Bio-sketch by Sumedha Vaze, Vazebuwa’s great grand-daughter:
Ramakrishnabuva Vaze was a doyen of the Gwalior Gharana. He was called Vazebuva, and known as Gayanacharya in the music world. Vazebuva was born in 1871 in Savantwadi, in southern Maharashtra. He lost his father when still a baby and his mother had to struggle to make ends meet. Though Vazebuva was sent to school, he was inclined towards music and neglected his studies. He reached Kagal, a small princely state and trained under Poharebuva, who was patronized by the ruling princes, for two years.
Ramakrishna was married, at the young age of twelve, but being in no position to maintain his wife and aged mother, he moved to Bombay and started earning a small salary by giving performances. He moved from Bombay to Indore and later to Ujjain. He trained under Bande Ali Khan and Nissar Hussain Khan. Though mainly a representative of the Gwalior Gharana, he traversed the length and breadth of the country and tried to learn about the different styles of music.
He met Swami Vivekananda and was deeply influenced by him. After roaming around in this fashion, he decided to return home and set up a music school in Pune. StyleThough belonging to the Gwalior Gharana, he developed a style of his own which was an amalgam of different styles. While he respected his Gharana and its style, he did not believe in a narrow approach. Besides vocal music, Vazebuva was also proficient in the Violin and Sitar. He also composed tunes for drama troupes on stage, which were well received. Ramakrishnabuva Vaze earned appreciation within and outside India. The ruler of Nepal honored him and appointed him as court musician.
He cut a number of commercial discs, which became immensely popular. He wrote the musical work ‘Sangeet Kala Prakash’. This consists of compositions in different Ragas and their technical details, along with biographical notes of contemporary musicians. Among his distinguished disciples are his son, Shivrambuva Vaze, Haribhau Ghangrekar, Gururao Deshpande and Bhaskarbuva Joshi. He also initiated Kesarbai Kerkar, Vinayakrao Patwardhan, besides training Keshavrao Bhosle, Dinanath Mangeshkar and Venkatesh Pendharkar. He remains one of the most respected names in the Gwalior Gharana.
Added by RP: Vazebuwa also spent time in Goa teaching music, primarily at the Nagueshi temple and in the village of Lamgaon near Bicholim.
From an old post on rec.music.indian.classical, a passage on Vazebuwa from Deodhar’s Pillars of Hindustani Music.
From: parrikar@ferrari.Colorado.EDU (Rajan P. Parrikar) Subject: Vignettes from the Past – PART 1 (long)
Organization: University of Colorado at Boulder NNTP-Posting-User: parrikar
…Although Buwasaheb was formally trained in the Gwalior gharana tradition, because of his close association with musicians belonging to other gharanas, he did not belong to the pure Gwalior tradition. His music could not be identified with any specific gharana. It would be truer to say that he developed his own style of singing. He could render popular well- known ragas with panache. Three or four years before his death he sang in a concert organized by Bombay Music Circle. The Miyan-Malhar raga rend- ered by him on that occasion was unforgettable. He had a most attractive way of building up a cheej and his alapi was most skilful. Even listeners who heard him innumerable times would be left guessing what he was going to do next. His embellishments were so clear-cut and graceful that one longed to hear them over and over again. Buwasaheb, while developing a raga, would hit upon a charming collection of notes which had a special appeal to the audience. He would, on these occasions, weave a web of such tonal beauty around the original passage as to keep the audience spellbound. His presentation of bol-anga was in no sense a wrestling match with rhythm. It was like an amatory duet with rhythm played by means of the words of the cheej. His layakari (rhythmic play) was flawless. His tana was not particularly fast but it had such clarity and force that it fell on one’s ears like a thunder-clap. The eccentricity of his temperament was sometimes reflected in his music. For instance, in bada khayal he would sometimes start with a certain collection of notes and find it so interesting that he would forget to arrive at the sam even after five or six rhythmic cycles. He was fond of singing in a very high key which, given his powerful and broad voice, made it difficult for him to stay and rest on the upper ‘C’ for any length of time. Consequently, after reaching that note he had to break off prematurely. He could render cheejs in fast tempo exceedingly well. Fortunately, as some of his music was recorded and is available in the form of gramophone records, one can always get some idea ol’his music…
…Buwasaheb had a streak of obstinacy in him because of which his concerts are known to have failed. He was one of the participants at the first music conference held under the auspices of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in 1918. So was the celebrated Rahimat Khan who gave a most memorable performance the first night. That concert became the talk of the town. Vazebuwa was scheduled to take the stage the following morning. Accord- ing to one of our guruji’s (Pandit Vishnu Digambar’s) rules for these conferences all instruments expected to be used at a concert had to be tuned and ready well before the scheduled time. Accordingly, the organizers asked Buwasaheb the key in which he intended to sing so that the tanpuras might be suitably tuned. Buwasaheb asked the organizers, “In which key did Rahimat Khan sing last night?” The organizers said ‘black 3.’ “In that case”, said Buwa-saheb, “Tune the tanpuras in white 5” The tanpuras were duly tuned in the key indicated and Buwasaheb started his recital with the cheej ‘ja ja re’ in raga todi. It is common knowledge that most vocalists have trouble with their voices in the upper register in the morning. Moreover, Buwasaheb had chosen to sing in an unnaturally high key. Buwasaheb had great difficulty in controlling his voice and passing from one key to another. He somehow managed to hit the upper ‘C’ but the recital proved a rank failure…
