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Home > Discover Mumbai > Art and Culture > Shubha Mudgal

  Shubha Mudgal    

"I cannot imagine life without music" - Hindustani classical singer, Padmashri Shubha Mudgal

Her voice has moved people to tears. Requests for repeat Padmashri Shubha Mudgalperformances are a regular feature in her concerts. Hindustani classical singer, Padmashri Shubha Mudgal is epitome of dedication and discipline, a rare and much sought after attribute today. This established vocalist who does not belong to a particular 'gharana' has thought it her place to combine tradition with modern and follows her heart where music is concerned. Married to Aneesh Pradhan her tabla accompanist, she has found her true love in music.

Mumbaibest has a heart-to-heart with Shubha Mudgal, a singer who chose to differ...

You are one of the most popular singers in Hindustani classical music in Mumbai today. What sparked off your interest in music?
My parents, Skandgupt and Jaya, were English literature Hindustani classical teachers at the Allahabad University. They encouraged me to learn Kathak at an early age, which I pursued for 10 years and gave up for music. Music started with my addiction to Binaca Geetmala and bathroom singing. My first guru was Ram Asrey Jha, the local music department head. I used to travel 8 miles everyday to train under him. Riyaz was always with my little dog 'Poil' on my lap, since I felt she was my only ardent fan. I also practised under Vinay Chandra Maudgalya and Vasant Thakar and owe my stylistic techniques to Kumar Gandharva and Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki and 'thumri' and 'dadra' training to Naina Devi.

After marriage at the age of 23 to Mukul, I was overshadowed Lost in her music - Subha Mudgalby the talented music family I was married into. You could say, I was the Mudgal bahu who 'just sang.' With Vinaychandra for a father-in-law, vocalist Madhup for brother-in-law and dancer Madhavi for sister-in-law, I really had to really work hard to make my presence felt in the music world. My marriage did not work and I walked out. That made me a strong person and gave me the independence to start my career without comparisons with family hovering in the background.

What does music mean to you?
I approach music with as much sincerity and integrity as Aneesh Pradhan, Shubha's  husbandpossible. First, I have to be sure of what I am doing, only then, can I make others believe in my music. Sometimes, people have tears in their eyes when they hear me sing, what more can I ask for. Every concert is like a gateway into another space, a very special sphere. I have to concentrate to get into that space, which is almost akin to worship. Music, to me, is a form of meditation.

You are one singer who never looks at the audience during a performance. Comment.
Every musician looks forward to a responsive and appreciative audience. But, one cannot be constantly worried the audiences' feeling, it can be quite distractive. The distraction is constantly worrying. If someone is frowning, you wonder, "Don't they like my music?" If one dwells on such distractions even for a minute, you lose oneness with music. There are people in the wings of the auditoium running around or audience who enter or get up from their seats, you cannot be bothered about all that. Your entire being must be focussed on making music.

You are married to your tabla accompanist. Does personal disparity come in the way of your music?
My husband and me respect each other both personally and on the music front. It is very evident in the music that we make. We both enjoy music too much to let, if at any, personal problems to come in the way. Music is our binding force.

Talent does not seem the criteria with many young singers and musicians. Glamour seems the new mantra. Comment.
I do not see this as a negative aspect, 'Everybody has the right to sing.' If these glamourous singers are being promoted professionally and music videos are being made, it means that there are people to lend them a ear. If not, their albums would not have sold. In India, we are catering to a variety of audiences with as varied tastes, be it music, food or culture. There is place for everyone.

Being a traditional Hindustani classical singer, you have adapted modern overtones in your music. How did you take on this challenge?
Every artist has their own personal artistic need. Some singers like to concentrate only on one kind of music, whereas I like working with other disciplines too. To me it is a challenge to work with different styles and even experiment with popular music. There are many singers who do not agree with this and focus only on a particular 'Gaygee.' That is their artistic nature. I have chosen my path. I cannot say that somebody who does popular music is no good, such sweeping generalised statements do not mean much.

What is your dream in music?
I do not really have dreams and ambitions. But, if there is one thing I would really like to be associated with throughout my life, it is music. A singer has a certain lifespan, his / her voice may not be always in good form. Age may not permit me to sing professionally after a few years. But as a singer, listener, teacher and even as a student, it might sound very cliched, but the truth is, "I cannot imagine life without music."

By : Anupama Vinayak
Photographer : Vinayak Prabhu

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