Written by 11:28 AM Music

The one-lung celestial singer

Born as Shivaputra Siddharamayya Komkali on 8 April 1924, he was a revered figure in the world of H…

I am dividing this blog into two parts – the mythological part and the fact-checked part.

I can already sense a few hackles rising.

“So, do you say that all mythological books are not based on facts?” “What about the Ramayana, the Gita, the Bible?”

Dear Sir/Madam – a thousand apologies – let’s leave all this for the stringent right, okay va?


A child prodigy whose starts to sing as early as five is the apple of everybody’s eye. The child grows up and becomes a young adult.

This young man has a passion for seeking meaning. A meaning for his existence in all things unseen. His explorations connect him with a group of wandering minstrels of Bengal, the Bauls.

Who are the Bauls? The actual term ‘Baul’ means madman. In this context, there is a group or a band of singing minstrels who are crazy about spirituality and God. There are elements of Sufism, Vaishnavism, and Tantra, and they also inhabit areas of West Bengal, Assam, and Bangladesh.

Returning to our young man, he decides to go with the Bauls in their wandering. Just the music or the spiritual aspect would have been enough to drag him along, but with music and spirituality, it was inconceivable that our young man would have come unstuck. He stuck with them like a limpet to rock – and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, as the word association of limpet is not exactly complimentary.

Long story short – the young man, who is not so young – roughened by the complete absence of creature comforts – remember this was not a trip on a mobile home hitched to an SUV. This was the real McCoy of wandering. Apart from heavily calloused feet and tousled, matted hair, the not-so-young man had contracted a raging infection.


The myth within this mythology is that the infection, the disease, caused him to return to ‘civilization.’

As luck would have it, the doctors had to remove a damaged lung to cure him of tuberculosis. Many would have just resigned to fate and plod along till the end of their time, but not the not-so-young man. He continued with his singing. He changed his style of singing to short phrases instead of long aalaps. If anything, he got more fans.

The name he was most popularly known as – Kumar Gandharva.

FACT: Kumar Gandharva: A Musical Genius of India

Kumar Gandharva was a legendary Indian classical singer known for his unique style and innovative approach to classical music. Born as Shivaputra Siddharamayya Komkali on 8 April 1924, he was a revered figure in the world of Hindustani classical music and is still remembered today for his contributions to the genre.

Gandharva’s musical journey began at a young age when he showed an early interest in music and began singing bhajans at the age of five. He went on to study under several renowned music teachers and eventually developed his own style, which combined traditional classical music with elements of folk and devotional music. This fusion of styles gave his music a unique and captivating quality that set him apart from other classical singers of his time.

One of the most distinctive aspects of Gandharva’s music was his use of a unique, nasal voice, unlike anything in classical music. Despite being criticized by some traditionalists, Gandharva’s innovative style was embraced by audiences worldwide and helped to bring classical music to a broader audience.

In addition to his musical contributions, Gandharva was also known for his devotion to his art and deep spiritual connection to music. He was deeply influenced by the Bhakti movement, which emphasizes the individual’s devotion to God, and this spiritual dimension is evident in the emotional intensity of his performances.

Despite his success and popularity, Gandharva’s life was challenging. He struggled with health issues throughout his career, including tuberculosis, eventually leading to his death at 63. However, despite his early passing, his legacy lives on, and he is remembered as one of the greatest classical musicians of all time.

In conclusion, Kumar Gandharva was a musical genius who revolutionized the world of Hindustani classical music with his unique style and innovative approach. His devotion to his art and deep spiritual connection to music has made him a beloved figure in classical music. His contributions will continue to be remembered and celebrated for generations to come.

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