Dr Ishwarduth Nundlall —The Forgotten Maestro 

Music Day Celebrations

 By Vishwamitra Aashutosh Ganga 

Each year in the month of June the entire island vibrates to the sound of musical notes, songs and rhythm through numerous programmes mounted in the context of Music Day celebrations.  While the flowing melodies provide joy and entertainment around, they also inspire many a listener to get initiated into the basics of music and discover the various aspects of this beautiful art.

It is, however, unfortunate that due tribute is not paid on Music Day to past great exponents of this art and to whom our musical world owes a lot. One such artist was Dr Ishwarduth Nundlall to whom goes the credit of sowing the seeds of Indian Classical and Light Classical Music, both vocal and instrumental, in Mauritius. A glance at the facsimile reproduction of the contents of the back cover of his book entitled Dialogues on Music gives an idea of the greatness and achievements of that nonpareil artist. Those who have had the privilege of knowing the maestro closely still recall how that versatile musician impressed his listeners with his remarkable scholarship, sharp wit and incomparable musical proficiency. It is worthy of note that the master studied up to a PhD in music while, as a performer, he was a top vocalist, a fine violinist, both Western and Indian genres and who could also play with admirable mastery, the piano, the harmonium, the flute and the sitar.

Dr Nundlall devoted eight long years in the study of classical music in the North Indian city of Lucknow where even the average citizen is conversant with poetry and rhyme. Upon his return to Mauritius, the young artist embarked on a musical tour of the island with the aim of acquainting the masses with Indian classical music. Subsequently, he set about dispensing his art in his own home in La Caverne, Vacoas, to a handful of deeply enthusiastic music lovers in the highly revered Master-Disciple Tradition (Guru-Shishya Parampara). It was from that group that emerged later some of the best classical musicians of the country.

The sudden demise of the master in England at a relatively young age has left a void which still has to be filled for Mauritius has not yet given birth to another Nundlall.

The overall progress registered by our country is undoubtedly the fruit of the struggle and dedication of farsighted souls and patriots. However, the making of the Mauritian nation and the refinement of its people must largely be attributed to the conjugated efforts of the various socio-cultural organisations and their cultural leaders and also to artists for safeguarding their cultural heritage of which vocal and instrumental music and dance have been and continue to be key components. That is why the memory of great artists must be perpetuated and their contributions highlighted through special commemorative programmes. This should actually become an established practice on Music Day, Dance Day, Writer’s Day, etc., as the case may be.

It is, therefore, high time that the name of Dr Ishwarduth Nundlall be immortalized. In my humble opinion, the most befitting way to honour the memory of a maestro of such calibre would be the rebaptizing of the School of Indian Music and Dance of the MGI as the Dr Ishwarduth Nundlall Indian Music and Dance Department and a scholarship in Performing Arts (Indian Classical Music and Dance) may also be instituted in the name of the master.

The foremost disciples of Dr Nundlall have been the torch-bearers of the mission of their Guru and have done their level best to promote and propagate classical music both as educators and performers. Their rendition today bear the singular imprint of the style of their preceptor and reflect the characteristics bequeathed to them by the master and of which they are legitimately proud.

The name of Dr Nundlall is fast receding into oblivion. It is hoped that the authorities concerned will rise to this clarion call to pay to the memory of that unique artist the homage he rightly deserves.

* Published in print edition on 17 June 2011

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