From Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt Jasraj and Pt L Subramaniam to the Dhrupad Sisters, Amita Sinha Mahapatra, Janhavi Phansalkar and Anuja Borude (pakhawaj), and Carnatic Veena artiste Jayanthi Kumaresh, doyens of the world of Indian classical music will congregate in Pune for the 67th edition of Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, to be held from December 11 to 15. SHRINIVAS JOSHI, executive president of Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal, the organiser of the festival, talks to The Indian express about the journey that is almost seven decades old.
How was the festival born and how did it grow to its present stature today?
Initially, it was not a festival but a gathering of musicians for a tribute to Pt Sawai Gandharva, who was the guru of my father Pt Bhimsen Joshi. His guru died in 1952, and some of his disciples paid a musical tribute to him that year, which continued every year. As my father was travelling and spending time with good musicians, he was bringing them to Pune. He nurtured three generations of listeners. In the mid-1960s, this took the shape of a festival but the spirit was still that of paying homage to the gurus.
Over the decades, music and society have changed. How has that impacted the festival?
Music changes every 10 years but we stick to Indian classical music. We ensure that the spirit of the event is adhered to. One of the changes has been in the restrictions on timings. Since 2001, there has been a restriction on playing loudspeakers after 10 pm. Accordingly, the duration of the performance has been changed. For many decades, the festival would be held for three nights but now we stick to 4 pm to 10 pm. The performances are also shorter. That, in a way, is a good thing as people present the best edited part of their music.
What is your earliest memory of the festival?
...As I grew up, I remember an informal time when there were no telephones or internet and reservations had to be done on the spot. Musicians would stay at our house or the house of some other member of the trust. As a child, I was also fascinated by the food stalls. In those days, eating out was not as common.
What is the new generation of musicians like?
Musicians have become more professional. Money and logistics play an important role, which is fair, as living standards have become demanding. Musicians invest their lives in a pursuit of excellence, so they should live decently. But, I feel this must be balanced. If somebody is organising a concert and you charge a high amount, it is not feasible. Sometimes, when musicians have some brand value, they expect more than they are worth. But, we try to adjust.
Is it difficult to get sponsorship?
Earlier, we didn’t have to make an effort but now we do. It is true that listeners or viewers for lighter music and entertainment is going to be more in number, if you think in terms of sponsorship.