Her notes will live on
With Dr Aban Mistry's demise on September 30, the city lost a doyen of Indian Classical music. Hailed as India's first woman tabla player, she also co-founded the Swar Sadhna Samiti in 1961. Yamini Zaveri, Mistry's close acquaintance and organiser of her memorial ceremony, reminisces about the legend
When she was four, Dr Aban Mistry started learning Hindustani vocal music from her aunt, the late Mehroo Workingboxwala followed by Pandit Laxmanrao Boldas, from whom she trained for over 30 years.
Wall of fame
She learnt Kathak and the Sitar from Guru Pandit Keki S Jijina and secured first position as a Sangeet Visharad in the subject. Since she had to drop Kathak due to health reasons, Pandit Jijina introduced her to the Tabla. By the time she turned 17, she was wowing audiences with her vocal, sitar and tabla recitals. She was also groomed by Tabla stalwart Ustaad Amir Hussain Khan, and she went on to infuse in her original style, the creative aspects of all four gharanas, Delhi, Faroukhabad, Azarada and Lucknow. She also mastered the techniques of Pakhawaj from Pandit Narayanrao Mangal Vedhekar.
Mistry would conduct workshops, seminars and demonstrations across the world. She was listed in the Limca Book of Records as the first woman Tabla player and has also won titles such as Taal Mani, Kalashri and the World Zoroastrian Organisation award among others.
At the memorial event held on Saturday at Tardeo, several artistes from the Indian Classical music and dance community shared their memories of knowing Dr Mistry. Pandit Omkar Gulvady and Kedar Narayan Bodas also offered a musical shraddhanjali.
Down memory lane
Yamini Zaveri, Dr Mistry’s close acquaintance, would call her ‘Abanji’, fondly. She recollects her meeting: “She was my life; everything I am today. In 1978, I met the late Pandit Jijina (who became my Guru), also an eminent musicologist. His disciple (shishya) was Dr Mistry. She was a warm and impeccably dressed Parsi woman. Much later I learnt of her incredible accomplishments. Swar Sadhna Samiti, the organisation she co-founded with Guruji, promotes Indian Classical music and dance.”
Every month, the Samiti would organise a programme where artistes from across India would perform. “With sparse funds, and despite being dependant on donations to the Samiti, Abanji managed to host over 650 plus consecutive monthly programmes. She also organised annual concerts that are now in its 48th year. All the while she remained a performing Tabla soloist,” adds Zaveri.
She also recalls her time with Dr Mistry: “She taught me the Hindi language in its purest form. Abanji had completed an MA in Sanskrit and Hindi. When I started to host annual music concerts, I would struggle with my limited vocabulary. Today, 34 years later, I am able to introduce an artiste, in pure Hindi, with a sprinkling of Urdu poetry, without a script.”