…Buwasaheb used to sing the better known ragas in a masterly manner. If the mood hit him he could also render relatively obscure ragas very well. He was responsible for bringing many such (little known) ragas into light. As a composer, his speciality was cheejs in fast tempo which were beautiful tonally, and in terms of laykari (tempo). He had an unerring sense of beauty but he would have been well advised to entrust the writing of the cheej itself i.e. the textual part of the composition, to someone else. Wherever he has been obstinate enough to foray into this field as well, he sounds very amateurish. Simplistic constructions like “Awo awo awo”, “Jawo jawo”, “gawo, gawo” were capable of being elevated to the status of a song only in Buwasaheb’s eyes. A number of such strange samples of construction can be seen in his book ‘Sangeet Kala Prakash’. His compositions in ragas like Tirwan, Nanda, log, Gara, Kanada, Shri etc. are prime examples of Marathi verses of the worst kind. Instead of venturing into what should have been forbidden territory, had he put on paper the numerous cheejs of ancient vintage he knew, those collections would have proved invaluable…
…Buwasaheb was unassuming and generous and completely free from jealousy or hate. He went out of his way to call on other vocalists and shower praises on them. Unsophisticated as he was, he would sometimes get into trouble because of his tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. In 1927 I requested Buwasaheb to pay a visit to my music school.He appeared in a loose shirt and haphazardly worn cap at the school which was then located at Prarthana Samaj. Some of our boys and girls sang for him. After this I requested him to say a few words to the students. He started his address with these words, “I am a simple person. I do not like to dress up. I have a jacket – I even wear it sometimes. I say, Mr. Deodhar, come to my house and I shall show you my jacket. Very beautiful material. One cannot acquire learning by putting on fine clothes – can one now?” Some of our girls could not help laughing at this. They put their hankies to their lips and giggled. I felt embarrassed. In an attempt to change the subject I told Buwasaheb that our students were anxious to hear him sing. Buwasaheb said, “You can have the recital on Sunday evening.” He duly appeared at the school as promised, and sang beautifully for our students.
…In 1927 Alladiya Khan gave a recital at the house of Shri Telang at Chunam Lane. Accompanists were the maestro’s brother Haider Khan and son Manji Khan. The recital was very beautiful. Present in the audience on that occasion were Pandit Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze and Prof. Kapileshwari. After the recital Buwasaheb praised Alladiya Khan profusely. He then mentioned other singers by name and proceeded to compare them with Khansaheb in the presence of representatives of other gharanas. Alladiya Khan knew that if Vazebuwa continued in the same strain he might well make derogatory remarks about other maestri, which could cause considerable resentment among the representatives of various gharanas who happened to be present. So he did his best to pacify Vazebuwa. He said, “Buwasaheb, I am very happy that you enjoyed my recital. Why bring up the names of other singers? Every vocalist is great in his own way and each gayaki has its own speciality. It is best not to go into their merits and demerits.” But there was no stopping Buwasaheb. He was determined to speak on. He said, “What I heard today was real music. Abdul Karim Khan too sings. What does he know? Tell me now!” Prof. Kapileshwari was within earshot. He was naturally (being a favourite pupil of Abdul Karim) very upset. An unseemly verbal duel started between him and Vazebuwa. Alladiya Khan, with great difficul- ty, put a stop to the wrangling…
…Shri Korgavkar, a celebrated and talented musician, decided to start a harmonium class in Belgaum. Having in mind an appropriately noteworthy figure for the opening, he sent a most courteous invitation to Vazebuwa to preside over the inaugura- tion function. Vazebuwa agreed. At the inauguration, after the speeches of miscellaneous speakers, Buwasaheb was requested to give his presidential address. Buwasaheb stood up. The audience was all attention. Buwasaheb started, “Friends… friends.” But he was at a loss to find anything more to say. After an embarrassingly long silence he said, “Nothing … nothing” and sat down. After repeated clamour from the audience and entreaties from the organizers, Buwasaheb once again stood up and continued his speech,”Ladies and gentlemen! Today we are inaugurating this harmonium class. This instrument is known as a harmonium. We call it bend-baja. So from today anyone who wants to learn to play bend-baja can do so.” The foregoing are some samples of Buwasaheb’s eccentric behaviour…