Kolkatasaga’s tribute to the living legend Padmashree Pt Ulhas Kashalkar


In the usual Bengali household, always there has been a tradition of listening to Indian Classical Music for ages. During the cassette era, we have seen people listening to  Pt Jnanebdra Prasad Goswami or Gyan Gnosai,  Pt Tarapada Chakrabarty, Ustad Vishmadeb Chattopadhya, and many more following the footsteps of their previous generation, and then their next generations started following, rather fell in love with the majestic singing styles of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib and unanimously with the voice and tranquil gayeki of Ustad Amir Khan sahib.  We later saw people falling for Pt Bhimsen Joshi, and even listening to cassettes of  Pt Jasraj. All maestros, with their enchanting performances, lived through those cassettes in almost every music-loving Bengali household. During this journey I once chanced upon a cassette, I listened to it and then kept on listening to it, because, it was such a kind of voice and such unique gayeki that caught my attention even at such young age of mine. That cassette consisted Raag Nand and was rendered by Pt Mallikarjun Mansoor.

Many many years later when I was taking an interview with Dr. Amlan Dasgupta, to my surprise I came to know that mallikarjunji’s unique gayeki could not leave a strong impact on the audience of this geographical area in his lifespan. According to Dr. Dasgupta, people in Kolkata started falling for Jaipur Atrauli style much later with the singing of Pt Ulhas Kashalkar. Obviously, there was a fan following of that style, but that club grew much stronger and popular from that time.

I was introduced to Pt Ulhas Kashalkarji’s singing through one of his cassettes, it immediately felt like a pandora’s box which time traveled from older times of India and landed in this time, it was so pure. That cassette consisted Khayalnuma followed by a tarana on Raag Malkanush and on the other side two drut khayal, based on Raag Basant Bahar and Raag Desh respectively. That bandish on Raag Desh “Ghana gagana ghana ghumanada” will sustain in me forever.

Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar

On the auspicious birth anniversary of Pt Ulhas Kashalkar I would like to recall three of Panditji’s unforgettable performances that took place in the city of joy and left an impression on thousands of ardent listeners.

  1. Each and every musical rendezvous by Sangeet Ashram was unmissable for any enthusiasts at that time. Oh, we used to wait so eagerly for those cards. This musical evening took place in G D Birla Sabhaghar. Pt Bijay Kichluji presented Pandit Kashalkar and the triveni sangam of three gayekis of Jaipur Atrauli Gharana, Agra Gharana and Gwalior Gharana, that Pt Kashalakar presents, with utmost precision. It was for the first time I came to listen to Panditji live and that experience was unforgettable. I came home all the way from ballygunj to our good old north Kolkata, humming to his tunes.  My memory suggests that on that occasion The respectable Governor of West Bengal was present for inauguration but even The Governor had to stay back till the very end of that gripping performance. It probably took place in 2004.
  • During the first decade of new millennium, amongst many classical music conference in Kolkata, there used to be a Malhar Festival which many of us can remember. It took place in August, 2007 at Kalamandir. Stalwarts from all over India came and performed many many forms of different malhar. Pt Ulhas Kashalkarji presented my most favorite kind of Malhar. Pt Kumar Bose on Tabla and Pt Ulhas Kashalkar on vocal, who rendered one of the greatest renditions of Raag Gaur Malhar. It still sustains in the ears of the accolades of Ulhasji even today.
  • If we are talking about Pt Kashalkarjis performances in Kolkata then this listing would be absolutely incomplete without his numerous memorable concerts at ITC Sangeet Research Academy Sangeet Sanmelan. Indeed there are many but it was distinctively a specific one that left an impression on a serene dawn in our mind with his incredible rendition of Raag Bibhas.  He was singing “Bhor Bhayee ab sakal jage” and all witnessed  the skylight started changing like a magic. As if that bandish was the magic key that brought a new day and this magic happened right in front of many of us on that day. Panditji later sang raag Khat and then on request he concluded the recital with “Jamuna Ke Teer”.  

There are many such musical sagas in Kolkata, lies in the hearts of innumerable music acolytes in Kolkata, in India and in the entire world of music. Share your three most favorite concerts of Pt Ulahas Kashalkar in the comments and create your saga.

Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar

Photographs Courtesy : Google

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