IMS Opens 2016 Concert Series with an Unforgettable Concert by Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar


By Sunil Pangarkar

HOUSTON: On Saturday, March 19, at the Jones Hall of University of St. Thomas, the connoisseurs of Indian classical music became part of a most divine experience. An experience in which the audience was rendered speechless. This was indeed The Concert of concerts by a Musician’s Musician. The featured artist was Padmashree Pt. Ulhas Kashalkarji – a highly sought after musician and Guru in India and abroad. Accompanying him were Pt. Shantilal Shah on the tabla and Dr. Kedar Naphade on the harmonium.

From 50’s to 80’s, in my opinion, Hindustani music saw a high point when there were a number of artists from various gharanas (styles) of music who maintained the tradition, excellence and tempo ideally suited to this genre of music. Concerts were long and deliberate, a destination rather than a milestone of the day.  Substance rather than form dominated the ethos of concerts. Well, all I can say is than Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar proved that this still exists and still has the ability to move the audience – in fact more so, since it is a novelty.

He began the concert with Raag Shree and developed the Raag in a Vilambit bandish (slow tempo in Tilwada Taal) followed by a Drut bandish in Ektaal. After an hour of Raag Shree, one felt content. Each development was an exploration rather than a show of prowess. The beauty of Panditji’s performance is that melodic intricacy and force is used to delicately enhance the mood of the Raag and not overpower it. The audience is kept alert and interested and not pummeled to submission by technical wizardry.


The next two presentations (Raag Barwa and Raag Jait Kalyan) were meant for connoisseurs. In fact, Jait Kalyan was a Farmaish from the audience. Needless to say, the Raag and the audience were both given due importance and justice. There was not a moment of hurriedness. This honesty to the art form could not escape the audience.

In the second half, Panditji sang Raag Basant in a Madhya Laya composition , aDrut composition and a Tarana. I thought that the three compositions were chosen as if to show the myriad colors of Basant (spring). The Madhya laya bandish was of yearning, the drut was romantic complaint and the Tarana was ebullient. He planned to end the concert with a composition in Raag Khamaj, but the audience just would just not leave. They wanted to hear him sing Bhairavi and he graciously obliged – once again he was unhurried and smiling.

It is said that one should judge a person based on the way he deals with others, in Panditjis case the way he dealt with accompanying musicians, organizers and members of the audience. Shamik Bose who had brought the tanpura and was accompanying Panditji was asked to give vocal support. Panditji did not know Shamik or his capabilities, but the way he was giving him an opportunity was like his own student. I heard him say to Shamik that “you have a good voice”.  How encouraging is that when Panditji says that!!

As accompanist, Pt. Shantilal Shah had to keep a very tight and musical “theka” which is extremely hard in densely decorated compositions with the complexity of layakari that Panditji easily incorporates. For the harmonium to keep pace, support and enhance such music is an equally difficult task.  For Kedarji and Shantilalji , Panditji’s presence and his music was such that as accompanying musician they were on constant alert, and in anticipation .  They naturally complemented Ulhas ji via their performances. He complimented both at the end of the concert. Panditji’s acknowledging smile for his audience and for his able accompanists was like real diamonds and not costume jewelry. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma had rightly said that Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar’s genuineness, humility despite his brilliance shows through in his music. IMS was honored to host an artist like him!!