PROFILE: ANAND THAKORE
Born in Mumbai in 1971, Poet and Hindustani Khayal vocalist Pandit Anand Thakore ‘ Sabadpiya’, spent a part of his childhood in Britain and has lived in India since then. Elephant Bathing, Mughal Sequence and Waking in December are his three collections of verse. His poems and critical essays on music and poetry have appeared in leading national and international journals and anthologies.
He received training in Hindustani vocal music for many years from Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande, Ustad Aslam Khan and Pandit Baban Haldankar of the Agra Gharana. He has given vocal concerts at mehfils and music festivals and read his poetry at literary festivals in various parts of the country. Thakore is the founder of Harbour Line, a publishing collective, and of Kshitij, an interactive forum for musicians. He lives in Mumbai, where he sings composes, writes and teaches Hindustani vocal music in the Guru-shishya tradition.
EARLY LIFE AND BACKGROUND
Anand Thakore had the good fortune to be born in a family richly endowed with literary and musical talent. His sitar-playing father, Sandip Thakore, ( also a passionate wildlife photographer and naturalist) had been a disciple for many years of the late Ustad Mohammed Khan ‘Beenkaar’ and a close associate of sitar-maestro Ustad Rais Khan Saheb. His Grandmother, Kapila Thakore was an award-winning Gujarati childrens’ writer and translator. As a child, Anand Thakore was fascinated by Hindu Mythology and Indian classical music and dance. When the family moved to England temporarily, he received instruction in Western choral singing and violin and musical theory, in addition to regular studies. He was educated at Solihull School in the West Midlands and at The Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai. On returning to Mumbai he studied Hindustani vocal music under Ustad Aslam Khan of the Jaipur- Atrauli Gharana and Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande, seniormost disciple of Pandit Kumar Gandharva. He gave his first public performance at the ‘Vitaan Festival of Music and Dance, ’89’, hosted by the Sheriff of Mumbai. He has been giving public concerts and ‘mehfils’ regularly since. While learning music he simultaneously developed a passion for literature in English and various Indian languages: Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit and brajbhasha. In addition to writing poetry in English, he began, in his late teens, to compose his own Hindustani compositions with Braj and Hindi lyrics. He earned a BA in English Literature from the University of Mumbai where he also studied courses in Sanskrit Literature. He then earned an MA in English Literature from the University of Pune and taught Literature, for a year at Elphinstone College.
LITERARY CAREER AND STYLE
Anand Thakore is the author of three books of verse, a number of critical essays on music and poetry and a pamphlet of ‘Khayal’ lyrics in Hindi. Jeet Thayil, in the Bloodaxe Book Of Contemporary Indian Poets describes his work in the following terms: ‘Both cultures feed and animate his work….His poems have a line and weight reminiscent of mid-twentieth century British verse; his music reaches out to antiquity’
“ From a child who grew up partly in England, writing prose, Thakore evolved into a teenager who explored braj and Hindi lyrics, which he had to sing as a student of music. His love of poetry took him to poets who lived in Mumbai such as Adil Jussawala, Dom Moraes and Gieve Patel; But he considers Hart Crane as one of his earliest poetic influences. ‘It was while reading sections of voyages’ he says, ‘ that I suddenly felt words and ideas coming together in a musical way…..It was the music of the spoken word.’ ” - Anupama Raju, Hindustan Times
The verse of ‘Waking in December’ , Thakore’s first book shows a reverence for definite form and an interest in classical structures like the sonnet and the villanelle, exemplified in poems like ‘Chandri Villa’ or ‘ What I can Get away with’. This interest in classical forms is linked to his training as a Hindustani classical vocalist and composer. Post-Colonial critic Bruce King points out in World Literature Today ( issue no.A 136, 2001): ‘ That Thakore is a classical singer shows in his imagery and complex patterns of sound, and in the texture of his verse. There is a song-like quality about his verse…..’. The metre and discipline of traditional verse forms helped Thakore find a ‘ deeper integration of ideas and meanings.’ “ Free verse,” he says, “ was driving me crazy. There was too much linguistic and cultural chaos in my head’.” ‘ Elephant Bathing’, Thakore’s second book essentially preserves this formalist approach while making space for the mythological. It is with ‘ Mughal Sequence’ that his stance changes, moving towards an aesthetic of expansive vers libre.
