Ullhas Kashalkar combines different styles without compromising on their purity.
Of late, quite a few Hindustani classical vocalists have imbibed the nuances of styles other than their own traditional ones. For instance, the late Jitendra Abhisheki had developed and combined the styles of as many as three gharanas - Kirana, Gwalior and Agra. The followers of Saheswan's Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan were well known for their use of the nuances of the Gwalior and the Rampur gharanas. However, the young and highly reputed vocalist, Ullhas Kashalkar, a guru in residence at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, has acquired the choicest nuances of the two celebrated gharanas of Agra and Gwalior. But unlike others, Kashalkar has the remarkable skill of presenting the mannerisms of the two gharanas quite free from intrusions into each other's forms.
Kashalkar's recent performance at the VSK Baithak at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre was notable for his able display of the Gwalior style with khayals in ragas Marwa and Yaman. There was not the slightest tinge of the Agra-Atrauli styles, even though he has excellent command over this aspect as well. The evening's performance would be long remembered for his rich voice and utmost regard for the two ragas' authentic interpretation.
The slow composition in the dusk-time raga Marwa was redolent with sweeping glides within the lower and middle octaves, the Komal Rishabh or flat Re being laced with varying nuances along with the Dhaivat, thereby establishing Marwa's independent identity from the raga Puriya with which it shares a common set of notes. While making inroads into the upper octave, most singers tend to inadvertently release the flavour of the morning raga Sohni, which also has the same set of notes - but not so in Kashalkar's renderings in Marwa. The slow khayal in the 14-beat Jhumra tala was a delightful presentation with its sthayee ("Chaien Nanadiya") and the Madhya Teen tala ("Mora Re") impressing with its powerful gamaks and intricately permuted taan patterns.
Raga Yaman was redolent with reposeful and methodical handling of alap badhat in the 16-beat slow Tilwada tala composition ("Eri Lal"). The fast-paced tarana in Teen tala, at times with subtle insertion of the note Shuddha Madhyam gave it a shade of the raga Yaman Kalyan instead. Highly commendable table accompaniment by the veteran Pandit Suresh Talwalkar and excellent harmonium support by the young Suyog Kundalkar provided much impetus to the singer to bring out the best in him.
There is a word of caution for the organisers. The number of music lovers thronging to the VSK Baithaks is increasing beyond the seating capacity at the India Habitat Centre's basement theatre.
With the basement bursting at the seams and music lovers packed in like sardines, it is high time the organisers considered a larger and safer venue for future presentations.
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