‘Have taken classical music beyond its realm’

As he turns 60, Hindustani vocalist Nagaraj Rao Havaldar will be honoured at an event today
Last Updated 20 December 2019, 12:29 IST

A recipient of this year’s Karnataka Kalashree award, Nagaraj Rao Havaldar is one of the leading vocalists of Hindustani classical music. With extensive training under gurus such as Madhava Gudi and Panchakshari Swami Mattigatti, he has also studied music academically. He holds the ‘Sangeetha Ratna’ degree from Karnataka University, Dharwad.

He is a pioneer in popularising Kannada khayal and has conceptualised two Doordarshan shows, ‘Raagadhaara’ and ‘Swaradhaare’.

He has performed all over the country and abroad at prestigious venues. He has also travelled extensively for lecture demonstrations.

Additionally he has authored several books, his latest being an English translation of his semi-biographical Kannada book ‘Bharata Ratna Pt Bhimasen Joshi -- Naavu Neeve Kandante’. He turned 60 this year and Metrolife caught up with him for a quick chat.

What are some of the high points in your musical career?

I have been able to learn from some of the musical greats directly. In today’s world, the ‘gurukula’ system is fading. I can vouch for the benefits of personal guidance from masters, where even a hand gesture or the silence between two sentences can convey so much.

I have also taken it beyond the realm and the boundaries of classical music. I have sung for the inmates of Tihar Jail, as a source of mental healing for them. I have collaborated with NIMHANS to bring out a CD to aid children with behavioural problems. We arrived at a simpler version of classical music to soothe the young minds.

Sunaada Art Foundation (an organisation dedicated to the promotion of Indian classical music, of which Nagaraj Rao Havaldar is the founder and president) has produced the entire Bhagawad Gita in Kannada. We have used around 65 ragas for that, to convey the meaning of it through music.

In collaboration with Azim Premji University, I have produced 11 documentaries on lesser-known but great musicians of Karnataka. I did the research, prepared the script and anchored it.

You have performed and taught in many cities abroad. What kind of students do you get there?

Both NRIs and non-Indians learn from me. When I taught at Elmhurst College in Chicago for a semester in 2011, among my most eager students was a 75-year-old dentist, Dr John. He was able to grasp the nuances of what I taught them and at the time of my farewell party, he told me a place for him was assured in heaven because he had attended a course on Indian classical music.

It must have been challenging to become a professional independent singer...

It was and continues to be so. The fear of not being able to meet your day-to-day expenses will always keep you on your toes. You practise every day, refine your ragas and fine-tune your voice regularly, not to defeat your fellow musicians but to remain in the arena.

Just like any other job now, you have to be contemporarily relevant, despite following a traditional artform. Thankfully I have been doing very well and now I am happy both my children, Omkar (vocalist) and Kedar (tabla artiste) and my nephew, Sameer (harmonium player), have taken after me.

What are your thoughts about the musical culture in Bengaluru?

I think we have to strike a balance between popularity and the true traditional performances. Also, I think there are too many programmes taking place simultaneously in the city. Every weekend, there are at least 10 events taking place in different areas. I feel the artistes, organisers and the audience should be open for a good concert on any given day and not wait till the weekend to attend the same. There should also be an interactive session at the end of every event.

Catch the event today

An event celebrating the life and music of Karnataka Kalashree Nagaraj Rao Havaldar will have a Hindustani music vocal recital performed by Bharathi Prathap with a tabla and harmonium accompaniment. A conversation on ‘Exploring the making of Havaldar’s creative journey in music’ and the felicitation of Indhudhar Nirody, the doyen of Agra gharana, will also take place. Be a part of the event today at 4 pm, at Pathi auditorium, Basavanagudi. For more details contact Omkarnath on 98865 21507.

(Published 20 December 2019, 12:26 IST)

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