|Shri Dattaramji Parwatkar|
When you listen to Dattaramji Parwatkar, a thought crosses your mind that this great artist was solely born to play the Sarangi. Dattaramji is one of the few artists that our community has offered to the world, and he undoubtedly enjoys the premiership amongst them.
When asked about how he mastered the art of playing sarangi, Dattaramji humbly replies saying that “his entire village (Parvat in Goa) was known for its artists. When you would take a stroll in the village you would often hear alaps, strumming of the tanpura, rhythmic cycles of tabla or melodious notes of sarangi. But to top it all, our home was an institution in itself when it came to music. My grandfather and my great-grandfather were hailed as master musicians in their era. During my growing up years, my elder brothers Pandit Balkrishna and Sadanand played Sarangi and Tabla respectively. To cut a long story short, let’s put this way that I was born amidst the notes of sarangi and rhythms of tabla. Since the time I started understanding music, I was mesmerised by the sound of sarangi. When I would be alone at home, I often tried playing my elder brother’s sarangi; without his consent of course. The elders of the family didn’t approve of me taking to music. But they were aware that this won’t be easily possible as music was something that our home was abuzz with. Thus I was sent packing to Panaji for studies. But this somehow didn’t stop me from getting back to my sarangi.
While in Panaji, I got to hear Vinayakrao Mhardolkar’s sarangi recital; I was so spellbound by the performance that I could never get back to my studies. I wanted to meet him and so I requested Hariram Ramnathkar to introduce me to him. And as luck would have it, I did meet him. This took a dramatic turn in my life; I got so taken over by the sound of sarangi that I left Panaji altogether and eloped to Mhardol (Vinayakrao Mhardolkar’s village). In days ahead, my father learnt about this incident and he sent for me. When I got back home, he realised that it won’t be fair on his part to dissuade me from playing the sarangi. As a gesture of approval, he ordered for a special sarangi for me which was smaller in size and thus made it easier for me to play. I was so thrilled back then.
I used to attentively listen to the way Balkrishna used to play sarangi and when he wasn’t at home, I used to try and imitate him. One day when alone at home, I again pulled his sarangi out and started playing it. I lost track of the time and didn’t realise when the elders of the house had returned home. Balkrishna and Laybhaskar Khaprumama Parwatkar were stunned hearing me play sarangi the way I did. My elder brother was so taken over by joy that he gifted me his sarangi and since that day he hardly got back to playing it; rather he diverted all his passions into teaching me this instrument”.
Prior to this, Bajirao Gurav had taught Dattaramji the basics of tabla. He was further trained in tabla by Raghunathrao . Later, Dattaramji studied music especially sarangi under the guidance of Pandumama Mangeshkar. He hailed him as his guru.
Post this, Dattaramji started travelling towards Belgaum, Sangli and it was here that he was introduced to renowned musician Ustad Abdul Karim Khansaheb. Chancing upon this, he started taking Hindustani classical singing lessons from him. He stayed with Khansaheb for three years and this eventually resulted in making Dattaramji’s sarangi sound more lustrous. As a gesture of guru-dakshina, Dattaramji later stared accompanying Khansaheb’s disciple, Hirabai Badodekar regularly at musical gatherings.
Thus after mastering the dual art of Hindustani classical singing and sarangi, Dattaramji proceeded to Kolhapur and eventually landed in Mumbai. He worked at various organisations in Mumbai like His Master’s Voice (HMV), All India Radio, Imperial Film Company and Lalit Kaladarsh. But besides these, most of his time was spent accompanying renowned artistes at concerts from all over India.
Today, Shri Dattaramji Parwatkar has carved a niche for himself like none other in the world of music yet he is so grounded, humble and fully aware of his artistic limitations. He would always stick to his primary role of an accompanist during a concert. Like during a Hindustani vocal recital, he made sure that accompaniment does not lead into being the hero of the concert. He said, “If the accompaniment is not good, the performance loses its lustre but accompaniment is not performance in itself. According to me, accompaniment is worth only 20% of the complete performance. And I say this out of my experience. It’s not possible for a sarangi player to imitate every note that a singer sings and having said that I suggest one should not make an attempt at doing so either. In traditional Hindustani Classical Music, an accompanist’s excellence should not exceed that of a vocalist’s. You could portray your expertise to the vocalist and the audience during a recital but do not intend to overshadow the vocalist at any point of time or consciously trick him/her to commit an error; I’m strictly against such acts.
Till date, I must have accompanied many prominent vocalists, both male and female. Many renowned vocalists have performed at All India Radio and I’ve been lucky to perform alongside them. Yet I would sincerely like to add that I’ve and I do enjoy immensely while accompanying Mogubai Kurdikar and Kesarbai Kerkar”.
“At the age of 22, I came to Mumbai and since then it’s been around 32 years that I’ve been here. You could say that I’ve been playing Sarangi for the last 50 years. I’m indebted to the famous Veena player Shri Bajirao Gurav who taught me tabla at a very young age. I’m also indebted to my elder brother Pandit Balkrishna Parwatkar. Throughout my life, I’ve attended performances of many a sarangi players and I respect them all but no one comes close to Vinayakrao Mhardolkar; you do not get to hear sarangi of that calibre any more. Having said this, it does not mean and I would like to request you all that please do not mistake me for being an authority on sarangi. I myself do not think I know much about the instrument. Believe me; I’m yet too naive to know about this art. I still have to learn a lot from a lot many artists. I like to admire the good qualities of my contemporaries and I’m on the constant lookout for my shortcomings. Whatever little success I’ve achieved as yet, I believe it’s thanks to this philosophy of mine; and that’s why I cannot blame any of my contemporaries for my weaknesses. I’ve utmost respect for sarangi and I maintain that it is an honour to play this instrument. Today I tutor my students and I would be really glad to do so for our members of the community too. My experience tells me that while teaching, you also get to learn new nuances of the art. Whenever I hear the notes of sarangi, I make sure I listen to it with my complete attention because I believe I would get to learn something new from that recital”.
Translated to English by Aditya Ajit Parwatkar from Artist Interviews, The Gomantak Maratha Samaj Silver Jubilee Celebrations Catalogue, 1953