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Native notes

Pandit Ganapati Bhat Hasanagi, who leads a musical life in the quiet of his village, was never charmed by the opportunities that life in the metropolis brings

THE CULTURAL tapestry of the forest rich district of Uttara Kannada has in the recent times undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. Amidst the chandes of Yakshagana one has now begun to hear the mellifluous strains of Hindustani classical music. Thanks to the perseverance of Pandit Ganapathi Bhat Hasanagi, a front ranking vocalist of the country, his village Hasanagi, ensconced amidst the forest rich velvety terrain of the Western Ghats in the interiors of Yellapur taluk, has emerged a beacon for the connoisseurs of the classical music.

Rooted in his milieu

Ganapathi Bhat has withstood the lures of the metropolitan to stay put in his village and plough his lonely musical furrow, the effect of which is being felt now, with the gradual increase in the interest about classical music. Pandit Ganapati Bhat became a vocalist more by accident than by design.

Ganapthi Bhat belongs to a grand musical tradition that boasts of greats such as Sawai Gandharva, Basavaraj Rajguru and Panchakshari Gawai.

Even from a very young age, he had an ear for music. In his sixth year, he was adopted by a family that practised pourohitya. After completing the secondary school education in the nearby Manchikeri village, the question of further education was dropped. The choice was whether he would join a veda pathashala to acquire the proficiency in the family vocation, or go over to study music elsewhere. It was under these circumstances that he landed in Karnatak College, Dharwad, to do a course in music. Halfway through his learning the sitar from Ustad Karim Khan, father of Ustad Bale Khan, here, he stumbled upon his good voice, which was good for learning vocal music rather than keeping on with the sitar. But the head of the department in his college refused to permit the change. In his search for a suitable guru, he chanced upon the inimitable Pandit Basavaraj Rajguru. And to his luck, the maestro consented to accept him as a shishya.

"I was totally raw when I met Pandit Rajguru. He accepted me on the condition that he would review his decision after six months." But that it went on for much beyond the stipulated first six months to last an entire lifetime is part of history.

Rajguru had his own style of teaching. For one year, he taught alankara swaras. The next two years he taught two ragas, yaman in the evening and Bhairavi in the morning. His lessons would depend on the capacity of the student. Rajguru would also sing extensively for his students, which did have a great impact. Pandit Ganapati Bhat recalls: "I can still vividly remember the discerning influence all that listening had on my style."

Pandit Ganapati Bhat was fortunate enough to tour the entire country along with his guru. Rajguru went out of his way in the concerts to encourage shishyas to perform till they emerged as performers of their own right.

Ganapati Bhat, who has given a number of performances all over the country, remembers his trepidation when he had to perform at the prestigious Sawai Gandharva festival in 1985 in Pune.

His performance lasted for 75 minutes that night, fifteen minutes more than the time allotted. Pandit Ganapati Bhat sang Madhukauns and Bageshri, two of his favourite ragas. "Fortunately, they never let me down." After this he says be never looked back.

It is possible for a musician to master 25 to 30 ragas in his entire career. He believes that the musician has to be in touch with them constantly.

He was never too interested in moving out of his village. For him, music was a passion and not something of professional interest. He has always found the life in his village more congenial to pursue his passion. The ambience, the picturesque locale, the tranquility have been an inspiration to his gushing music, he adds.

As far as accepting programmes is concerned, Pandit Ganapati Bhat is a scrupulous man. He does not take on more than two concerts a month and more than 24 a year. He firmly believes that there should be a gap between two performances, which gives a musician plenty of time to introspect. "Otherwise a musician becomes as mechanical as the record player," he says.

Ganapati Bhat has no time thinking of the future, engaged that he is in rigorously training his students. Like his guru, Ganapati Bhat also believes in giving as much as possible to the next generation.

"We are living in a society which is conscious of discharging its debts. At present I am busy doing that," says the humble Pandit Ganapati Bhat.

High Note is a fortnightly column that features reputed musicians of the State. You can send in responses to Friday Review, The Hindu, Bhagwan Mahaveer Road, Bangalore 560001


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