One of the most precious gems of Indian music scene, Pt.Brij Bhushan Kabra is a world-famous guitarist and musician. Pt. Brij Bhushan is credited for being the first ever musician to adapt the guitar strings innovatively to Indian classical music and he was the first musician to play raga on guitar. PanditKabra’s soulful musical works have received accolades from eminent musicians in India and abroad. He has been felicitated with many prestigious national honours including Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as well as national Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
The guitar genius was born in the year 1937 in colonial India. His father Shah Govardhanlal Kabra was the chief advisor for Jodhpur royalty, an eminent businessman and Jaigirdar of 12 villages across Jodhpur. Brij Bhushanji went to the imperial Scindia School in Gwalior and had his B.Sc. degree in Geology from Udaipur. He even had his Business Administration Training (Hindustan Motors) from Calcutta. Very enthusiastic about sports, he even represented his University in hockey, football & cricket matches. Kabraji got married to Mrs. Kamla Kabra at the age of 18.
Born in a prosperous business and very liberal family, Pt. Kabra has always been exposed to rich Indian music since his childhood. One of the primary reasons behind this was his musically conscious parents and the other is the imperial court of Jodhpur.
The Jodhpur kings have always been great music patrons and it was at one of the imperial concerts, Kabraji came in touch with legendary Indian musician Ustad (Dr.) Ali Akbar Khan. Ustadji was very fond of Pt. Brij Bhushan Kabra and would often invite him to his musical concerts. But Kabraji was not much interested in Indian classical music in his early days. However, he still used to attend Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s concerts and albeit all those were illegible to him yet he quite relished the performances.
He first came in touch with guitar sounds in Calcutta and it was the clean no-jumble guitar sound that touched him immensely. He got back to Ahmedabad to take care of family business. But one day, while passing by a musical instrument shop he came across a Hofner Guitar and had this tremendous urge to get it. He got it but had no clue what to do with the new instrument. This led him to innovate & try out unique tuning by playing all the 6 guitar strings with the bar slide. Within 15 days, Kabraji managed to bring life to some of his favorite songs with the guitar.
As he returned to home his father asked him whether he could attempt classical Indian music on guitar. The son accepted the challenge and promised to his dad that he would use the guitar only for Indian classical music.
Thus, began the serious musical odyssey for Kabraji, the guitar genius who is single-handedly responsible to adapt guitar to Indian classical music & catapulting the instrument to the stature of an eminent study by Indian classical music students. He started practicing guitar for 18 hours a day and received immense moral support from his Guru Ali Akbar Khan to continue seriously with his endeavors. Ustadji enriched him with musical technicalities like theories, scales, ragas, basic Sargam & so on.
His performances at various concerts earned him huge accolades from several respected musicians. He started playing duets with the renowned Santoor Player Shiv Kumar Sharma, who, akin to Kabraji, was looking to revolutionize the Indian classical music instrument into concert instrument. Together they created the most popular Indian classical musical record “Call of the Valley” in 1967- along with Pt. Chaurasia.
One of their duet performances is still revered as an once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon for both the musicians and the Indian music scene. While playing “Puriya Kalyan” raga at an Ahmadabad concert, there was a loud bang and both the instruments fell from their laps – split open. This has never happened before but it is acknowledged that if two strings are tuned to that perfection, they will break and this perfection has not been known before. When Kabraji narrated this incident to his guru he said that he had experienced something that is regarded as sublime effect of the music.
Kabraji has made extensive musical tours all across the globe that helped to popularize Indian classical music immensely. He has recorded nearly fifty long-playing records, including duet performances with many Indian musical greats like Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Jasraj (vocal), Pt. D.L. Kabra ji (Sarod), Pt. Jog (Violin) & Pt. Rais Khan ji (sitar). He has also given many phenomenal solo performances. Pt. Brij Bhushan Kabra has been featured on Documentary on the Odyssey of Guitar in India made by the Govt. of India.
The great guitarist has undertaken remarkable research works in self-realization through music (naad yoga) & has published papers stressing involvement of music in child education. At present, he heads the famous educational institution founded by his father “Mahesh Shikshan Sansthan”. The legendary musician is a great Kavi and Sahityakar as well.
Kabraji’s innovative efforts with the guitar have inspired several young Indian musicians to take up guitar for classical music. One of his famous disciples is renowned Calcutta based guitarist Pt. Debashish Bhattacharya.
Albeit Kabraji has retired as guitarist today yet his magnificent guitar alaps will continue to remain phenomenal forever.