When you hum old and evergreen Hindi melodies such as Tumse Milke, from the film Parinda or Aye Zindagi Gale Laga Le, from Sadma, singer Suresh Wadkar’s unique voice will instantly float to your mind. The singer has these and various other memorable songs in Hindi, Marathi and even Bhojpuri to his credit in his more than three-decade-long career.
In Chandigarh on Saturday to be a celebrity judge at an event called Three Legends, a musical evening organised by city-based music group Vibrations, in honour of iconic singers Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh, Wadkar shared his life’s musical innings. “Music has the power to connect with nature, be it people, animals or plants, so we have to save it. Melodies would be and should be back to heal people from stressful lifestyles and various diseases. This era of loud music will slow down; like everything else, even music needs variation,” opines the singer, who has sung Chhod Aaye Hum and Chappa Chappa, from the film Maachis and Sapne Mein Milti Hai, from Satya amongst his more recent works.
In Punjab, Wadkar recalled his last visit to the city. “Back in 1969, I was 12 when I came here with my guru Pandit Jialal Vasant to promote Indian classical music. Chandigarh was greener and more spacious then, though it has now become quite congested,” says the singer, and adds about Punjabi music, “Punjabi music has a unique taste and emotion in it. In fact, Punjab’s soil has magic in it that makes the people’s voices amazing.” Wadkar is from the Patiala gharana, and rates Punjabi singers as ‘the best in all of India.’
A student of the old school, Wadkar started learning classical music at the age of four. Recalling his association with legendary personalities including Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Mukesh and others, he shares, “Does anyone know that Dilip Kumar sings beautifully, especially thumri? Or that Raj ji knew how to value his people and get work done by paying them well?” About the ‘nightingale’, he says, “I am still trying to learn from Lata ji and feel that even if five percent of her traits come in me, I would be lucky. She has the right timing and an effective way to put her words in music, which every person should learn from her.”
Having maintained the ancient guru-shishya tradition, Wadkar says matter-of-factly about the changing equation between the teacher and the taught, “There was a time when even the gurus would only give and not take from their students. Being a disciple myself, I know that knowledge always increases if we share it. That is why I am running a music school called Ajivasan in Mumbai, New Jersey and New York, where methodical training is given to students.”
Wadkar is also the initiator of a one-of-its-kind online music school in the country. Called SWAMA (Suresh Wadkar Ajivasan Music Academy), the school is affiliated to Ace Open University.
Currently, Wadkar plays judge on TV singing reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, about which he offers, “I don’t deny that reality shows are a good platform for the youngsters to showcase their talent.
However, they should be considered a start rather than the ultimate goal, for they don’t train singers. I would advise the participants to practice for at least seven years after a show is over and then get into the ‘chakravyuha’ of the music industry.”
While advising aspiring singers to aim for consistency instead of overnight fame, Wadkar airs his opinion about a lack of melody in today’s times.
“Music directors have now taken up singing, irrespective of whether they can sing or not. Perhaps they feel that since they make music, singers shouldn’t take away popularity and money. But they should understand that using technology to modulate a voice doesn’t make them great performers,” he says.