Music from the heart

Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar. Phhoto: V. Ganesan  

Veteran music critic, the late Mohan Nadkarni, once remarked on the Gwalior tradition of Khayal gayaki , “This tradition has been conceived and moulded by more than one pioneer, all of whom were almost contemporaneous. Each one of them was an extraordinary genius in his own right, who harnessed talent and imagination, ingenuity and craftsmanship, or originality and virtuosity, to give the genre a concrete shape — musically, rhythmically and aesthetically.”

These words come back to you when we listen to Ulhas Kashalkar. . The renowned Hindustani vocalist from Gwalior gharana aesthetically merges the style with the nuances of Agra gayaki. On his experience of blending influences, Kashalkar says, “When you choose, you change your experience. You have to face all the consequences of what you have chosen. You have to pay the cost of what you have left. Here, I don't lose because we can transcend when we enter into the new realm of gayaki already established. The previous one helps us to understand the other. When we understand one style completely, it helps us to learn other styles easily and skilfully.”

He was in Varanasi recently to perform in the annual Sankatmochan music festival. Few years ago, he was here with his Gwalior Malkauns. This time he came with the Gwalior-Agra shaped Kaunsi Kanhada. This recital was a different experience altogether for the aesthetes of Varanasi. Vistaar (the slow unfolding of the raga and improvisations) were exquisite and taans were ineffable. “Reciting music is more than repeating grammar. It is about following grammar and going beyond it at the same time. One has to express one's own feeling and interpretation through the chosen raga,” he explains.

The late Khayal maestro Kumar Prasad Mukherjee used to characterise the Gwalior style of singing as Bandish nayaki, Bandish gayaki, vistaar, bahlawa (play of a combination of notes and phrases with the help of heavy taans and meends), baant (rhythmic division of taal), bol-taan, layakari,and taans but Kashalkar feels a bit differently about it. “Bol-taan is actually from the Agra gharana. Here, the words and the rhythmic taans are combined together, a speciality of the Agra gharana, also to be found in Gwalior. For this, Kumar da used to make me listen to Ustad Faiyaz Khan's drut Khayal of Lalit and Ramkali in 78 RMP records.” Kashalkar demonstrates this by reciting a few portions of these ragas.

Pandit Kashalkar looks at Indian classical music as the remaining heritage of a empirical collection. “I prefer cross-rhythmic variations, both in reciting and in preserving the heritage. Several concerned people are working in this direction. Camouflaging good touches of our ancient tradition is not good. Modernising classical music means a lot of improvisations. In Sangeet Research Academy, I personally and sensitively did and created a lot but that is not enough. Persons with devoted spirit must come forward to maintain good music,” he says.

According to him, more institutions should come forward to preserve Indian classical music, including music colleges. . Rashid Khan from Rampur of Sahaswan gharana and Kashalkar are two maestros who are constantly exploring new areas in this direction to inspire upcoming artistes in classical music.

“What is needed is to give chance to talented musicians. We are still encircled by young talents waiting in a dark room for a breakthrough,” he says.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 2:38:37 AM |

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