Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar’s ability to seamlessly blend innumerable ragas and compositions makes him one of the most sought-after Gurus of today’s time
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar is no ordinary Hindustani classical vocalist. After having been taught formal singing styles of three main gharanas of vocal music – Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur/Atrauli, he has successfully incorporated elements of all in a cohesive way, creating a gayeki that does not sound disjointed or artificially assembled. No one who has ever heard him in concert can fail to marvel at his total mastery – the structured delineation of even the most complex raga systematically, embellished with breathtaking taans of impossible twists and turns, intricate, varied and absolutely astounding as the emphasis is on the content, not only the speed. In addition, he is a rare concert artist who has taught several young singers thoroughly. Today, they are very successful concert artists themselves – Shashank Maktedar, Ojesh Pratap Singh, Omkar Dadarkar, Sameehan Kashalkar and Manjusha Patil are some names amongst others. Some excerpts from his recent interview:
Panditji, please talk about the early stages of your illustrious career.
I was born in Pandharkaoda, Maharashtra and my first Guru was my father, Shri N.D. Kashalkar. He taught me and my brothers, Arun and Vikas Kashalkar. During school days, I used to participate in several music competitions. Later, I did my Masters from Nagpur University, Morris College. Then I joined All India Radio; have been a Guru for decades at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata. Now I also teach music at the Bengal Foundation school in Dhaka.
Did you ever think of a career other than singing?
Not really. I tried to work as a Programme Executive in All India Radio where I could have risen to become Station Director or something. But I was never content. Luckily, I was able to quit my job and still sustain my family financially. How do you relax between concerts? Music is my life. It takes up a fair amount of my day. Sometimes I hear film songs. I enjoy listening to Lata Mangeshkarji. I don’t watch films, though I am interested in sports. I always catch the news on TV.
Who are your musical icons?
I’ve always loved Ustad Fayyaz Khan, Kesar Baiji, Pt. Kumar Gandharv, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi or Kishori Amonkarji. In the instrumentalists, I revere Ustad Vilayat Khan and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Among senior artists, I love listening to tabla of Ustad Ahmed Jan Thirakwa and Ustad Allah Rakha Khan.
Tell us about your family.
My wife Sanjivani has been a tremendous support throughout. The decision to leave my first job was totally enabled by her. She is a teacher and today, after being married to me for so long, has a fair understanding of music too! My son Sameehan sings as well.
Who is your best friend?
Pandit Suresh Talwalkar. I have known him from 35-40 years, we share so much. Though he is older than me, we are very close.
After winning so many awards, is there something that you wish for in future?
I am awarded every time I sing well, as per my own perception. In fact, sometimes when I do not perform as well as I want to, it’s a huge let down for me. I don’t have any other goal but to sing well.
Text: Shailaja Khanna