“Prabhu Data Saban Ke”….
The reminiscences of the subtle melodious strains of this traditional composition in the morning Raag Bhairav still linger in our hearts, while the little husky, but intense tone of the sublime voice that rendered the music lives no more…….
Yes, the voice that haunts us today, making us feel lost somewhere, suddenly, belonged to none other than the great musician and Guru, Pandit Pundalik Prabhu, better known to his disciples and admirers as ‘Prabhumaam’. Prabhumaam’s soulful and poignant singing, at times, carried certain striking notes and abrupt phrases which would leave his listeners stunned at times. Who had dreamt that he would use the same striking, abrupt note to depart the pious life that he led, on the 12th or October 2010 from his residence in Goregaon, marking the fifth day of Navaratri festival, leaving all his followers aghast?
Primarily known to many as a Hindustani Classical Vocalist but equally adept in the art of playing the Tabla, Prabhumaam was born in the city of Mangalore, the prominent district on the map of coastal Karnataka, on 16th of October, 1930. Having an ear for music right from childhood, he started learning Tabla from Shri Harishchandra Rao. Since Carnatic music was the predominant genre of music prevalent in the region of South Kanara, Prabhumam got his basic training in Carnatic classical vocal music from Shri Darnappa of Mangalore.
The advent of Hindustani music saw many aspiring performers of Hindustani music visiting the region for performances and gradually it started gaining popularity among the innumerable music lovers in Mangalore and nearby regions. Prabhumaam was no exception, as he was greatly drawn and inspired by the stylistic techniques and aesthetics employed by Hindustani artistes belonging to different Gharanas in elaborating and embellishing different Raags. One personality who made a great impact on Prabhumaam was none other than the legendary vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi after listening to whom, he decided to pursue learning Hindustani vocal music from Shri B S Anand Rao of Mangalore.
As was the trend in those days, Prabhumaam moved out of Mangalore in the year 1956 to Mumbai, taking up service with Phillips to earn a living. But his passion for music prompted him to continue learning both Tabla and Hindustani vocal music from Pandit Datta Kerkar of the Agra Gharana. Later on, his interest and proficiency in playing Tabla was further nurtured when he came under the tutelage of the renowned Tabla maestro Pandit Yeshwant Kerkar, as suggested by Pandit Datta Kerkar.
Pandit Pundalik Prabhu has performed both as a vocalist and tabla accompanist to several musicians. He has also taught and inspired many disciples in tabla and vocal music, the most prominent of them being his son, Vinayak Prabhu, who, following his father’s footsteps, has gained immense popularity as a classical vocalist.
Smt. Suvarny Nayak, Shri. Kiran Kamath, Shri. Nagraj Kamath, Shri. Sudhir Nayak, Shri. Deepak Kamath, Shri. Gaurang Ratanjankar among many others, have been fortunate to be groomed under his able guidance. Renowned musicians like veteran tabla player Pandit Omkarnath Gulvady, or vocalist Dr. A. V. Shenoy are also among many others who have drawn inspiration in their musical upbringing from Prabhumaam, considering him friend, philosopher and guide.
But most of all, we, who have been fortunate to be blessed by the immortal presence of the unassuming, calm, tender and lovable person that Prabhumaam was, shall remember his charming smile and his immense contribution to our lives forever……..
I can still hear the words “Bhavani Dayani”, the immortal Jhaptaal bandish in Raag Bhairavi, one of Prabhumaam’s favourites, still ringing softly in my ears from yonder…..