Kishori Tai Amonkar: When the Tunes Reverberates the Soul

“I feel I have just begun. I have not learnt anything because I still don’t have command over the sur . Because sur is air, and I am made of concrete. When the perfect sur comes out of my throat, this body will disappear. I will die instantly. I pray to God that I die that way. There is nothing else to see except the beauty of nature, the eternity of one note.”                                                                                                                                                                                    – Kishori Tai Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

And the soul interspersed in the air a day before, but that conviction-driven voice, flowing renditions with utter steadiness, spontaneous modulations followed sudden heavy take-offs towards shadja, elongated and soberly intricately curved note phrases, scintillating syncopation, effortless ups and downs still reverberates in the air.

Indeed, Kishori Amonkar: the name in itself holds an entire paradigm of a musician’s penance, abhyaasa, struggles, hardships, perseverance, and patience (to tolerate low society), and what not. Saraswati selected Kishori Tai to be manifested in the human form. The music of these legendary people is not just a music which we listen and enjoy, nod our heads on the Sam (beat).

These Gayakis are beyond levels. Knowledge and ability to understand the classical music is one thing but to dive into the purity, to meet the solitude through every single note and its treatment, to travel in the causal world, transcend to the raga horizon, one has to be wise and virtuous. A normal music listener perceives renditions, lyrics, modulations, and different elements of classicality but a wise will surely delve deep into her notes and become thoughtless. After arriving from trance, he becomes speechless and tries to reminisce those moments. One has to leave the body consciousness and ego for the time being and unleash himself to fly higher beyond limits. Because these Gayakis definitely have that power to take one in that mode. Kishori Ji’s Gayaki is one of these.

Kishori Tai had a flawless, technically correct voice with which she progressed. Earlier, while listening to her young vocals, the voice was piercing and hypnotic, in fact highly intoxicating, which gradually changed through maturity and thehraav. Her singing was mellifluous and contained a kind of stillness. Her bhajans such as ‘Milta ja Guru Gyani‘ demonstrated the combination of stability, and ‘go with the flow’ demeanour of her Gayaki. There was simplicity, divinity, softness yet power of voice and words as if traversing from the depth of her.

Kishori Ji’s khyal vocalism delineated romanticism because of which she could spread intimacy with the audience. However, she was just herself on the stage, singing with her own melancholy, too engrossed to interact, may be that’s why she was all the more connected and conversing.

One of the most significant features of her musical journey was, she was the entire lady landscape of musical material. Mongubai, being the mother and trained by various stalwarts of almost all the gharanas like Anwar Hussain Khan (Agra), Kesarbai, Anjanibai, Sharatchandra Arolkar etc., she was fulfilled with fastidious collection of the rare ragas and cheezein. She was one of the rare vocalist who sometimes sang Sthayee, antara, sanchari, abhog with utter competence. Her pronunciation of the words expressed nobility and momism. The application of sur indicated her in-depth contemplation on the subject. She performed complex ragas like Basanti-Kedar, Khat, Adana-Kedar, Khem etc. She would inveterate every raga even sampoorna malkauns, from her own spiritual perception and chintan. Not to specify, Bhoop and Hansdhwani raga vocalism is highly associated with the name Kishori-A. Rains in Maharashtra is considered to be welcomed by her recitals of Malhar kinds.


Sometimes, It makes me ponder upon how can a singing possess every single asset. Kishori Ji’s vocalism was comprised of a stability, a solitude yet connection , evocative expressions yet cut to cut logic, spirituality yet romanticism, full purity of a raga yet scintillating, in fact some shringarik ragas she sang give the thumri feel. The curiosity made me read about her. I got the crux. Out of a mishap in her 20s, her voice fully disappeared, literally no medicine and therapies worked. Then a saint named, Sardeshmukh Maharaj took the project of popping up her voice. He not only restored the voice but because of his saintly vibration may be, she was blessed with a more mature, tranquillising, and empyrean form of music. Her soul-searching vocals makes one realise that one has to amalgamate wisdom and chastity with his stream to be on earth and in connection with being.

Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Talent is like water which flows and has to flow crossing constant ups and downs. Kishori Ji’s, being exceptionally talented in every aspect, did not stop growing. She found path to lead as one of the leading vocalists however, facing real life hurdles and mishaps.

Yet another deep quote by her: “I am a purist, and will always try to remain one, in the sense that I will remain faithful to the feel of a raga. The generalised rules are of great help to beginners and also for the meticulous performer-musicologists.”

You will be MISSED… Mharo Pranaam