Bengaluru disciples recall Kishori's towering genius

Bengaluru disciples recall Kishori's towering genius
Kishori Amonkar, the doyenne of Hindustani music who passed away in Mumbai late on Monday, was a revered guru to two singers from Bengaluru.

Sangeeta Katti, famous for many hit Kannada movie songs, spent five years at Kishori’s house in Mumbai, learning classical music in gurukula style. She had visited her just last week. “It is true Kishori tai came across as temperamental. But I don’t know of a more kind, positive soul,” Sangeeta told DH.

Sangeeta was in Mumbai from 1993 to ’98, and would travel regularly from Bengaluru for her lessons in later years.

“She was a thinking musician, always intensely pondering over theoretical questions... For example, how does the colour of a note change when it is sung in a different raga?” she said. Hours before Kishori passed away, she had been teaching. “She was perfectly fine, and went in to meditate. I believe she attained samadhi voluntarily,” Sangeeta said, suggesting the end came about as a spiritual, self-aware act.

Besides classical compositions, Kishori used to sing Sant Jnaneshwar abhangs, and was a disciple of Raghavendra Swami. She had recorded an album on the latter saint, with some songs in Kannada. “She would visit Mantralayam, and on her last visit, she urged the pontiffs to treat all musicians with respect,” Sangeeta said.

Famous tantrums

Kishori’s disciples believe her tantrums were just a way to get people to respect the art, and were far from egotistic.

Vaishali K S, classical vocalist who learnt from Kishori in the mid 1990s, once spent 10 memorable days with her in Pune, listening to her singing compositions she wouldn’t sing elsewhere. “Kishori tai could sing ghazals so beautifully,” Vaishali said, tracing her love of the genre to her association with Ustad Sultan Khan, the sarangi maestro. “But she just wouldn’t sing them to an audience.”

Kishori believed her improvisations were best in some ragas, and even kept away from the complex jod-ragas considered a speciality of her Jaipur-Atrauli style, Vaishali says.

Sangeeta agrees Kishori replaced some of the vigour of the gharana, bringing in a dominant mellifluousness in its place.

The last Vaishali saw Kishori was when she was in Bengaluru for a show at the Infosys campus in Electronics City.

Unusual shishya

Kishori once received a letter from a Kannadiga industrialist, beseeching her to accept him as a disciple. She was moved enough to get Vaishali to reply to him, and he travelled to Mumbai. He was elderly and his voice wasn’t too supple, but he sat ardently listening to her, and made for a sincere disciple.

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