♫ Konkani Song
[AIR Mumbai, c. 1965, Composer: Jitendra Abhisheki, Lyric: B.B. Borkar]
♫ Raga Paraj [Goa, 1985]
♫ Bhajan [Goa, 1985]
♫ Bhairavi – Babul mora [Goa, 1985]
Jitendra Abhisheki was born in Goa, India, and grew up amid the tranquil environs of the Shri Mangesh temple in the hamlet of Mangeshi situated in the Goan hinterland. His father was a Sanskrit pandit and a keertankar affiliated with the temple and it was through him that young Jitendra’s literary and musical impulses received an early fillip and direction.
Abhisheki’s formal musical instruction began under Girijabai Kelekar (sister of the well-known Marathi stage actress-singer Jyotsna Bhole) in Goa. After imbibing the essentials he left for Bombay where he first sought Azmat Hussein Khan “Dilrang,” the accomplished musician-composer of the Agra-Atrauli schools. Abhisheki later enrolled himself as a pupil of the distinguished Agra musician and composer, Jagannathbua Purohit “Gunidas.” From these two masters he imbibed the essence of ragadari, performance technique, and a wealth of musical compositions in common and rare rAgas of which they were repositories. And under their exacting eye he emerged as one of the ablest practitioners of vocal Hindustani music. His earliest recordings, notably the ones in ragas Marwa and Bilaskhani Todi, released by HMV in the 1960s, bear testimony to his prowess and are much prized today.
Despite his superior gifts and ability in music, Abhisheki was a restless soul and a perpetual seeker of all that is sublime and noble in music, his mind unfettered by narrow Gharana dogmas and injunctions. To that end, he actively associated with and learnt from an array of contemporary masters and vaggeyakaras. Such as Gulubhai Jasdanwala (disciple of the Jaipur-Atrauli doyen Alladiya Khan-saheb), Azizuddin Khan (Alladiya Khan-saheb’s grandson), C.R. Vyas (fellow guru-bhai), Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” (the great composer-teacher and vidwan from Allahabad). These peregrinations greatly refined Abhisheki’s aesthetic mien and imbued him with an unrivalled perspective of the musical landscape. He soon came to be considered not only an eminent performer but also a formidable scholar and pandit, adept at both musical practice and shastra.
In assessing Abhisheki, two strands of his oeuvre must be separated: one, his primary vocation as a Hindustani vocalist, and two, his work as a composer. Abhisheki’s gayaki discloses a deeply introspective approach. His lack of a naturally strong voice is compensated by its acquired depth of character pressed wholly in service of raga. His development is measured, the raga is constructed from ground up, the treatment follows a precise, well-defined sequence, and eventually the entire edifice organically comes into view. His strengths are in the alapachari sections, in conjuring imaginative melodic ideas and patterns within the boundary conditions imposed by the rAga under consideration. There obtains certainty in Abhisheki’s intonation and his bol- alap preserves the integrity and clarity of the text as it wraps around melody. The tans are well-formulated and, more importantly, serve to fortify the elaboration. This ability with the faster passages was somewhat impaired in his final years when, marred by failing heath, his voice had difficulty keeping pace with his agile mind.
Abhisheki ranks as one of 20th century’s finest composers. His creative output reveals a versatile mind endowed with a vast melodic imagination. He was singularly responsible for the revival of Marathi stage music through a series of brilliant scores in dramas in the 1960s and 1970s. They attained huge commercial success in their day, especially in Maharastra and Goa, and continue to enchant. Abhisheki’s eclectic spirit and unusual talent for joining complex melody to verse is clearly manifest in his compositions. He also conceived many a delightful classical bandishes. This veritable Nadayogi passed away on November 7, 1998 in Pune, India.