Life of man is a per-destined path, rightly designed by the supreme power. Since childhood, he had a dream of becoming a stage singer. And yes, at this stage of his life, he says, Yes! Mission accomplished! Meet music maestro and Guruji of many Nandan G Herlekar of Belagavi.
Nandan still remembers the day when he sang for the first time in front of a crowd and when he was only eight and sang a patriotic song in a remote village in the Nanded district of Maharashtra on Republic Day. It was appreciated by one and all and was very halcyon and on the wings of ecstasy. He took part in the musical activities in the school & fortunately, some staff members of the high school encouraged Nandan to sing and act on the stage on every occasion. His first Guru was Shahir Bilgoji. Together they went to many villages to sing Powadas, Lawnis and other folk songs. During those years they staged a musical drama (Waga-Natya) “Pudhari Pahije” written by Pu. La. Deshpande. Nandan sang all the songs in the drama.
Nandan was a student of Pt. Nehru Vidyalaya of Shahapur-Belagaviduring 1970-73 and then his PUC in Govt. Chintamanrao Jr. College in 1974-76, B.A. in RPD College during 1976-79.
Nandan Herlekar passed the ‘Gayan Kala Visharad’ exam from Bharat Gayan Samaj, Pune in 1983 and passed ‘Sangeet Vidvat’ with first rank in Karnataka state in 1984. At the same time, he completed M. A in History. All along this time he composed dance dramas on various topics and presented them with the help of Mrs. Sandhya Hosmani, a leading Bharatnatya exponent.
Nandan’s college days were also wonderful. Prof. Arvind Yalgi was the principal and he directed the same Waga Natya in college. Prof. Page, a Sanskrit scholar was the next principal. He sang “Geet Ramayan” beautifully. He encouraged Nandan a lot and also accompanied him on the harmonium.
Along with music, he began his career as a sub-editor in ‘Belgav-Varta’ and then became an assistant reporter for Belagavi for a newly started edition of ‘Sakal’s Kolhapur edition. It was a nice experience in writing columns and music reviews. He has also written hundreds of reviews and articles on music in ‘Tarun Bharat’. He even today writes reviews on music and also articles on music in the current generation.
He began teaching Bhajans and eventually founded his music class in 1982 and began teaching vocal music and instruments like Tabla and harmonium and today this center is an examination centre of A. B. Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya of Mumbai.
In 1983 he accepted a job as a music teacher in Kendriya Vidyalaya, Air Force Station, Sambra. In the span of almost two and half decades in K. V, he has enjoyed his job with hundreds of his own compositions, skits, poems, group songs, dance dramas and many other genres.
Nandan always thinks of composing new ‘Bandishis’, Taranas, Dhrupads, Dhamars, and Chaturangs for the aspirants of classical music. He has written three books on music – 1: The Beginners’ Book On Hindustani Music 1998, 2: Revised Edition of the same in 2005 and 3: Tabla-Principle and Art. The books are popular among the music lovers of the country and also in music institutions in the U.K. and the U.S.A.
A small chat with Mr.Nandan Herlekar:
Tell us more about your initial training in music.
Nandan —–>In childhood my talent was tapped by my elder brother and sisters, who were good in singing. We belong to a heritage of traditional musicians. My great-grandfather Pandit Damodarbuva Deulkar was a Dhrupad singer, a Pakhawaj player and a staunch devotee of Sant Manik Prabhu of Humnabad. He spent his whole life at his lotus feet. His son Vishubuva continued the tradition and I, as a child saw him chanting the ‘Gurumantra’ of Manik Prabhu and ‘Parans’ of Pakhawaj at an equal pace.
My father Govindrao Herlekar was a true lover of music. He took us to concerts that we enjoyed from the core of our hearts. He inherited the ‘Seva’ of the music department at the Darbar of Maniknagar and we children were fortunate to listen to the great musicians of that time. Being Bapurao’s children (as he was popularly called!), we were treated with special attention by all at Maniknagar. The musical treat we received every year during the Datta Jayanti festival of six days had been wonderful in our lives. I immensely benefited from the music I listened to there and have stuffed it in the inner part of my heart.
It was here that I met my first Guru in Tabla late Pt. Suryakant Gokhle, a talented Shishya of the great Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa. In the presence of my father, he taught me the first lesson at Maniknagar in 1973. Back in BelagaviI continued the ‘Riyaz’ and visited often Guruji’s house in Pune.
During that time I began taking lessons in vocal music from Pt. Sangameshwar Gurav in Vadgaon. After he went to Dharwad as a professor of music at Karnatak University, I was again in search of a Guru and I met Pt. Mrutyunjayabuva Puranikmath. Due to old age, Buva was reluctant to accept anyone as a Shishya, but I was adamant and eager to learn from him. After a struggle of six months, I could win his heart and he began to teach me. From 1979 to his demise in 2002 he taught not only music, but the way of life.
Tell us more about your group during the Emergency days Madhav Vrunda.
Nandan —–>During the emergency we formed a group called ‘Madhav Vrunda’ to spread the message of patriotism among the youth. Our group consisted of singers, orators, musicians and mimicry artists. Some names among them are Kishor Kakde, Avinash Vengurlekar, Dilip Deshpande, Bhalchandra Kalled, Ranvindra Karekar, Datta Jayade and many others. It was at this stage of life I began to compose music to the poems I liked. It was my duty to teach those songs to others and set music with musicians. I still wonder how I could compose hundreds of songs at that tender age. I have been doing the same till today with equal zeal.
How do you break the barrier of non-support from media to Indian Classical music?
Nandan —–> Let there be any support or not, I have been working in the field, many times swam across, followed the line of Rabindra Nath Tagore-“Ekla Chalo Re”. “Non-Support” is not at all a barrier to me.
Do you think electronic music instruments affect natural music?
Nandan —–>It is the person behind the instrument who is important. Electronic instruments are very smart. One must make proper use of them – artistically and yes, with brains! I puzzle myself by the use of them. I do not categorize music into natural and otherwise.
What would be your advice to the young aspirants who plan to take up music?
Nandan —–>“Go ahead, see, learn and conquer”. Music is unfathomable.
Has being in Belagavi helped you in your musical career or do you think otherwise?
Nandan —–>Belagavi has made me whatever I am. Though the sphere is limited, I have done a lot musically and have done whatever has not been done by anyone earlier. So I am happy with my town.
What is the best thing about Belagavi you like?
Nandan —–> “North-South, East-West” My Belagavi is the best! After you return from any place to Belagavi during summer, the so-called “hot” Belagavi feels “cold”. (This year the heat is too much tough).
What is it that you wish Belagavi had for music lovers like you?
Nandan —–> Since earlier days, Belagavi is a heaven for music lovers. Music toppers lived here. The “Samskara” done by the stalwarts has proved to be useful. The greats in the field made their Shishyas worthy of something. With the help of modern amenities and techniques, today’s artists are achieving without much struggle. It is a very good thing. We, the old timers are happy about it, but sometimes are sad of the lack of enthusiasm among the youngsters.