Dr. Prabha Atre wanted to study medicine, but the medical school was far away from home. She chose law instead and even learned kathak to fulfill her aspirations of becoming a dancer. But a chance encounter with Indian classical music changed her life forever. “I was destined to become a musician,” says she.
When Dr. Atre was a small girl, her father had appointed a harmonium player to engage his ailing wife with an activity that he thought would distract her from her illness. After a few lessons, she refused to continue any longer. To save himself the embarrassment of discontinuing the teacher abruptly, he instead pushed his daughter to take lessons on the harmonium. Little did he know at that time that this step would unravel the path for his daughter to become one of the greatest Indian classical musicians.
For more than seven decades, Dr. Atre remains one of the most revered, respected and leading vocalists. She was 84 years old when this interview was recorded at the Darbar Festival in 2014. However, the strikingly melodious timbre of her voice defies age with its capability to perform impeccably nuanced, unwavering notes with youthful vigour.
She is articulate, vibrant, full of curiosity and her open-minded approach to learning is an example for every generation. Dr. Atre is an exponent of the Kirana gharana. She has chartered new territories in this introverted style with highly innovative methods of raga elaboration. Dr. Atre has also contributed massively to Indian classical music with a treasure of her own beautiful compositions and erudition.
In this charming and honest conversation, she speaks about her family, her training, her initiation to composing opera and bandishes (compositions sung in Hindustani classical recitals) and her creativity with an uncompromising adherence to tradition.