Thakore’s poems first appeared in Literature alive, a British Council Journal. His work has appeared in various leading national and international journals and anthologies since then. For several years he was an active member of ‘Loquations’, a poetry-study group founded by Adil Jussawala. He delivered several lectures and presentations on the work of poets like Roethke, Hart Crane and Adil Jussawala at the National Centre for the performing Arts, Mumbai, most of which were later published in essay format. He is also known for the liveliness of his readings and has read work at major literary festivals around the country.
In 2001 Anand Thakore founded Harbour Line - a publishing collective devoted to English verse on the Indian subcontinent. Harbour Line was founded in collaboration with poets Jane Bhandari, ( ‘Aquarius’,2002, ISBN 81-902981-1-9), Deepankar Khiwani (‘ Entr’acte’, 2006, ISBN 81-902981-2-7) and Vivek Narayanan( Universal Beach, 2006, ISBN 81-902981-3-5)
In 2006 he received a Charles Wallace India Trust grant for an experimental music-poetry collaboration in the UK with composer and guitarist Pete Wyer. He has a number of recorded readings with music - both Hindustani and western- some now available with his books of verse
Anand Thakore was recently a judge and a co-editor for the first Montreal Prize Global Anthology ( 2011) with Valerie Bloom, John Kinsella and Fred d’Aguiar, amongst others. He describes his work as poet and musician as having emerged from ‘ a fortuitous confluence of seemingly disparate histories’.
-written by Ivan Thankappan
Books: ‘Mughal Sequence’, ( Poetrywala, 2012, ISBN 978-81-922254-3-2), ‘Elephant Bathing’ ( Poetrywala 2012, ISBN 978-81-922254-4-9), ‘Waking In December’ ( Harbour Line, 2001, ISBN 81-902981-0-0)
Essays: ‘On The Music of A Missing Person: Adil Jussawala and the Craft of Despair’ ( New Quest, Pune, Ed. Dilip Chitre), ‘ Myth and Monologue’ ( New Quest, Pune, Issue 167, 2007, ed. Dilip Chitre); ‘If Music be the food of speech’ ( New Quest, issue 169, 2007, ed. Dilip Chitre)
Editorial work: Montreal Prize Global Anthology ( Vehicule Press, Montreal ) , Sarpa Satra, Arun Kolhatkar ( Pras Prakashan, 2004)
Anthologised Poems: Thakore’s poetry has appeared in the following anthologies amongst others: ‘The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry’ ( Harper Collins,2012 ed. Sudeep Sen), ‘Sixty Indian Poets’ ( Penguin India 2008, ed. Jeet Thayil), ‘Reasons For Belonging’, ( Viking, 2002, ed. Ranjit Hoskote), ‘ ‘Journal of Post Colonial Writing’ ( Oxford, UK, 2007 ed. Janet Wilson),’Poetry Wales’ ( Summer Issue 2002, Bridgend, Wales ed. Robert Minhinnick; ‘Fulcrum 3’, ( Cambridge, MA, USA, 2004, ed. Philip Nikolayev), ‘ The Bloodaxe book of Contemporary Indian Poets’ ( Bloodaxe, UK, 2008 ed. Jeet Thayil), ‘ Both Sides Of The Sky’ ( National Book trust, India, 2008, ed. Eunice Desouza) ‘Poetry with Prakriti’ (Prakriti Foundation 2009)
MUSICAL CAREER AND STYLE
Born in Mumbai, in a music-loving family, Pandit Anand Thakore ‘Sabadpiya’ is the son of Sri Sandip Thakore, a sitar-player and jazz enthusiast. His father was a disciple of Ustad Mohammed Khan ‘Beenkaar’ of the Indore Gharana and was closely associated with sitarist Ustad Rais Khan. As a child, Anandji learnt vocal music, sitar and tabla. He was also fascinated by Hindu Mythology and dance ( Pandit Birju Maharaj being one of his earliest sources of inspiration). When the family moved to England for four years, he studied rudimentary western musical theory, and violin and sang soprano in the Solihull Chapel Choir. He has always maintained a strong interest in Western Classical music and jazz though fusion, as such, is not his choice of form. On returning to Mumbai he trained for a while with Ustad Aslam Khan ‘ Khushrang’ of the Atrauli Gharana; though most of his training has been under Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande, seniormost disciple of the pathbreaking innovator Pandit Kumar Gandharva.
