Rangeley Thakur

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Rangeley Thakur

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Enriching Jammu’s classical music tradition

Lalit Gupta,Rangeley Thakur to enrich Jammu’s classical music tradition "Daily Excelsior" 31/7/2016

Rangeley Thakur

It is indeed good news that Rangeley Thakur-whose life and work is already a subject of a monograph authored by eminent Dogri writer Om Goswami, and who has earned love and respect of artistes, writers, poets and members of civil society-has publically declared to set up a gurukul in Jammu to take further his mission of free teaching of classical music to young talent.

Rangeley Thakur, who stands out for his full beard and mane of flowing snow white hair, wearing traditional kurta and chooridar and supporting an engaging smile, is none other than the son of the soil Vijay Kumar Sambyal, who after an eventful tenure as Station Director of Radio Kashmir Jammu (RKJ) is superannuating on July 31, 2016.

A multifaceted personality, able administrator and programmer, he will be remembered for his legacy of making Radio Kashmir Jammu as a fill fledged Dogri Station, where all the announcements are being made in Dogri.

His other achievements include outreach initiatives in remote pockets to provide platform at their doorstep to poets in Gojari, Pahari etc., organizing symposia in memory of veteran poets at their native places, holding of Jarokha, a monthly program in collaboration with J&K Cultural Academy to honour eminent local personalities in different fields of culture, series of phone-in programs for listeners of far flung areas, re-starting of discontinued annual events like All India Poetic Symposia.

The RKJ team of dedicated program executives under his leadership got national honour for acclaimed program ‘Jeevan Rekha’ and ‘Pallavi, the feature on Transgender.

Vijay Kumar Sambyal, known in artistic circles as Rangeley Thakur, is not one of the run of the mill civil servants whose jobs with the government come to an end automatic and predictable.

What distinguishes him from other civil servants is the fact that even before joining All India Radio as Program Executive in 1986, he was already an accomplished vocalist who had won accolades in country’s professional circles for being an evolved and sensitive artiste.

Rangeley Thakur was born in 1965 in Kaili Mandi, Samba, in family of Krishna Devi and Krishan Singh, a teacher. He spent childhood under the watchful eyes of father who in order to engage his children in creative pursuit, made them to learn music at home from Thakur Chanchal Singh, a blind musician.

Out of his siblings, it was only Rangeley Thakur who was drawn to music. Winning of 3rd prize in a music competition at Gandhi Bhavan, which proved his talent to his family, was a turning point. He often found himself at temples and other places where music was being played. It was here that as a child he also learnt music from Naath Sadhu.

After initial schooling, he was sent to study in Jammu. He studied at SRML Higher Secondary School and later GGM Science College to pursue graduation in science. Driven by his passion for music, he also enrolled in evening classes at Institute of Music and Fine Arts, Jammu (IMFA) for diploma course in vocal music. It was here that he met his guru Baldev Singh Bali, who initiated him to the world of Hindustani classical music.

In 1975, the sudden death of his 49 years old father came as a bolt from the blue which while emotionally shattering him and the family also rattled the economics of his home.

This period of struggle, in which he missed his final year B. Sc. Examination, proved to be a challenging one: His elder brother J. P. Singh then struggling to make a niche as a lawyer in Jammu, asked Rangeley Thakur to say goodbye to ‘tambura’ and assist him in his chambers or leave the house.

Smitten by the muse, Rangeley Thakur decided to leave home. He sought help of his father’s friends, Dev Raj Baru and Mahendra Nath Khajuria, who got him appointed as part-time school teacher. As part-time teacher, living in low-priced rented accommodations, he completed graduation in arts as a private student and also qualified Sangeet Visharad examination, which paved way for pursuing higher studies in music.

He joined post-graduate course Banaras Hindu University under the tutelage of M. R. Gautam, the gurubhai of B. S Bali. It was the stay at Varanasi-where Hindustani classical music is part and parcel everyday life and the list of aesthete runs from kings, courtesans, sages, saints to plebeians, he along with immersing himself in learning music, also pursued childhood spiritual inclination with yoga and yoga sadhana, under the blessings of his spiritual guru Master Shibendu Lahiri, the great grandson of Yogiraj Shyama Charan Laihri. The practice of Hatha Yoga and Kriya Yoga was to uniquely augment his concentration and musical performances.

He did research for Ph. D. on the topic ‘Effects of Indian Music on Human Beings with reference to Psychoanalysis Disorders’. He also learnt tabla from Pandit Cchote Lal, disciple of legendary Anokhe Lal ji. He further honed his artistic skills when for one year in company of his guru B. S. Bali’s guru, the legendary Pandit Bhim Sen Joshi.

It was the nine-month solitary stint of riyaz in a hut on a Ganga ghat at Varanasi, during which he lived the life of an ascetic that bestowed an exceptional intensity to his singing. It was for his singing style marked with multiple hues of meditative pathos, that a Sanyasi in Varanasi, a great patron of music bestowed upon him the soubriquet of Rangeley Thakur.

In recognition to his talent, he was invited to perform at Swami Haridas Sangeet Sammelan, Mumbai, and in national concerts at Varanasi, Luckhnow, Miraj, Kanpur, Delhi and other places.

But in a sudden quirk of fate, his journey as a freelance vocalist was disrupted. The commitment to marry Indrani Tripathi, the great-grand-daughter of Kamlapati Tripathi, which was strongly opposed at Varanasi, brought him back to Jammu in 1984. Here, after a simple marriage ceremony, he took odd jobs to sustain his family.

In 1986, while serving as Assistant Instructor Vocal at IMFA, he was selected as program executive and joined service of All India Radio. After serving in various capacities and various stations, he was appointed as Station Director, RKJ, in 2014.

Like many artistes, Rangeley Thakur, does not come from a family of musicians. Rather, music is a path he found for himself and struggled very hard to overcome all the hurdles to emerge out successful with his sheer grit, sincerity, hard work, exemplary devotion and dedication. The passion for music would set him on a road of countless adventures that was to alter his life for good.

In post-AIR avatara, his lifelong passion and commitment to the muse while giving a fillip to declining guru-shishya prampara in Jammu, may well be instrumental in bringing together the otherwise scattered miniscule community of local classical musicians to resurrect the glorious tradition of classical music in Jammu.

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