Magic Words to Fill the Void

K Madhavan Pillai

K Madhavan Pillai

The passing away of Kishori Amonkar on April 3, 2017, filled me with a strange sorrow. I had the good fortune to meet her a few times over the past two decades. Yet, I normally don’t feel that way, even with people close to me, especially if they have had a long and fruitful life, and if they go quickly, working on what they love till the very end. But people like her are different for us. When photographers move on, you know that a unique way of seeing is lost, but the images can live a separate life, almost perfectly preserved. With artists like her, no recording does justice because there is that inescapable bit of erosion from the original in the copy. And every original rendition can be different. Sometimes things get added to recordings too. Music from an old, scratchy vinyl playing in the next room, or an old film song on a radio at the local barber shop can be quite wonderful because it’s meant to be that way. But when you experience her virtuosic command over her own soul—see it and hear it—it goes far beyond technical perfection because it touches you deep within. Kishori Amonkar performed her art. I cannot help feeling that something very precious is now lost forever. The last thing she said to me, after an early morning concert, affected me very deeply… “You must now work very, very hard,” she had said, even as I realised that I had never really worked at all.

I found this quote by her on the back of an album cover. “All great art gives you happiness by touching your heart and not just your mind. It elevates you to a different level of existence and appreciation. So it is with music. The audio stimulus goes deep within and this is why it is very important for me, as an artist, to have the listener’s sustained involvement. That is why I sing with all my heart. A raga should be developed so that it unfurls like a bud blooming into a rose, each note coloured with its mood. But music is more than notations or compositions or styles. It is an ocean of philosophy, a mountain of knowledge, an eternal teacher whose student I will always remain. When at last I must face my creator, I shall say, “I know nothing. I am thirsty. Please give me a few drops more from this well of yours.”

Words left behind can offer some solace. Can it be that we, imagemakers and photographers, read each line and ascribe it to our practice, in every way that she meant it?

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, better photography, Edit note, May 2017