Dr Ishwarduth Nundlall… the Long-Awaited Tribute!

By Vishwamitra Aashutosh Ganga

The Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture (IGCIC) attracted a fairly large audience on Saturday 07 July in the context of the music and dance programme staged by the Northern Association of Indian Music (NAIM) to commemorate the 28th death anniversary of Late Dr. Ishwarduth Nundlall, a top musician and, undoubtedly, the greatest authority in Indian Classical Music our country has produced.

The beneficiary of a scholarship, Ishwarduth Nundlall studied North Indian Classical Music in India for eight years acquiring proficiency in Violin and Sitar playing and in Vocal music. Side by side, the versatile artist kept up his practice of Western music.

Upon his return, Nundlall set about arousing the interest of Mauritians for this relatively unknown art form. Besides coaching about a score of  enthusiasts in the Master-Disciple Tradition (Guru Shishya Parampara), the master initiated secondary school students and prospective primary school teachers in the basics of methodical music, gave shows, composed music for ballets, animated radio and TV programmes and wrote books, all aimed at transmitting his hard-gained knowledge to others.

Mohurlall Chumman, well-known singer and Chairman of the NAIM, deserves kudos for producing a memorable show almost single-handedly. Lovers of classical music were regaled by some of our top senior artists namely Chinayah Ukhia, Premilla Manohur Hungsraz, Satyawan Peerthy, Sunil Deerpaul, Yashpal Dixit Jogeswar, etc. who were all quite impressive. And as expected, Chinayah Uckiah, the foremost disciple of Dr. Nundlall and, undoubtedly the best classical vocalist of Mauritius, stole the show with the superb rendering of a Chota Khayal in Raga Kirwani. It was a touching moment when the singer concluded his item with Nandlala…Nandlala…in a simultaneous twin homage to Lord Krishna and to his Guruji. On the other hand, the IGCIC dance teacher, Mrs Surabhi Shukla and her students presented a fine Kathak number.  Tabla wizard Anand Chuttoo was outstanding as usual.

The honouring of artists was a good idea. Listeners do not always realize that artistic perfection is the fruit of one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration. The awardees must have felt deeply moved at that moment of consecration of their lifelong sacrifice. However, in keeping with the tradition, the mementoes should have been accompanied by shawls.

The show revealed quite a few upcoming artists, among whom Manish Chakrapaani and Dixit Jogeswar were remarkable. But the star attraction was Gwunshi, daughter of Sunil Deerpaul. That valiant girl rose to the challenge admirably and kept pace with her father-cum-tutor in an overwhelming duet from start to finish. She is a promising young violinist destined to go a long way.

The group songs, however, proved to be too long-drawn-out. Mohurlall Chummun who personally trained the young singers could have shortened all the numbers. Moreover, the songs should have been interpreted by fewer and more carefully selected participants. Group songs often get spoiled by one or two wavering voices unable to maintain correct pitch throughout. It was also felt that Chummun, as organizer of the programme, should have delegated his role of conducting the songs to someone else. His repeated presence on the stage was rather exasperating.

Another bad note which cast a shadow of gloom on an otherwise nice evening was the conspicuous absence of quite a few noted disciples of Dr. Nundlall who did not turn up to pay their respects to the memory of their mentor.

In a previous article entitled ‘Dr Ishwarduth Nundlall…the Forgotten Maestro !’, I underlined the need and urgency to perpetuate the memory of the master by the naming/renaming of a music/art institution after him. It was encouraging to hear the DG of the MGI proposing to set up a small museum in honour of the departed master within the premises of the Institute.  Such a gesture is appreciable for a start. But an artist of the calibre of Dr Nundlall who has gone down in history as the pioneer of Indian classical music in Mauritius deserves much better. My humble view is that the renaming of the School of Indian Music and Dance or of the Centre for Performing Arts of the MGI would be a befitting homage.

The buoyant chairman of the NAIM has set the ball rolling. Thanks to his initiative, the name of Ishwarduth Nundlall will not disappear into the woods of oblivion. If it is certain that Chummun will go for a repeat next year and every subsequent year thereafter, it is expected that other groups and/or musical institutions will follow suit. Chummun has aroused the Ministry of Arts and Culture and the MGI from their slumber. Hopefully both the birth and death anniversaries of Dr Nundlall will now be added to their respective annual calendar of activities.

Time has also come for the Ministry of Arts and Culture to set up a consultative body of experienced artists, musicologists, etc, to contemplate the possibility of setting up Gharanas of Indian classical music and dance in Mauritius. Given the shortness of our history, this may not be easy as Gharanas are particular styles sustained by long-standing traditions in India. New formulae that would suit the Mauritian context may have to be devised with the collaboration of the Sangeet Naatak Academy and top-ranking Indian artists.

The knowledge bequeathed by Dr Nundlall to his disciples and students has now become part of our national intangible heritage. Let all feel free to quench their thirst at that perennial source to make life full of true beauty and joy.

* Published in print edition on 3 August 2012

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