Kumar Gandharva, also known as Shivaputra Siddharamayya Komkali Math, is one of the most famous and revered Indian classical singers. He is well-known for his unique vocal style and for his refusal to be bound by the tradition of any gharana. The singer was born on April 8, 1924, in Belgaum, Karnataka and this year marks his 97th birth anniversary. Here are some interesting facts about him:
1. He was named Shivaputra Siddharamayya Komkali but his great singing skills at a very young age earned him the title Kumar Gandharva.
2. Kumar Gandharva started learning the nuances of Indian classical music from B. R. Deodhar, who is a well-known classical singer and teacher.
3. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis even before his career took shape. His doctors even asked him to stop singing because of the severity of his condition.
4. Kumar shifted to Madhya Pradesh based on the doctor’s advice with the hope that the dry climate might improve his condition. But nothing improved his chance of singing until 1952 when streptomycin which is an antibiotic medicine to treat diseases like tuberculosis was introduced in India.
5. Eventually he made some changes to his style of singing as one of his lungs was severely damaged and could not be used anymore. He started experimenting with ragas and even fused the already existing ones.
6. In 1953, he gave his first concert right after recovery.
7. The classical singer was praised by all for his distinct style and experimentations but was criticized by traditional exponents of classical music.
8. While experimenting with the traditional Indian classical music, Kumar gave life to many new ragas and collectively called them ‘Dhun Ugam Raagas’.
9. He opted for a theme and then arranged a set of ragas and folk songs in a precise order. Some of the themes chosen by him are ‘Geet Varsha’, ‘Geet Hemant’ and ‘Ritu Raaj’.
10. Kumar was honoured with India’s third highest civilian award that is Padma Bhushan in 1977 for his contribution towards the field of Indian classical music. He also received Padma Vibhushan which is the country’s second-highest civilian award in 1990.
11. He breathed his last on January 12, 1992, at his Dewas residence, Madhya Pradesh.
12. His legacy is being carried forward by his daughter Kalapini Komkali, son Mukul Shivputra and many of his students like Satyasheel Deshpande, Shubha Mudgal, Vijay Sardeshmukh, among others.
13. Several movies and documentaries have been made on the legendary classical singer including Hans Akela.