Ajai R. Singh MD

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Music: About the artiste

Lyricist, Music Composer, Singer: Ajai R. Singh MD


The date: 14 Oct 2009
Ajai Singh woke up that morning pretty early with a tune reverberating in his brain. That became the nidus for the very first composition he wrote and composed: Tere pyar mein sanam (TPMS. For more than six years from then on, it has been a mix of nazms, ghazals and other poetic forms.

He now makes a stage presentation of the first series of his compositions titled 'The Musical Embrace' (Mausiqi ki aghosh) as a launch to his musical career.

Musical Education

1. Childhood, early adulthood and Pitaji

In childhood, Ajai learnt the appreciation of music and singing from his late father whom he called 'pitaji'. He heard him sing for hours cover versions of songs rendered by K.L Saigal, Punkaj Mullick, K.C Dey and Talat Mahmood, songs pitaji knew by heart, with elaborate explanation of lyrics and great emphasis on 'talaffuz' i.e. pronunciation, a lesson Ajai holds dear even today. Pitaji also explained the chaste Hindi poems of Jaishanker Prasad and the poetry of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Longfellow and Shelley.

2. Cover singing
Though coaxed by his father, Ajai was earlier reluctant to sing but kept imbibing unconsciously the lessons his father imparted. He really started doing cover singing in medical college (G.S. Medical College, attached to KEM Hospital Parel, Mumbai) wherein he prided himself in exclusively singing Talat Mahmood songs, most of which he too knew by heart.

He later developed a fondness for the ghazal singing of Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh, as also the khayal gayaki of Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit D.V Paluskar and Pandit Kumar Gandharva, the thumri singing of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, the Marathi bhav geets of Shti Sudhir Phadke, the sitar of Ustad Vilayat Khan and the flute of Pandit Pannalal Ghosh and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia.

3. Meeting his Guruji 1975-95: A twenty-year odyssey

By 1975, in his final year of MBBS, Ajai had the good fortune to start learning Hindustani classical music from his guruji Shri Vinayak Kunte. He had actually gone to him to learn ghazal singing. Kunteji knew nothing of it, but advised him to learn classical singing, which he said would serve as the base for his ghazal singing.

For the next 20 years, from 1975-95, Ajai learnt Hindustani classical singing from Kunteji, who was kind enough to come even to KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai (1 year) and LTMG Hospital Sion, Mumbai (more than 2 years) to teach him while Ajai did his MD in psychiatry. Kunteji travelled all the way (nearly an hour) to train him with only one thought, 'Doctorancha chukla nay pahije', i.e. 'Doctor should not miss his music lessons'. Kunteji was nearing 70 years of age then.

After starting his psychiatric practice in 1981 at Mulund (a Mumbai suburb), and later at Bhandup (another Mumbai suburb) and Thane (district adjacent to Mumbai), Ajai carried forward his twice a week musical lessons till 1995, Just remembering the sincerity and dedication with which Kunteji taught him music, cradling the perfectly tuned tanpura to his ear, concentrating for months on sharpening the nuances of ragas like Bihag, Lalit, Yaman, Bageshri, Darbari, Malkauns, Bhimpalas and Bhairavi mists Ajai's eyes even today.

Even at the age of 80+, Kunteji retained a sharp memory, a keen ear for sur (notes), perfect command over ragas, a melodious style of singing and sharp thunderous cascading taans that shook his nimble frame. This was coupled with a wonderful agility and surprising good health .All of this was probably because of his almost full time passion for Hindustani classical music, his child like simplicity, his simple uncluttered lifestyle and his almost ascetic habits, qualities that endeared him to his students and left a lasting impression on Ajai.

4. Starting a musical organization: Swara Sampada

2003 was the year Ajai, with the help of music lovers, founded a not-for-profit musical organization called Swara Sampada dedicated to 'help in the evolution of bathroom singers into living room singers, living room singers into stage singers, and stage singers into playback singers and music composers'.

Starting in 2003 with a branch in Mulund, it now has chapters in Thane, Ghatkopar, Lonavla and Pune. These music lovers meet at least once a month and render cover versions for themed programmes. They share a strong bond of love for music and bonhomie amongst members even after more than a decade of being together.

In 2005, Ajai, along with 5 co-authors, wrote 'The Swara Sampada Sourcebook of Music', the definitive text of the organization.

From 2008-13, working for nearly 5 years with a dedicated band of Swara Sampadites, he pioneered a concept of community living setting up the Swara Sampada Cooperative Society of 11 bungalows at Pangorli, Lonavla,Maharashtra, with seamless boundaries and its own fully equipped music hall.

5. Rotary Sargam Phulwari

Being a member of the Rotary Club of Mulund Hills from1993-2008, Ajai conducted Rotary Sargam Phulwari for 5 years (2001-07), a four-hour musical quiz contest before a capacity audience of 1000+ for Rotarians of Rotary Dist 3140.

6. Starting musical compositions

From 14th October 2009, on waking up with a musical dhun, Ajai started composing and writing original tunes and songs. Since then, he has avoided cover singing, devoting these last six years, in the field of music, exclusively to original classical and semi-classical compositions and writing nazms, ghazals and songs of other genres.

