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Musical Sense

To say that Mahesh Kale had a great debut at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav on Thursday would be an understatement.

Written by Shruti Nambiar | Published: December 10, 2011 1:26:25 am

Hindustani classical vocalist Mahesh Kale revels in the “overwhelming” response to his debut at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav on Thursday

To say that Mahesh Kale had a great debut at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav on Thursday would be an understatement. His immaculate timing and voice modulations seemed to have infused the bhajans and abhangs he sang with another level of energy. “I though of it more as a celebration than a test. For an artiste,to go on to the stage is in itself a feat. There couldn’t have been a better debut,” Kale says. The applause at the end of his performance and the calls for an encore were overwhelming,”to say the least,” he says,adding,”There were so many people wanting to talk to me; I felt like Shah Rukh Khan!”

The 35-year-old Hindustani Classical singer was born in Pune,but has been a resident of the USA for the past decade. His musical tutoring began under his mother Meenal Kale’s initial encouragement. His style and inclination solidified under the teaching of Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki,who was a great supporter of breaking away from the rigidity of the gharana style and including more modern aspects to the music. “I believe in breaking down music for the audience. Music for me is a sense,a very basic thing. It’s like how you can go to a perfume shop and say it is a woody or a fruity smell and discuss it at length. It’s the same with music,all can enjoy and identify with it.”

Kale’s effort to draw in more young listeners has inspired him to mentor a group of close to 150 students,in the age group of 7-60,in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also delivers regular demonstration lectures at US colleges,and once was even featured as Artist of the Month in Harvard Sangeet,a student-run organisation at the Ivy League college.

Being at Sawai Gandharva this year inspired a deep sense of nostalgia in Kale. “Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was a phenomena,a power-house,” he reminisces about the late singer. “Outside India,when one speaks of Indian classical music,one talks of Sawai Gandharva in the same breath. I think the next generation should ensure that this festival goes on. Panditji would be proud of that,” he says.

Day 2: Evening Raga

A long line of people shuffled down the narrow street up to the Ramanbaug New English School grounds on the second day of the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav. Hindustani classical vocalist Mahesh Kale was the first to take the stage. By the time he finished his performance,calls of “once more” rang out,which reluctantly died down when the audience was reminded of the 10 pm deadline. Vocalist Shaila Datar’s demeanour was a reflection of the mood of her music. Her initial firm expression softened into frequent smiles by the time she sang the beautiful Krishna murari binati. In the brief break between performances,clips from a documentary on Pandit Bhimsen Joshi were screened. By the time Pandit Ronu Majumdar (flute),Kadri Gopalnath (saxophone),B Hari Kumar (mridangam) and Ramdas Palsule (tabla) took to the stage,the slightly splintered crowd of listeners had come together. The jugalbandi that followed was spellbinding in its range and fluency. Raga Hamsadhwani and Chandrakauns echoed though the grounds. The masters brushed off some technical snags to end with a beautiful performance of Payoji Maine,Ram Ratan. Dr Balamuralikrishna held fort after this. Before beginning,he said to the listeners,“I can never forget the jugalbandi programmes I had with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in India and abroad. I feel lonely today. But he is in my heart.” Everyone present there couldn’t have agreed more.

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