On the occasion of my Guruji’s 8th death anniversary, I’m starting a web page dedicated to his memory. I hope to provide some information about him along with recollections from friends and students, some photographs and of course some samples of his teaching from the times we were able to record it.
In 1998 I recorded six hours of his reminiscences. By that time his Parkinson’s Disease had taken most of his voice, so he was unable to sing — but he could still tell stories, and it was a great joy to sit with him while he recalled his life in music. I will be including excerpts from this material also in the months to come.
If you knew Pt. Devasthali, please leave a comment, and it will be included in this page, which I hope will expand significantly.
Guruji in 1994
In 1991 the American Institute of Indian Studies sent a video team to document one of our lessons. Despite the intrusive presence of camera, lighting team and sound man, the taleem session was unaffected. I digitized my copy of the video and had short clips on YouTube, but recently put the whole thing on Vimeo without interruptions — here is Devasthalibua giving me material in Shri Raag. The extraordinary flow of his teaching is vividly evident.
He had occasionally allowed us to tape-record very short snippets of material, but the first time he encouraged us to use the recorder was in 1991. He sang a lot of wonderful things that year. Here are a few of them.
We recorded a full year’s worth of lessons in 1994, and while occasionally he had vocal problems due to Parkinson’s, he gave us a wonderful trove of material. Steve Gorn visited us for a while and sat in on a few of our sessions. Here is a bit of Todi.
Here is a half-hour of detailed chalan and taans in the beautiful morning raga Bhatiyar.
More music to come. Keep coming back!
On the occasion of Guruji’s death in 2002
the Pune Times of India ran the following article:
To Sir, With Love
A few weeks back when some members of the batch of 1976 of Loyola High School met to talk about the old times, a question was casually thrown around: “Which teacher had the most impact on you?” Teachers have an impact for various reasons, not all of them to do with teaching ability, and the matter can raise heated discussion, but the boys of ‘76 were stunningly unanimous in raising one name: S.G. Devasthali.
There can be no doubt that for the thousands of boys who studied in Loyola between 1966 and 1993, the personality of S.G. Devasthali, Hindi, Marathi and for some time Sanskrit and English teacher, is a deeply etched memory. There can be no doubt that if many of those boys attained something worthwhile in life, or ventured to do something out of the ordinary, it was largely due to some intense grilling conducted by Devasthali early in their lives.
And if many Loyalites are respected professionals and businessmen who lead clean lives with a sound value system, one would have to think of Devasthali again. Devasthali was an intensely charged man with a bewildering range of capabilities, some of which remained unknown to many of his students. He was a bodybuilder.
He was a trained Hindustani classical singer, who shared the platform with greats like Mallikarjun Mansur, and taught a select number of students after his retirement. He was a pravachankar, a great patriot and a hugely read man with a mental storehouse of thousands of quotations, for every occasion.
And he was a unique teacher, who approached every lesson and every class with astounding energy and passion, every time. He seemed to be fully driven by a mission, a mission to turn ‘blockheads’ (one of his favourite words) into men who would do something good in life and make their country proud.
On 26 June, 2002, this great teacher expired after suffering from a prolonged illness.
I posted the following to several Indian music forums:
Pandit Shreeram Govind Devasthali passed away on the morning of June 26, 2002 at his home in Pune. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. The son of renowned Sanskritist Govind V. Devasthali, he was born on the first of January, 1935. He was 67 years old.
S.G. Devasthali’s gayaki was principally that of the Gwalior Gharana. His first training began in 1955 under Gangadhar Shreedhar Joshi of Nasik, a disciple of Pt. Eknathbuwa Dasakkar (shishya of Pt. Rajabhaiyya Poonchwale), who also had served as the principal of Bareilly Music College in Uttar Pradesh. Following his initial exposure to Khyal gayaki, Devasthaliji became a disciple of the Gwalior maestro, Pandit Gajananrao Joshi, a relationship which continued for the next 20-plus years.
Devasthali lived with Gajananbua in Lucknow during 1956-57, during which time Joshi was appointed Music Director for All India Radio. Gajananrao Joshi learned music not only from his father Anant Manohar Joshi, but from many great artists including Pt. Ramakrishnabuwa Vaze (Gwalior), Ustad Bhurji Khan of Jaipur-
Atrauli Gharana, and Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan of Agra Gharana.
During 1957 and 1958 Devasthaliji lived with Gajananrao Joshi’s guru and father, the great Pt. Anant Manohar Joshi (Antubuwa), a disciple of Pt. Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar. During this time he learnt a number of old traditional Gwalior bandishes as well as some of Antubuwa’s original chiz-s.
In subsequent years S.G. Devasthali continued his pursuit of music, working intensively from 1961 onwards with the late sarangi maestro
Ustad Mohammad Hussain Khan of Pune, the son of Ustad Kadarbaksh Khan. Mohammad Hussain Khan also learnt music from
Bashirkhansaheb Gudiyaaniwale and Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhendibazaar Gharana. It was during his association with Mohammad Hussain Khan that S.G. Devasthali acquired the complex sargam techniques which were heard in his singing and which formed a huge part of his teaching.
In the mid-nineteen-sixties Pt. Devasthali came in contact with Ut. Chand Saheb Shaikh of Pune, and began studying with him to learn ghazal, naat and quawaal. During this time Devasthali began singing in the Chishti mehfils in Pune, where he was known as “Ram-saheb,” and connoisseurs praised his interpretations of Urdu
Besides these individuals Devasthalibua collected raags and compositions from a great many other artists. His keen intelligence and profound musicality allowed him to absorb repertoire
rapidly, and he worked closely with Pt. Mallikarjan Mansur, Pt. Anandrao Limaye., Khansaheb Azizuddin Khan and Shri Makarand Bakre on repertoire of Jaipur-Atrauli tradition.
A brilliant teacher, he retired from public performance in 1975 due to indifferent health. He made his living as a teacher of Hindi at Pune’s Loyola School. From the early 1980’s be started teaching music privately while serving as Honorary Director of the Muktangan Balaranjan Kendra, a children’s educational institute in Pune. Since 1986 his work as a music teacher took on greater importance, and through the late 1990’s he was a generous source of extraordinary music for students from all over the world.
Our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and shishya-parivar. Hindustani music has lost a great voice, but one who through the twists of circumstance remained unknown and unsung.
We are all diminished this day.