Apart from the streets named after Hindustani musicians, there is also the chance of a pleasant surprise finding a public garden named after a musician. The Padma Shri Manik Varma Udyan situated in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park area is one such park maintained by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
It is named after acclaimed vocalist Manik Varma, who was trained in Hindustani music but was also immensely popular for her renditions of Marathi bhavgeet, abhang and natyageet. According to the website dedicated to her, she was initially trained by Bhopeji at the Bharat Gayan Samaj in Pune. Thereafter, she went on to learn from Sureshbabu Mane, Inayat Khan, Bholanath Bhatt and Jagannathbuwa Purohit.
Although her gurus pursued different styles, she considered eminent vocalist Hirabai Badodekar of the Kirana gharana her idol and modelled her singing accordingly.
On the first track, Manik Varma sings two compositions in the raag Shyam Kalyan. The first is in vilambit or slow Ektaal, a rhythmic cycle of 12 matras.
The next track has a rendition of Jog Kauns, a raag composed by Manik Varma’s guru Jagannathbuwa Purohit “Gunidas”. She sings his compositions, the first in vilambit Ektaal and the second in the 16-matra Teentaal.
The following video recording is from a live concert. Manik Varma sings a thumri in the raag Khamaj set to the 14-matra Deepchandi taal. The performance ends with the laggi section on the tabla. She is accompanied on the tabla by Mukund Kane and on the harmonium by Vidyadhar Oak. Vocal support is provided by her daughter Bharati Achrekar.
We end with a thumri in Bhairavi set to the 16-matra Jat taal.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.