Sawani Shende

Sawani Shende is a very popular up-and-coming vocalist of her generation. She is a student of Smt. Veena Sahastrabuddhe, a well known classical vocalist of international repute. Sawani has performed in prestigious music conferences all over India and also toured U.S.A/Canada in 1998. She has received prestigious awards like Pt. Jasraj Gaurav Puraskar, Smt. Manik Varma Puraskar and Pt. Ramkrishnabua Vaze Puraskar. Sawani has several cassettes and CDs to her credit.

Sawani was born in a musically rich family. She was introduced to Indian Classical Music at a tender age of six by her grandmother, Smt. Kusum Shende, herself a noted singer of Kirana Gharana. Quest for more and more knowledge in music at the age of 12 Sawani started her training under the expert guidance of Dr.Smt Veena Sahasrabudhe, a noted classical vocalist of Gwalior Gharana. Sawani’s father, Dr.Sanjeev Shende has groomed her in semi classical generes like Thumri, Dadra, Kajri, etc.

Sawani made her debut at the age of 10 to celebrate her grandmother’s 61s birthday. The journey of concerts started when Sawani was invited to perform at the prestigious Pt. Vishnu Digamber Jayanti Samaroh in Delhi when she was just 12. Sawani was honored when she performed for the then President of India, Mr. R. Venkatraman at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Since then she has never looked back.

Sawani’s music is a beautifull soul searching combination of Kirana Gharana and Gwalior Gharana, where she mesmerizes audiences with enchanting melody & strength of both.

Sawani’s confidence and mastery in Khayals, her crystal clear diction and overall sensitivity in presentation takes every performance to a very high aesthetic level. Her rendition of semi classical genres highlights the emotive and expressive quality of Indian Classical music and adds a very important dimension to her performance leaving audiences spellbound.

Sawani gave concerts in prestigious music festival all over India. She has also performed in 30 states all over USA and Canada. She also gave performances in Doha, Dukhan and Umsaid.

Listen to one of her mesmerizing rendition in Raga Durga ‘Bajavat Veena‘ which is one of my favourites :

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Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan, born in 1966, is perhaps the most convincing proof of what miracles the revived Gurukul system can achieve. Under the tutelage of Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, the Sahaswan Gharana maestro, for the last ten years in Research Academy, Calcutta, Rashid has metamorphosed from a gawky, groaning child to an artiste of unbelievable maturity, vocal prowess and artistry.

Rashid’s alap is ticklishly imaginitive, his rhythmic play pulsating and the cascades of his powerful, lightening, swift taans unimaginable until actually heard.

Rashid has naturally taken listeners and the Press by storm wherever he has gone, and at a conference at Bhubaneahwar in 1982, a member of audience was so overwhelmed by the uncanny expertise of the young boy that he promptly made him a gift of one thousand Rupees.

In 1986 the Festival of India authorities invited Rashid Khan to present the only music recital on the occasion of the release of Double Album on Great Masters of Music by the then Prime Minister of India, late Rajiv Gandhi. The concert was intended to signify the continuance of the tradition of excellence in Indian classical music.

Rashid Khan was awarded the ‘A’ Grade by All India Radio in 1987. In 1988 he cut his first record. Doordarshan has produced and telecast a special programme on this phenomenon. In 1989 Rashid Khan made an extensive tour of the United States and Canada, taking, as usual, crowds by storm.

Rashid Khan has been hailed as a great successor to the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan – Ameer Khan generation – an era today almost given up as lost. He had truly arrived on the scene when Pt. Bhimsen Joshi heard him at a concert in early 1988 and proclaimed that there is now at least one person in sight who is an assurance for the future of Hindustani Vocal Music.

Listen to this composition sung by him in Raga Jaijaivanti from his album ‘Mercy Rain‘ :

Bhimsen Joshi

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, was born in Gadag (Karnataka) on 14 Feb 1922. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi left his home for Gwalior, then to Calcutta then Rampur where he took lessons from Mushtaq Husain Khan.

He finally became student of Savai Gandharva (Pt. Rambhan Kundgolkar), the eminent khyal singer student of Abdul Karim Khan.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is the long-reigning king of Hindustani classical vocal music. His unpretentious style, his soulful appeal and his divine sur have made him the paragon of reverence. Loyal to Kirana tradition, yet innovative, he has contributed immensely to Indian music.