- GULDASTA-E-KHAYAL ( dist. Underscore Records Pvt. Ltd. 2011)
- LIVE MEHFIL ( Musicians’ Guild 2009)
Inspired by his Guru, Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande and Pandit Kumar Gandharva ( whose music he had the good fortune to listen to at close quarters in his teens,) Anandji began to compose his own compositions at the age of sixteen, working with Hindi Lyrics in the traditional form known as the Bandish. In addition to being taught a host of traditional compositions from different gharana-s and sources, he was also initiated into various aspects of gayaki ( i.e. modes of improvisation) and he was encouraged to seek out his own mode of badhat and Adakaari ( ie raga- development, presentation and expression. ). He played an active and supportive role in the musicological research and documentational activities at the Samvaad Foundation run by his Guru, where he had the good fortune to interact with a wide spectrum of artists of the older generation; to vocally accompany and comparatively analyse the music of such stalwarts as Ustad Salamat Ali, Pandit Ramashreya Jha, feels, has been crucial to the emergence of his own individual style as a khayal singer.
In ’94 he received a scholarship to study music full-time from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Central Govt. He then studied music for several years under Pandit Baban Haldankar of the Agra Gharana. This ‘Taleem’ (training) further enriched his style by familiarizing him with a large number of Agra-Gharana compositions as well as deep insights into various aspects of the Agra tradition: Bol-alaap, Nom-tom alaap and Layakari, for instance.
Anandji’s first professional concert was at the Vitaan Festival of Music and Dance ’89, hosted by the Sheriff of Mumbai. He has accompanied his Guru-s and performed widely across the country as a soloist at mehfil -s and music festivals since then. His most recent performance was at the Pandit Chandrashekhar Rele Smriti Utsav 2012.
In 2001 he founded Kshitij, an interactive forum for musicians, devoted to the spirit of the live Hindustani ‘mehfil’. Kshitij was founded in collaboration with vocalists Sanjeev Chimalgee, Kedar Bodas, Krishna Bhat and Tabla accompanist Rupak Kharvandikar. The group has organized concerts of senior and younger artists in semi-private soirees as well as public auditoriums. It also functions as a musicians’ salon, repeatedly creating space for interaction between musicians, connoisseurs,critics and musicologists.
In 2006 he received a grant from the Charles Wallace India Trust to work on a collaborative experimental project with British composer and jazz-guitarist Pete Wyer. A participant in ‘The Simultaneity Project’, he collaborated with soprano Evelyne Beech, microtonal vocalist Toby Twining, Pianist Burnharde Finke and the Orchestra of the Swan on a piece called ‘Four Bridges’; a score or ‘Time Structured Map’, with scope for improvisation, simultaneously recorded in various parts of the world. The piece uses a technique that Wyer calls ‘ Time Structured Mapping’. Anandji has also dirested music for Gujarati theatre, composed background scores for television serials, and performed ‘Khayal’ on Television.
In 2009 Anandji presented ‘Sabadpiya Ki Khoj’, a concert and presentation at the National Center for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, focusing on his work as a composer of ‘bandish-es’ composed under the Takhallus or pseuodonym ‘Sabadpiya’ ( ‘Sabadpiya’ implying ‘lover of the word’ and reminiscent of Agra gharana pen-names like Ustad Khadim Hussain ‘Sajanpiya’ etc.) The event brought together his work both as a composer in Hindustani raga and tala and as a lyric-writer in Hindi. A pamphlet of the words of these compositions brought out by Kshitij was also published at the event.
‘Guldasta-e-Khayal’ (2011) is his latest Hindustani classical CD. The CD features a live ‘mehfil’ in Mumbai with ragas Multani, Tilak Kamod, Darbari and Malkauns and is distributed by Underscore Records Pvt. ltd.
-written by Smit Dharia
Sandip Thakore Playing raga Bhoop at Chandri Villa, his ancestral residence
Ustad Aslam Khan
Accompanying Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande
Accompanying Pandit Baban Haldankar
Pandit Anand Thakore - Raag Jaijaiwanti