The rich hierarchy of Chandra Vardayi, from Marwad near Jaipur Bikaner had flourished with many great artists and poets who held a respectable position in royal courts. In later period when this curve suffered a negative slope they turned their path towards Music and my father Pt. Baldev Prasad was a simple saintly musician and dancer. His dance guru, Pt. Vindadinji Maharaj was a great dancer of his time.
Ustad Weheram Khan was a renowned musician of his time. My father had also taken initial lessons from him. He never used to stay long at one place and spent most of his time in royal courts. He was not attached to any kind of glory and fame and remain secluded form it throughout his life. Following is an instance of his life which one should read to know him more.
In those days Holi was celebrated with great enthusiasm and rhythm in Indore. Artists and musicians from distant places would come there to show their talent and in return would get due respects and rewards form royal courts.
Once, during this festival my father had visited Indore and as usual his appearance was of a simple common man and hence his he was not allowed to move into the palace but after a long time one senior musician came forward and insisted to allow my father to present his art in the court. Court-men didn’t pay much attention to my father and till then all performers had already completed with their performance. He was not allowed to perform due to his simple attire and down to the earth behaviour and was made fun for the very reason pointing towards him as a salesperson. He condemned their behaviour and asked the permission to present whatever he knows. He tuned his Tanpura and started singing. He sang for and almost an hour and mesmerized the audience with his voice, court-men were deeply moved by their act and apologized for the same. He was bestowed upon the due respect and rewards and was allowed to present his art in front of the Maharaja of Indore according to the tradition after presenting it in front of court-men. Maharaja listened to him carefully and stated that, he had never heard this style of ‘Gayaki’ before. He was completely mesmerized by his performance and offered my father to live in Indore. He accepted this reward and continued there for nearly 10 years.
My father was a charity person. Whatever he used to get through court, most of it would spend on offering suppers to various artists and charity for poor people. He used to offer a great hospitality to all his guests and relatives. In his old age, he developed a habit of consuming opium of 2 paisa but always remained unsatisfied due to its poor quality in Indore.
One fine day Maharaja was over-whelmed with his performance and desired to grant him a huge piece of land also known as ‘Jaagir’ to which my father humbly replied, “Your highness, your praising is my true reward, I don’t want anything more of it.” Maharaja continued forcing him to accept the grants and allowances so finally had to respond in assertion. He asked maharaja to make provisions for getting quality opium as it is not available in his kingdom. Maharaja and other ministers were happy after him accepting the reward. Maharaja also stated, “I had seen many artists getting in the trap of fame and rewards ….. You are truly a saint!!!!” When father was moving out of the court one of the ,ministers came near to him and advised him to ask for some jaagir at least for his children to which he replied, “why should I try to collect and keep rewards for my children, for it will depend on their future deeds and actions.”
I was born at Ratlam in the year 1917, Samvat 1973, in the month of Paush (according to the Indian calendar) on the full moon day in the early morning around 5am. When I was around 6 months old, me along with my mother and elder brother was invited to Indore due to love and gratitude of Maharaja of Indore. My father lived a secluded life after the sudden death of my mother when I was just 1 year old and my elder brother, Pt. Mulchandji was 11 years old. Maharaja of Indore insisted my father for a second marriage but he denied as it was difficult to predict how one lady would respond to his children and what chaotic impact it would leave on me and my brother. Hence, Maharaja ordered to leave me in his palace but father even denied it due to his love and affection for me and brother.
Due to more love and pampering my brother was not much into music but since my childhood I was strongly attracted to it. When I was 7, I used to try and imitate my father as he practiced various ragas. I had ability to copy and imitate any vocalist’s voice and style of singing with my immature stuttering voice. Due to my immense dedication and abilities everyone used to praise and applaud for me.
Everything was going smooth and simple but destiny had written something for us. My father became upset on life and left Indore and moved to Marwad at my Grandmothers place where she took proper care of both of us and my father’s upset and fragile condition. We did not return back again to Indore and father left us when I was 6 and brother was 16. We both became orphan and due to lack of education we were not given any respectable position and roamed form place to place according to plays, theatre companies for our daily livings. In those days Shree Krishna Theatre Company of Kanpur was a renowned name for musical theatre. They had a tradition and culture of Classical music also along with the modern music and also had many musicologists in their company which inspired me for pursuing classical music and acknowledged it as the highest form of music.
Once we had a stay in Karachi, I used to play the role of Majnu from Laila-Majnu play and for it I was bestowed with many accolades. We used to get a salary of 150Rs for every play. When we both acquired a good amount of money our other relatives came forward for our weddings. Pt. Badri Prasadji was the court musician in the royal palace of Jaipur. We both brothers got married to his daughters in Jaipur itself. My in-laws had a great respect of artist and their art. Pt. Badri Prasad and Prakash Kemchand had done great work in film music and a respectable position in the film and music fraternity.
In those days Pt. Goswami Shree Lalji Maharaj aka Kunwar Shyamji, along with his 3 disciples Pt. Ladli Maharaj, Pt. Mohanlal, and Baba Gopalji were of peak artists. I met these great people in Delhi and learnt many things which I had never heard before in my life, from them.
Slowly and gradually every moment of my life I was learning and I started singing on Delhi radio and continued performing for nearly 13 years. Henceforth I got opportunities to perform in well known music conferences. I even did a job of music supervisor in Delhi for nearly 3 years. Later I came to Bombay at my in-law uncle, Pt. Khemchandji’s place but he died just in 6 months after my arrival. I once again became alone and that too in these new city but fortunately and due to God’s grace, Mumbaikar’s accepted me and my singing style and was recognized in the musical community and amongst the connoisseur. Even today I sing for Mumbai radio but I m not content with what I am doing as I want to dedicate myself completely to the service of music and the society. I always had an urge for the traditional Guru-Shishya way of music learning in the most divine and sacred form. I am looking for the music lovers to come forward and help for the establishment of “Shree Swami Haridas Sangeet Ashram”
Following are my reasons and intentions for the establishment of this institute:
- Research of rich and pure classical music
- Promotion of literature , music forms like Dhrupad and Dhamar and other form of music
- To segregate and classify ragas in accordance with all 9 emotions and to present them in front of the masses in the form of literature.
- To mould Khayal and the other semi-classical forms like Hori, Dadra, Tappa , Kajri, Chatrang etc in accordance with traditional and original musical theory.
- To put Sam, Visham, Atit, Anaghat and other forms of “Laya” and other technicalities like ‘Gamak’ ‘Sapat Taan’ ‘Meru-Khand’ etc and other musical Alankars in front of main-stream audience.
- To device an experimental and innovative way of presenting art forms like dance and instrumentals and western concepts of Orchestra for making it more effective.
I believe that Mumbaikar’s will definitely offer a supporting hand for my efforts as they have love and respect for me and my music. They lovingly and with a deep reverence call me as, “Gunigandharva” a title, which was bestowed upon me in Hari-Vallabh Sangeet Mahotsava in Jalandhar, Punjab by a senior and saintly man.