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A tribute to Shoba Gurtu
- Kala Ramesh, Pune

November 12, 2004

i enter her room. there she is. i have heard her voice…can recognize it even in deep sleep…
her ability to emote, portray shades of meaning in anything she sings.
a tumri… a dadra... a kajri… a bhajan…
abhinaya in those vocal cords.
a balasaraswathi, a kalanidhi narayan in a different mode.*

a pukar here (a call and yearning), a taasir there (a compelling quality), laced with a deep anu-naad (resonance)
how does she do it? how effortless and easy it seems. it seems.
i soon realized that beneath the simplicity of her gayaki (style) lies her virtuosity.
her meticulous search for that perfect swara.

swa means self and ra means light or to bring forth, meaning when the musician touches her ‘soul' that music we say is ‘felt' and when that happens, the song becomes rasavant and is there for all to see.
a long journey. no doubt.

on April 6th 2003, i went to shobha gurtuji and asked her if she could teach me.
the next day i began my lessons.
i had taken some apples with me.
she looked at them.
she took one in her hand.
“a slender stalk but what a huge fruit,
like a slender throat and a big voice,” she said smiling.

then, the tabaliya started to play a simple teental in adha.
she began to sing a bandish ki thumri,
chathiya tharaka gayi re mori aali, piya nahi aaya

shobhaji came ALIVE.
her limbs moved. her body swayed. her eyes danced. her music weaved through the taal, joining the beat now, going off - beat again, teasing, just like the Ganga playing hide and seek with the Himalayas.
i sat at her feet, mesmerized.

She is no more with us.
And I need to say this. She was a performer par excellence.

*Balasaraswathi & Kalanidhi Narayan - both great Bharatanatyam dancers known for their Abhinaya - dramatization of the various emotions - the navarasas.

Kala Ramesh is a performing Hindustani classical vocalist residing in Pune.

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