Pt. Kumar Gandharva
Born on April 8, 1924, Kumar Gandharva's real name was Shivputra Siddharamaiah Komkali. The title 'Kumar Gandharva' was given to him at the age of seven by Shantiveeraswamy of Gurukalla Math for his extraordinary singing. After that he became famous in the public mind as Kumar Gandharva.
Kumar's father and two elder brothers also used to sing. He started singing from the age of five due to these rituals which were rooted from birth. At that time, without any formal education in music, they imitated the great singers with great preparation, just by listening to the songs. He was admitted to B. R. Devdhar's School of Indian Music, a residential music institute at Mumbai.
In 1948, Pt. Kumar Gandharva moved to Dewas from Mumbai due to tuberculosis. His singing was banned by doctors. After his health recovered, he resumed singing in 1954.
He founded the 'Kumar Sangeet Akademi' (1959) during his stay at Dewas.
Kumarji was confined to bed for 6 years, during which he studied raga music very deeply. He says , “I have benefited from my singing being off. During this period, the folk music of Malwa and the music of Nath Panthiya fell on my ears. I could go deeper and deeper into it. I understood that Indian music originated from folk music. The Nirguna thoughts of Nathpanthiyas could be understood.''
He added value to Indian music by bringing many new raga-raginis and obsolete ragas to light. Kumar introduced many ragas like Malvati, Nindiari, Sanjari, Rahi, Ahimohini, Sindhura, Saheli Todi, Sohoni Bhatiar, Gandhi Malhar, Lagan Gandhar to the fans. He had a great treasure of folk music, Marathi theater music of Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh
Apart from this, he also had a large collection of self-composed hymns.These bhajans have attained such a superior musical status due to the melodious and soulful moves made by Kumarji. He did Kabir, Meera, Surdas, Tulsidas, Tukaram, Bha. Ra. Tambe. He explained Tambe's poetry in depth.
Kumarji's specialty is that he has sung both Saguna and Nirguna bhajans with equal power. In 1967, Kumarji presented a program called 'Triveni' with the verses of Surdas, Meera and Kabir. Kumarji Nirguni Bhajan had 21 bhajans by Kabir, 5 by Gorakhnath, one each by Shivaguru and Devnath and two anonymous ones.
His rendition of melodies based on seasonal cycles, namely Geet Varsha (Monsoon), Geet Hemant (Autumn) and Geet Vasant (Spring) are quite unparalleled in the history of Indian music. He presented the passage of each season using folk compositions and his own creations and thoughtfully included compositions that celebrated festivals occurring in those seasons.
Be it bhajans or folk songs, Khayal singing or drama music, Kumarji's singing was extraordinary and unmatched! He never accepted the framework of rules of the 'gharana' tradition of classical singing.
In 1973, Vikram University awarded him Honorary D.Litt. Awarded this degree. In 1977 he received the national honor of 'Padma Bhushan' and in 1990 'Padma Vibhushan', the National Award of Sangeet Natak Akademi, Kalidas Award of Madhya Pradesh Government (1991).
Musicologist and rasikacharya Govindrao Tembe appraised him aptly in the words of 'a wonderful miracle in the creation of music'.
Considered to be a pioneer in the field of Hindustani classical music, Kumarji was a great musician and singer of intellectual thought.