Birthday: April 8, 1924
Died At Age: 67
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Shivaputra Siddramayya Komkalimath
Born in: Sulebhavi, Belgaum District, Karnataka, India
Famous as: Hindustani classical singer
Spouse/Ex-: Bhanumati Kans, Vasundhara Shrikhande
Died on: January 12, 1992
place of death: Dewas, India
awards: Padma Vibhushan (1990)
Kumar Gandharva was a renowned Hindustani classical singer, one of the most celebrated classical musicians of India. He was a child prodigy and a genius at creating innovative compositions. Disabled in his youth by the loss of the use of a lung, he found a new life in his music. It is said that ill health had majorly affected his voice in the coming years, and thus he had to develop a new style of singing characterized by short phrases and a very high pitch. He spent his temporary forced retirement in meditative and thoughtful concentration on the study of music. This helped him to emerge from the ordeal as a much matured and seasoned artist with newly sharpened creative faculties. A renowned Indian Hindustani classical singer, the unique feature about his singing style was that he refused to adhere to the specific tradition and rules of any particular musical Gharana. Though he may not have ascended the same level of fame as some of his contemporaries, he enjoyed the ample support and affection of his own ardent fans. His style of pronunciation was unmatched and he believed that words, if pronounced properly with the correct feel can be very powerful. His style of singing also included many dramatic gestures and smiles, which was thoroughly enjoyed by his audience. He was a gifted singer who fought against formidable odds to emerge victorious and dedicated himself solely to the study and advancement of music.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Shivaputra Siddramayya Komkalimath, on April 8, 1924 in Sulebhavi, Belgaum District, Karnataka, India, to a Kannadiga couple.
He was an innovative genius and a child prodigy in music. Therefore, he acquired the name ‘Kumar Gandharva’ because according to Hindu mythology, Gandharva is believed to be a musical spirit.
He received his training in Indian classical music under Prof. B R Deodhar during the 1930s.
At a young age, he was inflicted with the deadly disease tuberculosis which left him with just one functioning lung in his body. It was a six-year long, near fatal illness during which he was forbidden from singing.
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He overcame this setback by developing an original style of singing, which relied on short, sharp bursts of music rather than the deep, sonorous, slow and long phrases that characterize Hindustani vocal music. In 1953, he delivered the first musical performance after his recovery.
He created a whole series of concert programs which consisted of a set of raagas and folk songs arranged in a precise order with a common theme. Some of them are the seasonal theme programs like "Geet Varsha", "Geet Hemant", and "Ritu Raaj". They clearly portrayed his revolutionary spirit and thus he is classified as a trend setter.
During the course of his career, he managed to discover new raagas which he termed as "Dhun Ugam Raagas". Many of his discoveries such as Madhsurja, Ahimohini, Saheli Todi, Beehad Bairav, Lagan Gandhar, Sanjaari, Maalvati are now accepted as raagas and can be found in various modern texts such as ‘Raga Nidhi’.
In his long and prosperous career, he also experimented with other genres of music like devotional songs known as ‘bhajans’ and folk songs. He used his own music to heal himself out of a near death situation and demonstrated in his own lifetime the power of healing that music offers by opening out newer avenues.
Apart from being an extraordinary singer, he was also a musicologist. He had his own thoughts about different raagas, styles of rendition, and different composition types. His remarks about composite ragaas, Thumri and Tarana are quite different from the conventional ones.
For him every lyrical form had its own life and needed to be honored for its own sake, and not alone for the sake of the raaga. His last public concert in Bombay took place on November 22, 1991.
One of his most notable works was his unique style and creativity which resulted in compositions in the same raaga in both fast and slow paces, something rarely achieved by a north Indian musician. He was also perhaps the only one in this century to have dared to present a whole concert in the folk music of Malwa.
Another one of his best musical experiments was the one-hour long raaga expositions in which he would frequently perform as many as six different pieces in varying tempos, many of which were his own compositions.
Awards & Achievements
In 1990, he was honored with the ‘Padma Vibhushan’, the second highest civilian award in the Republic of India.
Personal Life & Legacy
In April 1947, he married Bhanumati Kans and moved to Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. The couple was blessed with their first child, Mukul, around 1955. Unfortunately Bhanumati died in 1961 during their second child's birth.
Then he married Vasundhara Shrikhande, one of his fellow-students at Deodhar School. The couple formed a memorable duo in bhajan singing and she also provided vocal support to his classical renditions quite often. They were blessed with a daughter, Kalapini Komkalimath, who also grew up to be a musician.
He died on January 12, 1992 in Dewas, India, at the age of 67.