28 July, 2021

Of Earth And Ether

Serene and combustible at once, free as well as adherent, of her illustrious lineage but wholly individual—dualities defined both the diva and her music

Kishori Amonkar 1932-2017
Photograph by Shobha Deepak Singh
Of Earth And Ether

When I think of her, I think of purity of sound. The tanpuras hushing the air, making a little clearing. Little sharp flashes of the surmandal, making the air ring, taut in anticipation. And then her first utterance of a note—that’s how the Kishori Amonkar world would take birth each time. She would take her time to create a little chrysalis from which would emerge the stunning elaboration of a raag. The choice of raag always, always in sync with the time of the day. An incomparable gravitational pull would draw the rasik into the intensity as well. And thus would begin a journey into the soul of the raag.

Hindustani music can at once be rigid and flexible. Its beauty lies in how it opens up pathways to improvisation, where the structure seems minimal and not overt, but exists as an enabling inner logic. Kis­horiji engaged this duality—freedom and normativity—with great skill, understan­ding, dexterity and élan in her singing. Even though her loyalty to gharanedaar gayaki was more than evident in terms of the grammar and treatment of...

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