High Notes: A profound vision

        A programme celebrating Arun Kashalkar’s 75th brithday highlights original contribution to the aesthics of khayal music.

            when student learn form a good Guru , khayal maestro Arun Kashalkar like to say, they have success to the knowledge not only that guru , but also that guru’s guru, and he or her Guru , and so on, going back in time. Thus, students of such a guru benefit from the collective musical wisdom of the teacher’s entire lineage.

              Kashalkar, my guru for the past two years, says this while talking about his own training under the magnificent musician and passionate pedagogue Gajananbuwa Joshi (1911-1987), whohad trained with stalwarts of the Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur gharanas. But that insight is as true of Kashalkar himself, as as highlighted by a belated celebration earlier this month of his 75th birthday, which was on January 5. The eight-hour function on May 19 at the Maharashtra Seva Sangh hall in Mulund (West) attracted more than 300 people, including a large number of musicians. It consisted of a a series of sparkling performances by six of Kashalkar’s senior students; a brief traditional felicitation; short speeches; the release of a large compilation of essays on Kashalkar; a dazzling solo tabla performance by Yogesh Samsi; and a short recital by the senior singer, rounded off by dinner on the terrace.

         The function took note of Kashalkar’s huge contribution as a guru — he has trained up to 500 students, of which at least eight are at the performing level; his composing skills, as evident in nearly 200 of his bandishes, which are being increasingly sung beyond his student community; and his scholarship.

             Equally, it reflected his human qualities, as noted by First Edition Arts, which has been instrumental over the past two years in bringing Kashalkar’s artistry — for decades enjoyed only by a circle of connoisseurs — to the notice of the larger music-listening public. “Every part of the programme lovingly arranged by Arunji’s wonderful and large community of students and friends, who have stood by him for decades was evidence of the power of goodness, and the natural grace and sophistication of the great musician and fine human being that Arunji is,” the organisation said on its Facebook page.

         But as evident both in the music — his own and that of his students — and the views of others, a huge, if not so far fully-appreciated, part of Kashalkar’s contribution has has been to the aesthetics of khayal. A key aspect of his original vision lies in reimagining the role of rhythm in in a khayal elaboration — both through its close integration with the melody and its intricate development. Kashalkar’s senior student Mukul Kulkarni rightly points out in his Marathi essay that “one needs to have had several years of high-quality training to fully comprehend Arun kaka’s profound musical vision and contribution.”

          But the beauty of his style is that even lay listeners respond to its rhythmic charge, as another of Kashalkar’s students, Kartik Prasad, notes in his essay: “It is… common to see the audience rocking gently as he unfolds each avartan…There [are] no applause-seeking acrobatics or [pre-conceived] permutations here; just a…masterly grasp of the canvas of rhythm against which he…paints his raga design”.

           One clear manifestation of this masterly grasp lies in his approach to the sam (first beat) of every avartan (taal cycle), which Kulkarni describes vividly while recalling the first time he gave Kashalkar vocal support: “Each of his  improvisations is like a waterfall descending from a great height to settle in a valley visible from a distance.”

        An equally original aspect of Kashalkar’s khayal aesthetics is his seamless integration of three major styles — Agra, Gwalior and Jaipur, and his refining of some of their elements, as as his younger brother, the reputable musician Vikas Kashalkar, lucidly described in his speech. Made possible by nearly the two decades of taleem from three great musicians, it allows him to draw upon a wide variety of designs while delineating a raag.

          Kashalkar senior’s khayal framework is broadly in the Agra style, which he imbibed during his seven-year tutelage under Babanrao Haldankar, following eight years with Gajananbua and two years with Ram Marathe. In his speech, Vikasji argued that that his elder brother had taken the Agra gharana in a new direction by incorporating in it elements of the Gwalior gharana; by creating a new style of the nom-tom alaap by adding embellishments such as the kheench and behlava, as well as new rhythmic patterns; by refining the aesthetics of bol-work; and by using jabde ki taane, seen in Faiyaz Khan’s music but not Haldankar’s.

          Arunji has also given a fresh impetus to sargams by embedding them in rhythmic patterns, partly in inspired by Carnatic music, Vikasji added.

      When you joined the dots, what emerged that day was a limpid portrait of how, in the hands of a master musician and guru, tradition gets enriched and passed on.

 
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                               The views expressed here are the author’s own. The opinions and facts expressed here do not reflect the views of Mirror and Mirror does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

 

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