"My riyaaz is my sadhana".
Kumar Anand has been pursuing Hindustani classical music (vocal) professionally for the last four decades. He started learning music from the age of seven in Deoghar, encouraged by his family, particularly his father, who saw the potential in his son. Anand still remembers his father going especially to Samastipur and getting a harmonium for his young, talented boy. Anand ji first started training under his guru, Shri Gopal Karmkar, and later, for training in Hindustani classical music, he approached renowned musician, Shri Dilip Narayan Khaware ji who continues to teach in Deoghar, preparing future singers in India through his rigorous training methods. Having trained under his guidance for almost ten years, Anand ji remains indebted to Late Shri D. N. Singh from whom he received his Master’s degree in Hindustani Classical Music.
1. What circumstances were responsible to mould you as a professional singer?
I started performing professionally on many prestigious platforms at a very young age. When I was eight years old, I performed at the prestigious Chetnasamiti Vidyapati Samaroh. For three years consecutively from 1982 to 1983, I performed there as a child artiste. I was, in fact, performing in different cities in India, including Patna, Madhupur, Ranchi, Deoghar, Nagpur, among other places. Those early experiences, of performing on prestigious platforms, at the national level, made me realise that I needed to learn Hindustani classical music in more depth. I was fortunate that my family saw my potential at a young age, and introduced me to my future gurus who moulded me and shaped the singer in me. Gradually, however, my interest geared toward teaching.
Though I continue to sing professionally, having brought out my music album and performed on television and All India Radio, my interest in teaching allowed me to create a parallel path to further my music skills and share my knowledge with future talent. When I received my Sangeet Prabhakar degree, I applied, and eventually got selected in Raj Kamal Saraswati Mandir, Dhanbad, as a ‘trained graduate teacher’ in 1995. That was the start of my professional journey as a teacher of Hindustani classical music, and for the next ten years over there, I worked very hard to share my knowledge of music, while continuing to learn and perform for radio and television. Later, I became the head of music in Vidya Bharati, Jharkhand. Under my control, all the 40 schools of Vidya Bharati, all the music teachers, took training from me once a year. Later, I joined Vidya Devi Jindal School, Hisar, where I taught for eight years. In 2013, I joined Mayo College Girls’ School, Ajmer, as the senior teacher, vocal music.
2. How does Maithali language find its way to Hindustani classical music?
In the Maithali language, a very famous poet, Mahakavi Vidyapati, has written many Padh’s (poems). Many of the songs that he composed were based on these particular Raagas and this shows how much knowledge he had on Hindustani Classical Music. I have read 'Vidyapati ki Padawali' in which he writes about Raagas in detail. To illustrate with an example, there is a song, ‘Sakhi he, hamar dukhak nahi ore, ee bhar baadar, maah baadar, sunn mandir more...’ in which the Nayika (protagonist) is confessing to her friend, the ache in her heart with her loved one away from her. It is set in Raag Des, and the melody conveys, very convincingly, the pathos of the protagonist. There is a Padh, which when added it the bandish, allows the listener to get an absolute feel of the lyrics, melody, and emotion. So, if you study the rich history and tradition of music in Maithali region, you will find that the entry point into Hindustani classical music happens quite organically and seamlessly.
3. In this phase of reality shows and westernised electronic music, how can Indian classical music continue to be rooted in purity?
I think we have to be accepting of the fact that reality shows can only offer only a glimpse of the rich tradition of Hindustani classical music. On reality shows, performers, in a very short time, show their skill by way of an amalgamation of all the genres – classical, semi-classical, ghazals, film songs... it’s their way to show their musical range. However, to understand Hindustani classical music means that you have to enter a phase of lifelong saadhna (meditation). The deeper you go into it, the more you benefit. You cannot learn a Raaga in a few weeks, for instance. You have to understand it, be moved by it, absorb its essence in your body, mind and heart, and then sing it. Reality shows, by their very nature, don’t offer scope for letting the participants discover the true essence of a Raaga. So, even though many participants on these reality shows sing the most difficult songs with tremendous ease, I don’t think they can go into detail and really understand classical music, in terms of truly understanding the depth of a Raaga. For me, music has been my lifelong saadhna (meditation), and every morning, in the puja room of my home, where I do my daily riyaaz (practice), I enter an even deeper place of discovering myself, and the Supreme Being, through my music. It gives me immense pleasure. Professional singers nowadays have to perform in many genres; a performer has to be adept in not just pure classical music but also semi-classical genres of singing. That said, classical music is the foundation, the solid base that allows you an entry point into other genres.
4. What’s your take in promoting music amidst different generations? What advice do you have for upcoming talents in the field of singing?
We have to move with the times – singers from an earlier generation had a lot of time and patience to learn music and do riyaaz for several hours. There were a single-minded devotion and commitment that they had at the outset. The world we live in today is vastly different. Students do find it tough to cope with learning music with a single-minded commitment because the concept of guru shishya parampara is gradually slipping away. In school, even the best of the singing talent is coping with other subjects and activities, and that’s a reality we all have to accept. My gurus, for instance, used to teach me once a week, but the rest of the days, I knew already that I had to practice diligently. As a music teacher, I motivate my students to not give up, and keep doing their riyaaz. How much time they devote every day is secondary, the fact that they are doing daily riyaaz correctly is important. They have to keep going on the path of music even if they decide to pursue other careers professionally. This brings me to the point of establishing a solid foundation of trust in accordance with the Guru Shishya Parampara that we have in Indian classical music and dance tradition. The guidance of a good guru is essential and this should not be short-term. If music is a life long commitment, then having a permanent connection with your guru is a very critical part of the musical journey.