The National Programme of Music on the All India Radio at times focused on archival recordings of a musician from the past. In such cases, a disciple or associate of the musician would be invited to present the programme and narrate personal accounts or comment on the latter’s life and work.

In the fifth episode of our series on recordings broadcast as part of the National Programme of Music, we listen to an excerpt of a special programme that featured archival recordings of Gwalior gharana vocalist Dattatreya Vishnu Paluskar (1921-1955). The programme had been presented by the maestro’s nephew, DK Datar, a well-known violinist.


In the above track, Paluskar sings two traditional compositions in raag Bhupali.

The pentatonic scale of raag Bhupali finds resonance in several musical cultures of East Asia, but clearly, the contours of Bhupali’s melodic structure differentiates it from other seemingly related melodic counterparts from elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the majesty and grandeur associated with the melodic movement of Bhupali has gradually lost significance among listeners, thanks to the simplistic treatment meted out to the raag over the past several decades in music schools. In fact, the second composition, set to drut or fast Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units, has been taught to at least a couple of generations of students training in such schools. The meends or slow glides between notes integral to the raag and the zigzag movement are lost in the midst of the prosaic handling of the melody.

Paluskar, on the other hand, demonstrates through his intensely tuneful rendition the many possibilities that are inherent in the raag while keeping the grammar of the raag intact. He creates a magnificent edifice as he elaborates on the vilambit or slow khayal set to the 12-matra Ektaal, through the gradual vistaar sung in aakaar (using the vowel “aa”), the taans or swift passages and bol baant or changing syncopation and cross-rhythmic use of song-text. His presentation of the second composition is an illustration in musicianship to those who treat this is an elementary piece.