Shivaputra Siddramayya Komkalimath or known as Kumar Gandharva was a Hindustani classical singer, famous for his unique vocal style, refusal to be bound by the tradition of any gharana, and his innovative genius. The name Kumar Gandharva is a title given to him when he was a child prodigy; a Gandharva is a musical spirit in Hindu mythology.
He was born in Sulebhavi near Belgaum. He studied music under the well-known Prof B R Deodhar.
He married Bhanumati Kans in April 1947 and moved to Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. Soon after moving there, he was stricken with lung cancer which was wrongly diagnosed as tuberculosis. He was forced into having surgery to remove the cancerous lung or face eventual death by the disease. Kumar opted for the surgery after much persuasion by his family and despite warnings that he might not be able to sing anymore. Recovering from the trauma of surgery in Khanapur near Belgaum in Kumar Gandharva was visited by a fan who was also a physician. The doctor noted his surgical wounds had healed and asked Kumar Gandharva to attempt singing once again. Gradually, helped by this doctor, medicines of those yesteryears and care from Bhanumati Kans, Kumar Gandharva recovered and began singing again. However, his wonderful voice and singing style would always bear the scars of his surgery, which are evident to any person who listens to his songs such as ‘Runanubandhachya” from the drama “Dev Dina Ghari Dhavla”.
The house of Kumar Gandharva, which could have been developed into a memorial, has now become a restaurant and it is owned by Rudrappa in Sulebhavi. His father, the late Malleshappa Naganur, purchased the house about 50 years ago. Kumar Gandharva kept visiting the village and performed at the annual Sri Laxmi Mahotsava even after he shifted to Dewas.
His last performance was about three decades ago, and thereafter he did not visit the village.
Bhanumati Kans, who was learning music first under Deodhar and later under Kumar Gandharva himself, nursed him through his illness. His first mehfil after recovery from illness took place in 1953. The illness greatly affected Kumar’s singing in later years – he was to be known for powerful short phrases and his very high voice. He may not have reached the same heights of popularity as contemporaries like Bhimsen Joshi, but he always enjoyed the love and support of dedicated and connoisseur enthusiasts. His singing was also true to the Indian classical music tradition of dialogue with the listeners, of impromptu creation and interactivity. Kumar Gandharva was awarded the Padma Vibhushan award in 1990.
Kumar Gandhrav died on January 12, 1992 (aged 67) at Dewas.