The king of khayal
Fifteen years ago, when the late sitar maestro Vilayat Khan turned 75, the musician who performed in his honour, at a function in Kolkata, was Ulhas Kashalkar. The vocalist sang the special bandish in raga Bhairavi that Khan had composed and lovingly taught him.
Most singers, however accomplished, have some critics. The Kolkata-based Kashalkar, 57, seems to have only admirers. His music appeals not only to opinionated connoisseurs with a range of predilections but also to lay listeners.
Few musicians elicit such near-unanimous admiration. From previous generations, DV Paluskar comes to mind: His simplicity of expression and fluidity of taan patterns would overwhelm experts and neophytes alike.
The manner in which Kashalkar has integrated the styles of the Gwalior, Jaipur and Agra gharanas is truly marvellous. “His music is art, well fortified against a drift towards entertainment,” says Mumbai-based author Deepak Raja. “It is engaging because of its structural soundness, melodic richness, rhythmic dexterity and transparency of communicative intent.”
Kashalkar seems to produce this music effortlessly. In the past, he seemed to be singing in an ultra-soft voice, bordering on the superficial. That is no longer the case. Nowadays, he projects his voice with full force when required.
Kashalkar himself has written that in addition to the vocalist mastering swara, tala and the khayal genre’s architecture, in order to give an effective performance, he or she must understand the raga’s personality and the emotional statements it can make.
“Some ragas provide a choice of various melodic facets and moods within the same basic grammar, while other ragas have uni-dimensional personalities,” he said a few years ago. “The key to musicianship lies in knowing the difference between the two kinds of ragas and making a conscious choice when it is available.”
Kashalkar counts Mallikarjun Mansur as one of his key influences. One can discern this especially when Kashalkar sings mukhbandi taans, those sung with a clenched mouth. Although Mansur began his career as a Gwalior gharana singer, he later became one of the finest exponents of the Jaipur-Atrauli gayaki and also the first powerful male vocalist performer of the gharana.
— Amarendra Dhaneshwar
Not quite a cakewalk
Nestled between the bright signage of Pronto, the Italian delivery chain, and Wanton House, where we hope the wontons aren’t served by wanton waiters, lies Piccoli Tortini, a pastry shop-cum-café that opened about a week ago.
Its Italian name means ‘small cakes’, which refers to any small pastry, a variety of which the menu includes, such as cupcakes, cakes, scones, breads, paninis and tortinis or mini-tarts.
The café is expected to offer high tea and light meals, which include salads and pasta, in a month. The establishment has al fresco tables that a bus stop partly shelters from the chaos of Hill Road. The food and pastry aren’t outstanding, but can’t be written off either. The tomato-and-mozzarella as well as the turkey-with-basil paninis both feature thick layers of bread that becomes dry and makes you miss condiments.
The cannoli-and-fruit tortini had a crumbly base; a crisper and firmer one would have been nicer. Of the cupcakes, the spiced pumpkin was the best for its flavour and succulence.
The chocolate and orange cupcake was pleasant too, although it had a tinge of undesired bitterness and acidity. The others we tried were too dry, and certainly not worth the price: Cupcakes cost Rs. 75 to Rs. 110 here as opposed to around Rs. 50 to Rs. 60 at other pastry shops. Our favourite, the blueberry scone, was delicious, warm and lathered with butter, and it was nice to have the iced green tea served with honey and without sugar, that is also on offer.
What makes the experience endearing is the setting; the angels and ceramic flowers that adorn the tables, the gilded though not ostentatious ceiling and pillar borders as part of an overall Baroque-style make it stand out.
Although it only has five tables, Piccoli Tortini is ideal for high tea, and hopefully, the culinary issues can be put down to teething problems and not as a fundamental flaw.
Mangal Dala ( email@example.com )
(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously.)
No gimmicks, just jazz
When American jazz pianist Helen Sung was 21 and studying music at the University of Texas, Austin, a friend dragged her to a Harry Connick Jr concert. She had no idea who he was, but went along anyway. Having grown up in a strict Asian-American household, she had studied and mostly only listened to Western classical music since she was five years old.
She was astounded by Connick Jr, known for his swingy, big-band style of playing piano. “I was taught by a strict Russian music teacher to believe that all music apart from classical is ‘rubbish’,” she says with a laugh. “And here he was, breaking every rule I’d been taught to adhere to and still sounding magical.”
After that concert, she listened to a CD of jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan’s 1982 album Confirmation, and was instantly hooked. In 1997, she graduated from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance in New Orleans. Today, she is recognised as one of the most promising young talents in the US jazz scene.
Sung is one of many performers at the star-studded Jus’ Jazz Festival, which boasts a much more impressive line-up than last week’s Jazz Utsav. Other performers at this festival include drummer Lewis Nash, singer-composer Diane Witherspoon, and guitarists Russell Malone and Steve Masakowski.
This exciting line-up has been curated by Jazz Addicts, an organisation founded in April by businessmen-cum-jazz-lovers Sunil Sampat and Pradip Bhatia to promote mainstream and classical jazz in India. “We’ve spared no expense in trying to get the best artistes,” says Sampat, 70. “After all, to quote Duke Ellington (the American jazz legend), if you want to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you came from.”
— Suprateek Chatterjee
The times, they are a-changin’
In the foreground of an acrylic painting titled Transmigrations is a self-portrait of 72-year-old artist Sudhir Patwardhan. He is looking at a family album with his grandson. In the background, one can see Patwardhan’s wife, brother and father, all of them relaxing at the ancestral home in Nashik. Patwardhan painted this from memory.
Autobiographical paintings depicting family relationships and spanning Patwardhan’s life, are a part of his solo exhibition, Route Maps. The exhibition, comprising 18 paintings and a few drawings, focuses on three themes: family relationships, the city of Mumbai, and the experience of travelling by different modes, such as buses and trains. According to Patwardhan, these journeys are a metaphor for travelling through different stages of life.
Patwardhan has an intense relationship with Mumbai, where he has lived for four decades. “Mumbai is my prime source of inspiration and imagery,” he says.
A few of the paintings in the exhibition, which he created this year, show the decay of older settlements, manufacturing units and factories, all which dominated the city in the 1970s. Others portray a fear-gripped Mumbai of the 1990s, when terrorism, another subject Patwardhan regularly portrays, reared its ugly head in the city.
— Riddhi Doshi