A few years of his youth were thus spent in the company of well known musicians at Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur, serv ing them and learning as much as he could from them. His father, coming to know of Bhimsen’s fervent desire for knowledge in music, abandoned his policy of opposition, fetched his son back and made arrangements for him to learn under the guidance of Sawai Gandharva of Kundol. This opportunity opened the vaults of rich and rare musical treasures to Bhimsen. Bhimsen’s natural tuneful voice received further polish from his guru. Like a diamond which sparkles all the brighter after it is expertly cut, Bhimsen’s voice began to shine with a new lustre and brilliance which has dazzled and cast a spell on the entire country.

With his increasing popularity Bhimsen started getting invita- tions to sing at various cities and towns in Maharashtra and Karnataka. To facilitate the keeping of these engagements, he bought a big car and took to driving. The car was so big that it could easily accommodate him and his 4 accompanists besides two tanpuras and other instruments. In this car Bhimsen travelled extensively. One day he would go from Bombay to Belgaum – then on to Bangalore the next day, and back to Pune- only to go off again to Nagpur, Raipur or Bhilai. Back again in Pune, he would rush off to Hyderabad, Solapur and so on these whirlwind tours became a habit with him and in a short while he became an expert driver.

His unbelievably flexible voice enabled him to traverse at terrific speed, the great range of 3 octaves. While at the wheel, he used the same technique as in singing. The spread of his fame and popularity beyond the boundaries of Maharashtra brought him invitations from far off places like Jullundur, Jammu, Srinagar, Delhi, Calcutta and Gauhati. Bhimsen, who had so far matched the speed and agility of his voice with the speed of his car. He then had to switch to air travel. The pilots of Indian Airlines and airport oficials came across Bhimsen so frequently that he was soon known as the ‘flying musician of India’.

One can easily imagine the tremendous difficulties involved in getting hold of an ever-busy singer like Bhimsen for recording. Fortunately as his popularity increased rapidly, the recording technique also improved for the better. 78 R.P.M. records were now replaced by the 45 R.P.M., extended play records and 33 R.P.M. long-playing records. Extended play records played twice as long as the 78 R.P.M. The long-playing microgroove records were also proportionately higher priced. These records gradually became the exclusive privilege of the affluent in society. His EP included Zanak Zanakuva in Raga Darbari. Piya To Manat Nahee, (link below at the bottom of this Post) a thumri, Jo Bhaje Hari Ko Sada, a bhajan, and the most enchanting thumri – Piya Ke Milan Ki Aas.

Every performer has his favourite items, in which he excels. On the strength of these- his mehfil becomes a memorable experience. Bhimsen is no exception. After hearing a number of his concerts some people remarked that his programmes are repetitive. It is a peculiar characteristic of our music that the ingenuity of a musician is known by his ability to unfold and create new and novel facets of known raas. The same composition, same notes in the same ragas, presented on successive occasions can sound ever-new, fresh and enchanting and receive enthusiastic approval from listeners and critics in the audience. It is very necessary therefore that the listeners should cultivate a knowledgeable interest and a musical ear to appreciate our classical music.

Supreme confidence in his own abilities and unfailing loyalty are two prominent qualities of Bhimsen. Every year he observes the punyatithi (death anniversary) of his guru Sawai Gandharva with a music festival at Pune. Those privileged to attend it are indeed very fortunate, for the spectacle is one fit for the gods. For three consecutive nights about 10,000 people attend the programme from 8 at night to 7 the next morning. Eminent artists in the world of Indian classical music vie with each other for a chance to appear on the stage on this occasion. There are two reasons for this. Firstly the programme is at the behest of a great fellow artist like Bhimsen, and secondly it is rare and almost impossible for a musician to get a chance to perform before such a vast, discerning and appreciative audience. During these celebrations, Bhimsen works like an ordinary volunteer. On occasion he is even noticed sweeping the stage, bringing the instruments on stage and helping the artist to tune the tanpuras perfectly. He looks after the comforts of the artists and audience alike. He does this untiringly for three successive nights. One cannot help but admire him for his love and reverence for his guru.

