsang is performed. Gajars are sung there. I am a part of that team. The team who sings these Gajars meet Bapu at regular intervals. There can never be an alternative to the suggestions and guidance provided by Bapu to the team in these meetings.
Bapu quite effortlessly teaches us tunes that would suit a particular Gajar. How should one catch the rhythm of the Gajar? Bapu has brought to attention several things to me who has probably spent more than 2 decades in this field. He has set such unique music for some Gajars that one cannot even fathom those. Bapu gives us instructions such as in this Aarti, let us not use Harmonium. Let us use Nagara. Use Taal here, use Tabla, or Pakhawaj, instructs he. At that time, none of us ask him why we needed to use a particular instrument. One’s a person executes his instruction; one finds an answer for the ‘why’. As indicated earlier, I have not learnt music formally. I kept listening to songs and as a result, kept singing. Bapu informed us that if we desired to sing better, it was imperative for us to listen to good singers. He made us study such good singers. Bapu taught us to listen to great singers such as Kishori Amonkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Jyotsna Bhole, and Jayamala Shiledar. Earlier I never listened to classical music. I was not interested in Marathi Natyasangeet either. I began listening to it after Bapu asked us to do so. I developed an interest in such music.
Bapu has played CDs of some of the famous singers for us. Watching Bapu as he listened to those songs is no less than participating in some kind of festivities. Bapu not only knows each and every word of a song but he also knows the modulations of a singer for a song. He sings along identically as well. Looking at him, I get to learn with practicals a way in which one ought to listen to music. Therefore, in spite of having been in the music industry for several years, I have begun to feel that my journey in the field of music has almost just begun.
Once, Bapu gave me the responsibility to record a Gajar. While I was a commercial, professional singer, I was not in the know of technicalities of recording. Bapu guided me about the Chorus. One ought to have 30% women and 70% men in chorus in order to strike a balance, said Bapu. Bapu imparted the knowledge to me by saying that a woman’s voice is equivalent to the voice of three male singers put together.
Once a Gajar is recorded, Bapu listens to all the tracks and can identify a person who is off pitch from others by simply listening to it a single time. He asks me pointed questions such as, “Why is Chetan’s voice low? Why is Devendra singing in higher pitch?” Based on these examples one would easily know how he picks up on these minute details. Some of the seasoned people in this industry could feel threatened by his questioning.
At times, I feel that Bapu is a Sadguru, right? Nothing is impossible for him. However, in the next moment, I realize that at a human level, my Sadguru has achieved this abundant knowledge and skill through sheer hard word and study. One cannot tie his knowledge down to trivialities such as he understands only Hindi film music, etc. He had participated in a family celebration few weeks ago. At that time, he had asked Dr. Jayesh Shah to bring, right away, the CDs of Damayanti Bardoi. On procuring those CDs, he made others listen to her songs. He did not stop at that, he went on to inform others about her music and praised her for her contribution to the world of music. On hearing all that I was stunned. Damayanti Bardoi is a Gujarati folk artiste. I was shocked to know that Bapu had such in-depth knowledge about her music.
I also had another such pleasant surprise. There is a Garba from the olden days – “Rang Taali Rang Taali Rangama Rang Taali.” My grandmother used to sing this Garba. One day, out of blue, Bapu sang that Garba for us. Not only about Gujarati Garba but Bapu has in-depth knowledge about music from different folk and classical music streams. He is almost a living book for those who wish to take in that abundant knowledge. Bapu never holds himself back while distributing his knowledge to others. He also does it gracefully by not exhibiting in any way his knowledge. He does not belittle others through his behaviour in any way.
In spite of having such abundant knowledge of music, I have never seen Bapu show it off to others. In fact, he discusses all of this as a friend with the singers and musicians. At times, he seeks information from them. Bapu who does not show off his knowledge also acknowledges the contribution of a musician who otherwise would not get noticed quickly in an orchestra. Not only that; at times I have seen professional singers surprised singing in front of him. “What do I say? Whatever we sing, Bapu knows it by heart. He sits and sings it right in front of us. At times we fear we might sing a wrong line.” I have heard this from some professional singers. To that I say, ”That is how my Bapu is.”
||Hari Om|| ||Shri Ram|| ||Ambadnya||