Musical Albums 2015-2016

Albums 2015:
1. The Musical Embrace (Mausiqi ki aghosh)
2. Ghalib: Classical Ghazals
Forthcoming 2016:
1. Tu
2. Love and Devotion

Other Pursuits: Psychiatry, Philosophy, Poetry, Cricket and Rotary, Amongst Other Things

1. Psychiatry and Mens Sana Monographs
Ajai R. Singh M.D. is a psychiatrist with consulting chambers at Aastha Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai, India. He is also editor, Mens Sana Monographs [MSM www.msmonographs.org ], a PubMed indexed journal-cum-monograph series started in 2003 and published by Medknow (Wolters Kluwer) since 2006. It is 'devoted to the understanding of medicine, mental health, mind, man and their matrix'.

He has written numerous papers and monographs on issues related to psychiatry, philosophy, bioethics, medicine, and the pharmaceutical industry. He has also authored 3 book chapters, the most recent being, 'Bioethics of Positive Psychiatry', for the book 'Positive Psychiatry: A Clinical Handbook', an APP Publication (May 2015).

2. WHO Collaborating Center, Earler and Later Writings

Singh worked for ten years, 1978-88, with the WHO Collaborating Center for Psychopharmacology in India headed by Dr V.N Bagadia MD as a Senior Research Fellow, researching psychological/psychiatric aspects of deaths due to chronic medical conditions and acute medical emergencies, presenting award winning papers at various psychiatric conferences.
Singh's writings and research in the 1980s and 1990s were in social philosophy, historiography, metaphilosophy and thanatology. He also occasionally [2004-2009] shifted attention to Gandhi's thought, Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism. His later writings [2003 onwards] have concentrated on psychiatry, medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, philosophy of medicine and health, brain-mind-consciousness, and journalology. (For list of publications, see http://ajai-shakuntala.tripod.com ).

3. Seminars, Orations, Speeches , BPS etc

In Jan 2010, Singh, as Editor of Mens Sana Monographs, combined with WPA (World Psychiatric Association, Philosophy and Humanities Section) and ICPR (Indian Council of Philosphical Research), to co-sponsor an International Seminar on Mind, Brain and Consciousness, organised under the aegies of VPM'S Joshi-Bedekar College and Research Section, Department of Philosophy, at Thane, Maharashtra. Its proceedings were published during the occasion with Singh as Executive Editor.

Its edited peer reviewed version, published in 2011, was called 'Brain, Mind, and Consciousness: An Interdisciplinary International Perspective', and had an international authorship from some eminent researchers in the field (see http://www.msmonographs.org/showBackIssue.asp?issn=0973-1229;year=2011;volume=9;issue=1;month=January-December)

Singh gave the Dr Dhanalaxmi Desousa Oration on 10th Oct 2010 at LTMG Hospital , Sion, Mumbai on th topic, 'The road ahead: For Indian, Psychiatric and Medical Research', and in 2012, he delivered the 'Aditya Pendse Memorial Lecture' for the Schizophrenia Awareness Association in Pune, India on 24 May 2012 on the topic 'Schizophrenia; New Hopes'.

In 2013, Singh was invited to address a symposium on Culture, Cognition, Values and Wisdom at the 166th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association at Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco where he spoke on 20TH May 2013, on the topic, 'Culture, Cognition, Values and Wisdom: From Philosophy to Sociology/Psychol;ogy, and now Neurobiology'.

Ajai then visited Los Angeles where he spent a few days visiting the UCLA University Campus. He then went to San Diego and visited the Psychiatric Unit of Dilip Jeste MD at the Stein Institute at La Jolla and addressed and interacted the researchers there on 30th May 2013.

Singh was recently President of the Bombay Psychiatric Society (BPS) 2014-15. On 20th April 2014, he delivered the BPS Presidential Address on the topic, 'Blueprint for an Indian Nobel Laureate in Psychiatry', which was later published in March 2015 (http://www.msmonographs.org/article.asp?issn=0973-1229;year=2015;volume=13;issue=1;spage=187;epage=207;aulast=Singh ).

In March 2015, he conducted a special programme to commemorate all past presidents of the Bombay Psychiatric Society and release a peer reviewed edited version of their presidential speeches which became MSM 2015 (http://www.msmonographs.org/showBackIssue.asp?issn=0973-1229;year=2015;volume=13;issue=1;month=January-December )

In April 2015, he was invited to New Delhi to talk in the Canvas Askew series on, 'Psychiatry: where are we and where do we go from here?', and in May 2015, he visited the NBRC (National Brain Research Centre) at Manesar, Haryana, and addressed the researchers there on,'Brain-Mind Dyad, Human Experience triad, and the Consciousness tetrad'.

4. Advisory Boards

Singh is member of the Journal Committee of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, and one of its Speciality Editors. He sits on the Honorary Advisory Board, Research Center in Philosophy, VPM's Joshi-Bedekar College, Thane, Maharashtra, and of the Journal OJPAS, besides peer reviewing for numerous journals..

5. Poetry, Cricket and Rotary

Singh has also written a book of English poetry 'Longings' which is due for publication. He has also been Founder President of Mulund Medico Sports Club started in 1982 , which conducts Cricket and other sports competitions for medical practitioners in Mumbai. He has been a keen cricketer, being a Captain, left arm seamer and one-down batsman, having often had 5-6 wicket hauls and scored numerous 50s and a couple of centuries too. He was also President of Rotary Club of Mulund Hills, 2007-8.

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