The late Sawai Gandharva was a disciple of Abdul Karim Khan. A galaxy of veterans are among his disciples. They include top names like Gangubai Hangal, Hirabai Badodekar, Phiroz Dastur and Bhimsen, who is the youngest of them all. The characteristics of the Kirana gharana are precision-oriented tunefulness (lagav of swaras) presentation of a bandish with an impressively grace- ful style, and a disciplined, systematic and methodical raga de- velopment, punctuated with an elegantly elaborate alap and skil- ful decoration with the choicest forms of embelishments – taans. With the help of all these, Bhimsen makes such a terrific favourable impact on his audience right from the start of the concert that listeners remain glued to their seats till the last notes of his Bhairavi. Within a few minutes of his arrival in a concert hall Bhimsen measures correctly the pulse of the audience. His discerning eye unfailingly recognizes the knowledgeable in the congregation and, by the time the tanpuras are tuned, and accompaniment arranged, he has decided on the musical menu he will dish out to achieve a resounding success.

Bhimsen is a versatile singer; he is an expert in khayal singing but he is also adept in the presentation of thumris, songs from plays, or devotional compositions. His lilting thumris (Jadu Bhareli, Piya Ke Milan Ki Aas or Babul Mora) and his innumerable popular Abhangs composed by the saints of Maharashtra are instances in point.

Bhimsen is a prodigy – unique – a divine miracle. We should admire his tremendous accomplishments in the realm of music, revel in the heavenly experience of his gayaki and pray to God Almighty to bless this musical genius with a long life. In the whole of India there is no one else who has atained so much and given so much to music lovers. Listeners in he U.S.A. and the U.K. love and admire him. It is a pity that our Government has only bestowed a mere Padmashri on him, instead of the higher honours deserved by an artist of Bhimsen’s calibre who has received the greatest acclaim abroad.

Listen to a Thumri in Raga Kafi performed by him, which is an all time favourite of mine :

Kalapini Komkali

Kalapini Komkali is the daughter of Kumar Gandharva and Vasundhara Komkali. An awesome inheritance resides in her genes. The curious consequence of this circumstance is that it is not only an affirmation of what is called the Gwalior Gayaki, but a wholly reconstructed and transformed style that revolutionized Hindustani Classical Music. The Gayaki of Kumar Gandharva is a difficult inheritance to claim. The reason for this difficulty is obvious when you consider the formidable issues involved in making a credible claim to it.

Kumar Gandharva’s impact on this century of Hindustani Classical Music has not yet been fully understood. This will take time. It is this inheritance however that gives Kalapini a very special place in the art and puts before her the opportunity for a unique evolution in her musical growth. In the last few years Kalapini has been able to cut a path of her own drawing from the inspiration of her father and Guru and has begun to show signs of sudden and unexpected intimations in her art. There are some major elements to be observed in her music. The hardest thing in Hindustani Music is to be able to transcend the scales and make a Raga come to life without making it seem like the notes of the scale being sung. Kalapini has begun to do this.

Kalapini has performed independently across the country to appreciative audiences. After her post graduation in Library Sciences, Kalapini learnt music from her father and is now an active trustee of the Kumar Gandharva Sangeet Academy, which has been structured to present and promote his genius. At present, she trains intensively with her mother.

Here is a rendition in Raga Kafi from her :

Ashwini Bhide Deshpande

Amongst the vocalists of the younger generation of the Jaipur-Atrauli tradition of Khyal singing, Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande is an artiste of great caliber. She has been performing in a number of prestigious music conferences in India for over fifteen years and have had successful concert tours of Europe as well as of North American continent.

Ashwini began her training at the age of five under the guidance of Pandit Narayanrao Datar. After graduating with a “sangeet visharad” from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, she started receiving guidance and meticulous attention from her mother, Smt. Manik Bhide, a great Khyal singer herself. Ashwini has inherited all that was best in her mother’s style and was able to add a lot to her repertoire with great sensitivity and intellect. Presently she is receiving guidance from Pandit Ratnakar Pai, a veteran of the Jaipur gharana.

Systematic exposition of the Raag structure, brilliant phrasing, variety of taan patterns, ease and grace in all of the three octaves mark her singing. She does not merely present the gammer of a Raag, but can build it up into an aesthetically pleasing experience.

A resident of Mumbai, Ashwini is a graduate in Microbiology and also holds a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry.

Here is one of her rendition in Raga Bhup, Malaniya Layi :

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