The Bhendibazaar gharana singer Anuradha Kuber is leading an online project to organize readings of old and rare tomes on Indian classical artists.

Classical singer Anuradha Kuber, who wanted to use her time productively during the lockdown, conceptualized the Music book club, which is currently streaming on YouTube. The platform has been popular with musicians and curious readers since its launch two months ago. The first book to be read was the flagship work of Marathi author Gopalkrishna Bhobe, Saat Swarashree. “The plan is to read titles in English, Hindi and Marathi consecutively. These are old books on classical music and musicians, which are not readily available in bookstores, ”shares Kuber, an accomplished representative of Pune-based Bhendibazaar gharana.

Kuber held annual music concerts in memory of her grandfather, but she was unable this year due to the pandemic. “The project was launched on June 24 to mark the 109th birthday of my grandfather SG Shende, who was a freedom fighter, and the centenary of the birth of my grandmother, Sau Malati Shende. Since then, we have been organizing weekly book readings, ”explains the singer, trained with Pandit TD Janorikar and Dr Arwind Thatte. Janorikar was one of the main supporters of Bhendibazaar gharana. Yashashri Joshi, a classical music student, was one of the first volunteers to read chapters from Saat Swarashree when the project was launched. “I think the Music Book Club is a great platform to reach book lovers who otherwise wouldn’t have access to such titles,” says Joshi.

Reading Saat Swarashree has been a rewarding experience for her. “I realized how difficult it was for the early classical musicians to access the learning materials that we take for granted today,” she adds. Kuber reads biographies and autobiographies from the first season. That is why she chose Saat Swarashree in which Bhobe wrote sketches of the lives of prominent classical singers of her time. The reading of Bhobe’s book was followed by another classic, Pillars of Hindustani music, by Professor BR Deodhar. Deodhar was a distinguished musicologist, music teacher and classical singer. In the book, Deodhar presents detailed biographical sketches of artists born in the 19th century.

Pillars of Hindustani Music is a treasure trove of information about pillars such as Pandit Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar, Ustad Alladiya Khan, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Kesarbai Kerkar and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to name a few. Deodhar himself was Paluskar’s main disciple. “Professor BR Deodhar’s life sketches are very instructive as he was in close contact with many musicians of his time. He actually met, interacted and learned from some of the artists – for this reason his writings are very valuable, ”says Kuber. “Deodhar’s Life Sketches provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of musicians. What you learn from his work is that the artists of that time were uneducated and it was not easy for them to listen to or study music like we do today. You can also learn about the socio-economic, socio-cultural and political scenario of that time. You also understand how classical musicians and classical music have evolved over the years, ”she adds. Pu La Deshpande wrote the preface to Pillars of Hindustani Music, which was translated into English from the Marathi title Thor Sangeetkar.

One of the books featured in the readings

Kuber is delighted that many musicians and non-musicians are interested in the project. So far, there has been no shortage of volunteers. Harmonium player Sumitra Kshirsagar is a staunch supporter and member of the club. “The concept has certainly received a warm welcome. We even had popular TV actor Sumeet Raghvan who volunteered for us, ”shares Kshirsagar, who is happy that classical music literature is made available to the general public. “I hope the readings will pique readers’ curiosity to learn more about the books,” he says. Kshirsagar designed the book club poster. He takes care of the technical aspects of club management.

The singer avoids presenting any comments on the books during a reading. “The goal of this series is to offer readers new and original content,” she says. She also reads a disclaimer before each presentation, stating: “The information, views, opinions and thoughts expressed in the readings are those of the respective authors. We, the producer and the reader, do not claim their allegiance in any way. The content and the references must be seen taking into account the time in which it was written and not according to the current context. People slowly but surely get used to his sincere efforts to introduce old writings. “They gradually appreciate our work, but it will take a while for us to reach more people,” she says.

The singer intends to find sponsors to support the activities of the Music Book Club. “Everything we do right now is done on a voluntary basis. However, in the future, I want to pay the person who agrees to do a reading, “she shares. And the project activities will evolve as well. After the first season is over, Kuber wants to present theoretical music books or essays on the music in a few months The singer has a vast collection of books on the subject to perpetuate the project.

It’s a good thing that the singer’s friends also have an impressive collection of classical music books to help with her business. Some of the titles that will be read in the future include ending writings Mohan Nadkarni and Dr Ashok Damodar Ranade. Nadkarni was considered one of the best music critics in the country. He was an expert in Indian musicology and aesthetics who contributed to the critiques and writings of recitals and recorded music during his lifetime. Ranade was a prolific university musician and ethnomusicologist. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology in India. As a musician, Ranade composed many bandish and reinterpreted traditional compositions. So, with such a large collection of writings and authors, the Music Book Club is about to engage music lovers for a long time.