Early Life of Sawai Gandharva
He was born into a respectable family where his father, Ganesh Saunshi was a clerk in the employ of Ranganagowda Nadiger, a landlord of Kundgol. Ganesh had dreams that his son would be educated and become a big officer. He put Ramchandra to school. School didn't hold his attention. He would rather listen to bhajans and kirtans on his way to school. Ramchandra used to sing poems sweetly. His teachers would make him sing and please the inspectors whenever they visited the school. Ramchandra was promoted to next standards, thanks to his singing skill. Somehow he finished primary school.
Later, Ramchandra was admitted to Lamington High School, Hubli. But he was not interested in studies at all as he would spend his time in watching plays and listening to music. During his childhood days, he had the opportunity of listening to young Abdul Karim Khan, which filled his heart.
Association of Sawai Gandharva with Bal Gandharva
Bal Gandharva and Sawai Gandharva together carved the golden age of Marathi drama and theatre. Both were talented alike. Bal Gandharva made his debut in 1905; Sawai Gandharva, in 1907. Bal Gandharva acted only female roles; Sawai Gandharva, both male and female. None there was who didn't fall for their acting and singing. Bal Gandharva was one up in acting; Sawai Gandharva, in singing, which had a firm classical grounding. Bal Gandharva himself often came to Sawai Gandharva's plays to enjoy his singing. If Bal Gandharva was only a stage-artist, Sawai Gandharva was also a concert artist and enriched the musical tradition handed down by his guru. At times Bal Gandharva and Sawai Gandharva's troupes would camp in the same city. Connoisseurs would buy tickets for both, see the first half of Bal Gandharva's play and go to Sawai Gandharva's, expecting his voice would be pliant by then. Both these gandharvas had the lion's share in popularizing classical music through stage music.
Life in Music for Sawai Gandharva
Music was his first love and as a result studies suffered a great deal. Understanding that Sawai was greatly interested in music, Ganesh, his father, put him under Balvantrao Kolhatkar who came to live in Kundgol. In a matter of two years, taught Ramchandra 75 dhrupads, 25 taranas, 100 cheezes and a few taalas. The musical training came to a halt, in the year 1898, with the death of Balvantrao.
Sawai Gandharva bade good bye to the stage in 1931. He had lost confidence that he would survive on concert singing. He was downcast. It was Baburao Deshmukh of Nagpur who restored his confidence. He arranged Sawai Gandharva's concerts here and there. He arranged several concerts at his own home. It was in Nagpur that Sawai Gandharva stood on his own musical legs. Then he shook up Mumbai with his singing prowess.
Sawai Gandharva was a gawai before joining the stage, during his stage career and also after quitting the stage. Through all these stages, his performance was resplendent. His 25-year stage experience lent greater charm to his singing. He had learnt how to grip the attention of the listener from beginning to end. His singing had become mature and more charming.
Sawai Gandharva was heir to Abdul Karim Khan's gouriharavaani (abducting the senses along with the mind) style of singing. The manner in which he would interlace swaras was beyond words to describe. In the aalaap, one wondered whether his guru himself was singing.
Sawai Gandharva's vilambit was like boating in moon light. When the taans began, the climate suddenly changed. His aggressiveness came to the fore. There would be a shower of simple, complex and intricate taans. Apart from classical music, Sawai Gandharva was an adept in light classical varieties like thumri, naatyageet, abhang, goulani.
January 19, 1946 was a memorable day in the musical history of Pune. Pune Music Circle had organized Sawai Gandharva's sixtieth birthday celebrations in spacious Hirabaug. Musicians participated in honour of the Kiraana king, transgressing gharaana barriers.
Sawai Gandharva breathed his last on September 12, 1952 at Pune.