Last week, this self-effacing vocalist performed with his sister, the well-known Odissi dancer Madhavi Mudgal in the Parampara 2006 festival in New Delhi. This is one among several such collaborations the brother-sister duo has executed.
Priya Kanungo caught up with the vocalist, who currently heads one of Delhis oldest and well-known music schools, the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya (founded by his father).
Proud of the fact that the Vidyalaya now manages solely on the fees paid by its 1200 music and dance students, Mudgal is excited about the three new floors that are being added to the institution. These floors will be used for dance classes and there will be a small auditorium for music concerts too.
Mudgal spoke about the jugalbandi with his sister and future plans about the Vidyalaya. Some excerpts:
How had the performance with Madhavi Mudgal been structured Was there any difference between performing solo as against performing with a dancer
When the organisers Kuchipudi dancers, Radha and Raja Reddy approached uswe were told that all the items would require a dancer to perform with either a vocalist or an instrumentalist. Many of Madhavis dance items have been set to my music compositions. So for us, this was not really a first time. The challenge was in the last piece of the performance. It was a composition in Bhairavi for which we had not rehearsed earlier. The idea was that I would sing extempore and she would do abhinaya in response to the lines that I sang. This could have been tricky. But the good thing is that since we have been working together since childhood, we more or less knew how the other is going to respond.
Singing solo gives you the freedom to take off from where you wish to, and Hindustani classical music is structured that way. But when I have to sing for a dancer, the entire music is fixedthe number of repetitions of the lines; how long to pause between music phrases, etc. In a way aap bandh jaate ho (you get tied down).
Has the student profile changed over the years in Gandharva Mahavidyalaya
Earlier, we used to be a lot more relaxed about taking in students. Anyone who said he or she was interested in learning music, was admitted to the Vidyalaya. In the last few years we have become somewhat more selective.
We take an interview of the students and make them sing/dance to check out their potential. It is only then that we admit them to our institution. In fact, it has become a necessity for us to follow this form of selection as the number of people claiming an interest in music/dance has gone up, but not all of them have the potential to learn.
There is a complaint that Gandharva Mahavidyala has not been able to produce any good performing artiste.
A student becomes a performing artiste by his/her own efforts and talent, not because of an institution. That is not to say that we havent produced good artistesShubha Mudgal, Kailash Sharma, Subhadra Desaithey have trained here. At the Vidyalaya students also have the advantage of learning from a host of eminent artistes who come to stay with us as against those who learn from one guru and are restricted to his/her style.
The other thing is that if you go to a maestro and say you want to learn from him, he is going to tell you to first learn the basics somewhere and then come back to him. At Gandharva we put in the hard work and do the boring job of teaching the basics to beginners.