It is very rare when we come across a voice in Hindustani Classical Music that captures the essence of three Gharanas. An uncompromising purist who can effortlessly croon and switch to different styles of Khayal singing: Gwalior, Jaipur, Atrauli and Agra Gharana with surprising control, putting him altogether in a different league of classical singers. Considered as a representative of all three schools of Gayaki, he is none other than Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar.
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar was born in 1955 at Pandharkaoda, a small town situated between Nagpur and Hyderabad. His father Nagesh Dattatreya Kashalkar,a lawyer by profession , was also a well known musicologist. He had learnt music from Matangi Bua of Gwalior Gharana. Ulhas’ initial training of music started under his father. The sound of harmonium and Taanpura echoed in his home since his child hood. Ulhas elder brother was also a singer and his home was a centre to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. Ulhaas has won various prestigious music competitions held at Pune, Mumbai, Baroda in his childhood. Ulhas completed his graduation from Pandharkaoda and completed his masters in music from Nagpur University. During his masters, he received his training from Raja Bhau Kogze and Khargenivesh. Kogze, a veteran of Khayal and Thumri singing was disciple of famous singer Vinayak Patwardhan. It was the inspiration of his Guru that motivated him to pursue music as his career.
After topping in post-graduation, Kashalkar went to Pandit Gajananan Rao Joshi, by then Rao caught up with old age was facing health issues, he had left singing and refused to teach Kashalkar. Thereafter, Kashalkar went to Pandit Ram Marathe who had a deep understanding of the singing style of Gwalior and Agra Gharana. Pandit Ram Marathe had learned music from Jagannath Bua Purohit for 15 years. He was a Marathi music director, singer, and actor. Kashalkar leant music from Marathe for one and half years only and went back to Gajanan Bua,. Gajanan agreed to teach him this time. Kashalkar undertook a long period of tutelage under him. Indeed, most characteristic features of his style can be traced to Gajananrao’s vocalism. Kashalkar confesses he understood the true meaning of Gharana Gayaki from Gajanan Bua.He learnt about the Gharana style of singing and to wistfully observe each maatra and Chalan of Ragas. Kashalkar’s masterly engagement with different gharanas is evident in his sincere and balanced renderings, which made his music an overwhelming experience. The maestro concentrated only on Raag Yaman for four to five months. Kashalkar learnt the singing style of Agra and Jaipur Atrauli gharana from Gajanan Bua
Ulhas Kashalkar is known to croon the lesser known Ragas. In an interview Ulhas said, “ When I perform at Gwalior , I follow the Gwalior’s method of singing, when I visit Jaipur, I switch to the singing style of Jaipur Atrauli Gharana which involves Saawni, Raisa, Kanhra, Khat and Khokar. While crooning Agra’s Megh, Barwa, Gara, Kanhra, I desist from giving them a Gwalior style. Both of my Gurus: Gajanan Bua and Ram Marathe were disciple of Vilayat Hussain Khan and both of them were known for their old style of classical singing.” The same depth could be sensed in Kashalkar’s singing.
Ulhas has assimilated the essence of Agra Gwalior and Jaipur Gharana. At times, he surprises the audience by presenting the patterns of all the three Gharanas in a single performance. While strictly keeping in mind, Raga’s Chalan or characteristic gait, Kashalkar wonderfully presents the nuances of all three Gharanas. However, he considers the Gwalior style as the base of his singing.
Ulhas Kushalkar at 60 is not very old but his preference for treasuretrove of ragas, his crooning style and perfect intonations gives a feel of older generation of singers. He presents the most difficult of ragas with such ease and flair that leaves listeners stunned. He wistfully mixes his creations with his Guru’s taleem, making his music a wholesome experience for listeners.
Ulhaas Kashalkar was program executive at Pune Radio station for seven years. In 1993, he donned the role of Guru at Kolkata’s famous ITC Sangeet Research Academy and even today he continues to offer his services to the academy. He is the most sought after Guru at academy. He has mentored some of the finest students of the Academy. Ulhas Kashalkar is renowned name today, who puts forth his imagination through his music. He is the most respected and busiest singers of our time. Government of India awarded him with Padma Shree in 2010 and Sangeet Natak Academy in 2008.