Anandji on a different note
The composer hopes to teach music with his recently released album
Dr Rajiv Vijayakar
Padmashri Anandji, along with elder brother Padmashri Kalyanji, has composed music for over 250 films in their long career. Their films included massive hits and memorable musicals like Jab Jab Phool Khile, Upkar, Saraswatichandra, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Purab Aur Paschim, Johny Mera Naam, Saccha Jhutha, Safar, Zanjeer, Kora Kagaz, Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Qurbani, Laawaris and Tridev.
But the brothers never came into film music for money alone. Their profession remained more of a hobby than business for them. They also remained in the forefront of social causes and staged innumerable shows the world over for a multitude of good causes.
"Very early, we realised that one of the key reasons for our success was the availability of the master singers of those times, so Kalyanjibhai and I decided it was also our duty to prepare similar taiyyar (trained) talents for the composers to come," says Anandji.
K-A quit the film music scene when trends changed. Opting to work separately, Kalyanji formed his Kala-Veer Academy, where he continued to groom promising new talents as he had been doing since the late 1960s, and the Little Wonders troupe.
When his health did not let him travel abroad and the demand continued, Anandji formed his own Little Stars group and took over, while Little Wonders would perform within India. "I have also composed several religious and spiritual albums targeted at NRIs, especially the new generation, packaging them in an idiom they could understand. These albums were all marketed by leading Indian labels in UK and USA," reveals Anandji of the work he has been doing since the mid-1990s.
When Kalyanjibhai passed away in July 2000, Anandji decided to continue his mission of music. A glutton for knowledge on every subject under the sun, he decided the best way of learning music, and thus fuelling and maintaining interest in Indian music and culture in a world swamped by Western influences, was that the process of learning should be made enjoyable.
Anandji thus worked out plans for a series of albums on learning music, from the basic sur (melody) to the main ragas. This month, the first album in this series, Sa Re Ga Ma, has been released by Times Music, an album conceived with the active participation of Anandji's troupe, the Liitle Stars.
Says Anandji about the format of this album, "This album is like the very first chapter of music. It begins with an invocation to Saraswati, the Goddess of Music and Learning, and is an introduction to the seven shuddh (pure or major) notes, Shadaj or Sa, Rishab or Re, Gandhaar or Ga, Madhyam or Ma, Pancham or Pa, Dhaivat or Dha and Nishad or Ni."
This is followed by 14 lessons in the basic alankars (combinations and permutations of these seven notes). A commentary by Sagar Satish, one of the brightest hopes of the Little Stars enlivens the lessons (complete with two revision exercises). The entire learning is done to the beat of an attractive fusion rhythm.
Says Anandji about this shrewd yet fun approach, "The pill must be always sugarcoated, but the full power of the medicine should lie within. We must communicate with the kids in their own language. In the beginning, children will just listen to the rhythm in the background, but slowly this will give way to increasing attention to the sur and how they are being sung and combined. Within the commentary, I have also given small but vital tips to be a good singer, like breathing techniques while singing."
The idea for this album was born thanks to Anandji's granddaughter Priya Prakash Valambia, who stays in London. "She wrote to me once that her schoolteacher said that there are no banyan trees left in this world, and asked if this is true. I wrote back that banyan trees not only abound in India but the Banias (the Gujarati business community) are so-called because in the Imperial days they would relax under the trees' shade. I also sent a video and some photographs of the trees, which included one in the building next to my home."
"Indians and foreigners have tremendous interest in everything about India, so I designed this album for them and sold it to Sonarupa Records, UK. But the late Shyam Nayampally of Times Music heard it and insisted on releasing it in India."
Says Anandji, "Kalyanjibhai and I were quite revolutionary in the training techniques we inculcated in our students. While teaching music, we would give a lot of information of various topics to children, thus stimulating their thirst for knowledge of all kinds. In the very first lesson, you will notice that the commentary spotlights the facts that like there are seven notes in music, there are seven days in a week, seven colours in the rainbow and seven wonders in the world. Since this is like a fundamental lesson in music, we have not gone into the complexities of the remaining tivra (high) and komal (soft) notes, which will come in the later albums."
The rationale behind Anandji's work is simple: "Very often, children may not be comfortable with an older guru whose teaching may be dry. His voice, which students have to emulate, will obviously be on a completely different and 'adult' pitch. Here, learning music is made into a playful process and I have a teenage commentator and my own Little Stars doing the vocals!"
Adds the veteran composer, "Music is for the ears, not for the eyes. For example, writing Sa will never get you its exact sound and frequency. You have to listen to it repeatedly and absorb it. So such lessons will yield better results than a book where the notes, however well-explained, cannot be actually experienced by our aural senses. I am very confident that even adults, after listening to Sa Re Ga Ma once or twice daily, will become very sound about their basics after just a week's hearing."
It might be recalled that the talents to have come from K-A include successes like Alka Yagnik, Sadhana Sargam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Manhar, Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan.