Note: This exhibition was presented as a listening session by Chaitanya Kunte and co-hosted by Nivrittibuwa’s disciple Smt Lata Godse.
Cover Photo: Taken from a Facebook Page dedicated to Nivruttibuva.
Having lost his mother at a very young age, Nivrittibuwa went to live with his uncle, Shankarrao Sarnaik, a student of Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan and founder of a successful drama troupe, Yashwantrao Natak Company. As part of this company, Nivrittibuwa had the unique opportunity to learn from maestros such as Ustad Rajab Ali Khan, Sawai Gandharva and Ustad Alladiya Khan.
His first vocal music teacher, Shree Govind Vitthal Bhave, a martinet, followed a rather singular method of teaching: Students would be expected to memorize the 75+ paltas by serial number. Failure to sing the right palta when the corresponding number was called out would result in the unsavoury punishment of drinking a glass of muddy water! Quite put off by this method, Nivrittibuwa eventually refused to learn from him.
Most of Buwa’s taleem is seemingly incidental. His uncle, Shankarrao, was always the “official” student being formally initiated into training by the gandabandhan ceremony. However as he was very busy, he would send Nivrittibuwa to learn in his place. Ustad Rajab Ali Khan actually quit the company, not very happy with this attitude.
Under the tutelage of Sawai Gandharva he was taught the nuances of raga Todi for the first six months. The emphasis of this training was on mastering the swar-sthaans (the microtonal range within each note in a raga). He was also taught ragas Shuddha Kalyan and Kalyan.
Ustad Alladiya Khan Sahib was appointed as the next in-house teacher and was paid a handsome amount of Rs 11,000. Buwa would accompany him on the Tabla and escort him around town.
Nivrittibuwa taught at Bombay University in the 70s. In 1978 he began teaching at the Sangeet Research Academy (ITC SRA) in Kolkata and remained there till 1992. He did not believe in writing notations for himself or his students. Every night before going to bed, he would pick 10 ragas and practice all the compositions in those ragas that he knew.
He also strongly discouraged his students from discussing each other’s performance. He once sang Todi at night at Benaras Hindu University and despite not always following the raga samaychakra himself (performing ragas based on the time in the day), he did not impose these beliefs on his students.
Nivrittibuwa’s friendship with Gajananbuwa Joshi and Pandit V R Athawale translated into his students singing their compositions and vice versa. He also learned many compositions from Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Sahib (father of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan).
Expanding the boundaries of his musical thought and performance, he built a colossal repertoire which included rarely heard ragas such as Saazgiri, Vihang and Deepak. Buwa’s mastery over taal and laya maybe attributed to his rigorous training on the Tabla. It had a great influence on his style of singing taans and compositions. A skillful combination of taans sung by Ustad Rajab Ali Khan and Ustad Alladiya Khan, Buwa’s taans were composed of complex rhythmic patterns in layakari and are considered to be the highlight of his gayaki.
Entrenched in the culture of a traveling theater troupe and having learned from diverse musical traditions, Buwa grew up to be an open minded and deeply thoughtful musician. He was a well loved and respected teacher and taught a multitude of students who have in turn created a niche for themselves in the world of Hindustani classical music.
He will ever be remembered for his prodigious contribution to Hindustani music and his freedom in the expression of musical thought.
Mastery of Rare (Anvat) Ragas:
Nivruttibuva was known for singing lesser heard Ragas. A rare raga, Virat Bhairav is a combination of Raags Ahir Bhairav and Bhairav. Nivrittibuwa is the only person to have sung this raga on record. Shuddha Kalyan was Buva’s signature Raga. Here is a recording of his rendering Raga Shuddha Kalyan.
Nivruttibuva has composed a large number of compositions in commonly sung as well as rare Ragas. Raga Malvi is often called Nivrittibuwa’s “Bhairavi”. In this live concert recording he sings a composition for which he was very well known
Mastery of Lay and Taal:
Nivruttibuva had also learnt Tabla from Balwant Rukdikar Ji and Babalal Islampukar Ji. Most of Buwa’s own compositions are very difficult to notate as they are based on laya. He would also give new tunes to old compositions. We will conclude this exhibition with Raga Nat Malhar sung by Nivruttibuva.
- Nivruttibuva had changed the bandish ‘Neenda na aavata’ in Shuddha Kalyan for Smt. Kishori Amonkar, to suit the pitch of her voice, so that it ended on Pancham instead of the Shadj.
Some quick facts about Pt. Nivruttibuva Sarnaik:
Date of birth: 4 July 1912
Death: 16 Feb 1994
Gurus: Rajab Ali Khan, Sawai Gandharva, Ustad Alladiya Khan
Influencers: Sawai Gandharva, Natthu Khan
Disciples: Dinkar Panshikar, Vijaya Jadhav-Gatlevar, Azambai, Prasad Savkar, Nilakshi Juvekar, Lata Godse etc.
Many more details can be found on a website dedicated to Nivruttibuva. Please follow the mentioned link – http://www.nivruttibuasarnaik.com/profile.html