Born on 4th July, 1912, Nivruttibua Sarnaik had his initial musical training under Govind Vithal Bhave and then his famed uncle, Shankar Rao Sarnaik. His formal training began under Govindbua Bhave followed by Sawai Gandharva and Rajab Ali Khan. His final grooming was under the direct tutelage of Alladiya Khan of Jaipur gharana, whose gayakee he adopted and developed. With a deep understanding of the `swara`, he improvised upon the Jaipur style.
The recipient of innumerable honours, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1980, Buaji's rhythmically complex and articulate Taan patterns had a unique charm. He also had a huge fund of exotic Ragas and compositions.
He also performed extensively for Shivraj Natak Mandali later named as Yashwant Natak Mandali and played various roles travelling all over. Nivruttibua was a veteran concert artiste and broadcaster and had the honour of being the Durbar Gayak of Kolhapur State.
All through his musical journey, Nivruttibua collected innumerable bandishes, or compositions, from many diverse people: apart from Ustad Alladiya Khan, he got bandishes from Ashiq Ali Khan, Hafiz Ali Khan (father of Amjad Ali Khan) and many others, from different gharanas, including Gwalior and Patiala, apart, of course, from Kirana and Jaipur-Atrauli.
An important fact to be noted is that Nivruttibua was also an excellent tabla player. He had learnt to play the tabla quite early, during his stint with the Natak Mandali. Initially, he learnt it from the tabla accompanists of the company, Rukdikar and Babalal Islampurkar. Afterwards, given his eclectic approach, he learnt the nuances of the tabla from many distinguished visiting tabla maestros, including the Grand Old Man of the tabla, Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa, as also Ustad Natthu Khan. As a result, Nivruttibua had an exceptional understanding of taal, rhythm, and taan, a hallmark of the Jaipur-Atrauli gayaki. He could strike the most appropriate balance between the two, which had a significant bearing on his unique style.
A composer of very high calibre as well, Nivruttibua's compositions had very exceptional rhythmic patterns of laykari. Some compositions include Kit Dhundan Jau in Raag Sampurna Malkauns, Chhalla Deho Chailva in Raag Ramdasi Malhar, Mai Janori Tori Chaturai in Raag Dagori, Paar Karo Naiyya in Raag Puriya Kalyan and Ae Kathava in Raag Brindawani sarang
He was Professor of Music at Bombay University between 1969 and 1978. He moved to Kolkata to join the ITC Sangeet Research Academy as a Resident Guru in the year 1978.
Buaji loved the Academy and was equally loved by all whose lives he touched. The list of his highly credible disciples include Smt. Vijaya Jadhav Gatlewar, Pandit Dinkar Panshikar, Shri Arun Kulkarni, Late Pandit Sudhakarbua Digrajkar, Shri Prasad Gulavani and Smt. Veena Saharabuddhe.
He has also been instrumental in guiding some of the legendary vocalists of Indian Classical music fraternity like Late Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki, Smt. Kishori Amonkar, Smt. Prabha Atre, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, Pandit Arun Kashalkar and Smt. Padma Talwalkar.
Unfortunately, his health deteriorated in 1993 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, upon which he decided to return to Bombay. Nivruttibua passed away on February 16, 1994. Following is an excerpt of his performance at Kalamandir during the ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan in 1981.