Spicing literature with melody


It is certainly an arduous task to balance music on the one hand and literary pursuits on the other. But K S Vaishali, a Hindustani classical vocalist and a successful academician has emerged successful in both the domains, writes Bhumika Rajan

A deep and profound commitment and passion towards music is barely seen in the present day grumble many music teachers. Barely after a few months of training in music, whether Carnatic or Hindustani, most youngsters today have the desire to attain overnight glory. Diving deep into each musical note and experimenting with them does not seem to interest most young practitioners of music anymore.

It is only a handful of young musicians who now take music seriously and K S Vaishali is one of those few. But she does not blame children who take the easy path to fame or learn music for the sake of participating in reality shows or competitions or treat music as some ancillary activity.

“Children cannot be blamed for it. If parents display such an attitude then children only pick them up,” she says. When asked if the traditional way of imparting music, that is the Guru-Shishya parampara is a better system, she says that a hierarchy between teacher and student need not exist. She feels that learning is a mutual process and a teacher will also have to take from his/her students and not just the other way round.

Achievements galore

Vaishali was initiated into music when she was a five year-old child and learnt the nuances of music under the tutelage of the famous harmonium maestro, Late Pandit Sheshadri Gawai and later from Gana Saraswati Pandita Kishori Amonkar, an exponent of the Jaipur-Athrauli gharana.

Apart from being a Hindustani classical vocalist she is also an academician and teaches English literature at the department of  English, Bangalore university and is also the chairperson of the department. Both academia and music are extremely challenging professions and demand immense dedication.

She has emerged successful in both these domains what with her numerous publications ranging from books, music reviews and various other articles in academic journals to concerts and lecture demonstrations on Hindustani music across the globe and three audio CD’s of her music. She has also been conferred with the Rajyotsava award in the year 2011, as a recognition of  her contribution to Hindustani classical music by the Government of Karnataka.

She is also the joint secretary in the managing committee of the Academy of Music, Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore and she has also served as a member on the Chowdiah Awards committee. Vaishali began performing as a teenager in 1989. Since then there has simply been no looking back for her.  

Though she teaches English literature, she has equal mastery over Kannada literature and has translated Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Bengali novella, Padmaraag and also another short story by the same author entitled “Sultana’s dream” into Kannada (“Sultanala Kanasu”). Her other works include Prisoning Rhythms, Metamorphic Journeys and recently she has even written an introduction to Vasudeva’s Family which is the English translation of  Vaidehi’s Kannada novella entitled Asprushyaru.

Despite having several achievements to her credit, she remains a simple, friendly, a most warm hearted, affectionate and a thoroughly unassuming individual. A staunch feminist, she fiercely advocates the cause of gender equality and her writings reflect her ideological position.

Striking a balance

It is certainly an arduous task to balance music on the one hand and literary pursuits on the other as they both demand immense dedication and are extremely time consuming. But that is precisely what she has been doing since a fairly long time.

“I need literature for my intellectual sustenance but my emotional needs are met through music. Without either of them I will feel incomplete,” she says. She acknowledges that there are times when a music concert and a seminar or writing an academic piece for some journal collides. “Of course, it becomes tough when such situations arise but it somehow sails through well,” says Vaishali.

She refuses to construct barriers between knowledge systems and prefers to practice an interdisciplinary approach. Her lecture demonstrations reflect this best. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity of listening to her lecture demonstrations on Hindustani Khayal music a couple of times. The way she blends her literary scholarship and music and explains the nuances of different ragas and their importance to the audience is enough to suggest her passion towards both the forms and her mastery over them.

 Music is a shravana vidya, she says and emphasises that a serious student of music needs to listen to the music of other musicians and attend concerts on an intense scale for it helps in absorbing the nuances of other gharanas.

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