Even a cursory glance at her bio-data makes it clear that Neela Bhagwat has had exposure to the arts and literature. Her interest in such diverse fields as the theatre and mass communication has not been merely academic. She has experienced each medium from within. She regards music as an effective language. Having internalized influences from different source music becomes a medium of communication to her. The approach is reflected in her music as well as her general perspective on music.
Neela Bhagwat has received training from Pandit Sharadchandra Arolkar of the of the Gwalior gharana who was respected as an exponent of the authentic Khayal. In her writing as well as lectures she lucidly explairs the three basic ingredients of music; i.e., rhythm, melody and poetry and how they achieve a synthesis in the art-form called the Khayal. Neela Bhagwat has worked out an elaborate system of education and socialisation of various age-groups.
Having mastered the idiom of the Khayal Neela Bhagwat has made an attempt to mould it for the purpose of expressing the contemporary ethos. She has made compositions which depicts the sensibilities of a modern woman. Known as a singer hose music appeals to the heart as well as the intellect Neela Bhagwat is acknowledged to be a significant talent on the contemporary scene.
Neela Bhagwat and Saint - Poet Kabir have become synonymous terms over the past five years. Neela Bhagwat who is recognized as one of the most authentic voices of Hindustani music has established herself as a leading exponent to the Gwalior style of singing which specialize not only in the Khayal form but also in other related forms kike thumri, the tappa and ashtapadi, the tarana and the Khayalnuma. A through grounding in this rich tradition at the hands of revered gurus like Pt. Sharadchandra Arolkar and Pt. Jai Balaporia activated Neela Bhagwat’s creative faculty. It is her constant search for new avenues of innovative expression which led her to the saint poet Kabir. The trauma of communal riots in 1992 was the motivating factor for Neela Bhagwat. Many classical singers have sung Kabir Bhajans before. In Neela Bhagwat hands they do not remain mere bhajans instead, they turn in to compositions invested with new meaning, a vehicle for conveying eternal ideas. Neela Bhagwat employs the idiom of the Gwalior style with its purity on ragas for composing tunes which she sings in her euphonious voice. It is her ability to portray the emotion of Kabir song was enthusiastically welcomed by Germans in particular. Her Programs of Kabir compositions at prestigious venues like the N. C. P.A.’ Y. B. Chavan Centre, Bharat Bhavan and Raj Bhavan in Bhoopal have drawn a warm response.
Neela Bhagwat’s album of Kabir songs was unanimously hailed by music lovers and critics. Something far removed from the rut said critic Subhash K. Jha writing in Screen. “It is an album which has us clinging to every note in rapt attention. The singer expresses motley shades of the ancient poetry as though she were handpicked by Kabir himself to enunciate the deepest relevance of the lines. For the listeners craving for a devotional experience beyond the peddlers piety afforded in the average bhajan albums” adds Jha. For Kaumudi Marathe writing in the Pioneer ‘Melody hangs powerfully in the air ‘According to Arunadhati Subramaniuam writing in the Sunday review of The Times of India, it represents an important milestone in Neela Bhagwat’s quest to create music that is “meaningful without being jingoistic moving without being maudlin”.
Kabir, the fifteenth century saint-poet preached unity of religious. He actively promoted co-operation and understanding between different communities and sects. The quintessence of his concept of unity was love between human beings. ‘Dhai Akshar Prem Ka’ sums up his concept. The most fascinating aspect of Kabir’s poetry is that he explores various shades of love in different kinds of relationships. Be it Guru – Shishya, Man – Woman, the individual and society, Kabir views love all it’s manifestations. Here is an attempt to translate the rich experience of his evocative poetry to music. Love poems of Kabir have been set to numerous musical forms which are considered suitable for them.
Premnagar Ka Anth Na Paya
Kabir places love, fulfilment, Death and God on Equal footing. Arrival as well as departure is full of suffering. Death puts an end to all suffering. Just as there is only love beyond death, there has to be only love during lifetime. Without love, life is like a rudderless ship. How will it reach the shore?
Mohi Tohi Lagi Kaise Chute
There exists a deep between you and me. How will it snap? It has been there since times immemorial and would remain there forever. It is like a river merging into an ocean.
Sadho Dekho Jog Baurana
The world has gone crazy. If you tell the truth you get beaten up. However, falsehood wins you a kingdom. Without digesting the essence of “Ram” and “Rahim”, Hindus and Muslims fight over them and kill each other. Hindus flaunt their symbols like the garland. The tilak on the forehead and the cap while Muslims cite the Koran, bask in their Pirhood and evoke the fear of death among the faithful. People mock me and make fun of me but it is for you to decide who is level-headed and who is crazy.
Mori Chunri Mein
Chunri is symbol of life, Kabir says it has become unclean and it will become clean only when one applies the soap of Knowledge inherited from the preceptor.
Pee Le Pyala
Drink the glass of nectar which is a set of principals, taught by gurus and get intoxicated. It is essential to meet the right preceptor. Life, otherwise, it vitiated by impurities.
Paani Beech Meen Pyasi
It is amusing that the fish in the pond id forever thirsty strength and inspiration lies within ones own self. Why look for them elsewhere?
Mana Tu Par Utar Kahan Jaiho
Where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve? What you consider as salvation is an undefinable nothing. There is no water, no boat, no boatman, no sect and no leader. Shed your anxieties and illusions. See yourself as a part of a continuous process of events. Try and understand you role in it and just be happy.
Nisdin Sahe Le Ghav
Creation involves perpetual suffering. One has to pay a price if one wishes to reach a particular goal. Once the idea reveals itself, it opens new avenues and horizons. The opening up elevates ones spirits and one dedicates oneself totally to the ideal. This is not a permanent state, but one is prepared to relate to the process of creation.
Na Mein Dharmi
I am neither religious nor irreligious. I have nothing to say nor do I want to hear. I am not bonded nor am I free. I am equal to everyday else yet distant and distinctive in my own way. I don’t impose my views on others and i don’t refuse the sayings of each others. Each one is entitles to ones own principals.
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