“My World “is a series of insights on gender issues by the people for the people

Mrs. Vrushali Bhanage, a double post graduate in commerce and in music (Sangeet Alankar) proudly wears many hats. A solo tabla performer, a guru running her own tabla classes for last 10 years, an examiner for Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya, a premier music institute in India, a caring mother and a wife.

She has done many solo tabla programmes as well as accompanied many renowned artists.She has received recognitions from Pt. Vasantrao Deshpande foundation, Morya Gosavi Festival Committee, Pt. Aanando Chatterjee Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra – Government of India, Lions Club of Pune, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel foundation to name a few. During the pandemic last year, she gave several Facebook live programs-Tabla solo performances for several organisations.

A dream come true....

Originally from Pune, from a middle class family with no background of music I got the taste of music and particularly tabla in local temples. As a kid accompanying my grandmother to bhajan-kirtan programs, tabla soon caught my eye and filled my heart with joy and happiness. My parents were not very positive about my wish to learn tabla. They thought it as a boys only thing. After much persistence they allowed me to join a tabla class. And since there was no looking back.

My first Guru was Mr.Hemkant Navdikar.I was a fast learner but as there was no tabla to practice at home, I started practicing on kitchen utensils and on school benches. Finally after 3 years and after passing my 10th class exam, I got a new tabla as a reward.I started performing professionally from 2009 and in 2010; I started my own music school. Now I can definitely say that things have changed a lot as there are many girl students in my school and many enthusiastic parents proudly encouraging their daughters to be a percussionist.

As a performer there are many happy and sad moments. After playing difficult rhythms like Jhumra, Tilwada the appreciation by the audience is unforgettable. But unfortunately there is also a gender divide in this field. Even after a flawless performance people taunt me as ‘abla’ (meaning ‘weak ‘also a synonym to a woman) playing tabla. Sometimes they come just to watch and make fun of the female tabla player. When Women’s clubs and organizations arrange the concerts, they especially invite female tabla players like me and pay well. But for other organisations when the budget is low then artists like me are invited as it is expected that female artists should perform even if paid less. Also when the concerts are in faraway places or overnight ones, female artists are not invited, as organizers are not ready to take their responsibility. Sometimes in spite of good practice, dedication and better performance, stage is not offered to female artistes only because of gender bias. Sometimes people think that even if the female artists are good tabla players they lack the muscle work and stamina. Women tabla players in India are still waiting for the limelight. Even if solo performances are picking up, the role of the accompanist mostly belongs to men. Today there are many excellent tabla players like Anuradha Pal and Rimpa Shiva paving the way for the female tabla players.

Vaibhav says, when we got married Vrushali was working with a bank. But seeing her passion for tabla I encouraged her to leave the job and start her own music school. While she was preparing for the Tabla Alankar examination, Vaibhav took complete responsibility of their son Varad who has already started his musical career under the able guidance of his mother.

A supportive and proud husband is behind Vrushali’s remarkable journey. He too has to face criticism for allowing and supporting his wife in a male dominated profession. I will always support her dreams, he says, right from performing in renowned music festivals like ‘Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav’ to getting a doctorate in music-Tabla Aacharyaa. He wants to show the world that a woman can play a vazandaar (powerful) tabla!

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