Mumbai-based Pooja Gaitonde, 19, is something of a prodigy. Last year, she performed, to acclaim, at Khazana, an annual ghazal event in the city that also featured the form’s stalwarts Pankaj Udhas and Talat Aziz. She also appeared, and sang, in a 13-episode serial on ghazals that was aired by Doordarshan.
“For her age, she shows amazing virtuosity and maturity,” says Manek Premchand, a former programme executive with the defunct World Space Radio.
Pooja has trained under SCR Bhatt and his daughter Suniti Gangoli, as well as Dhanashree Pandit, a thumri singer, who have coached her in the basics as well as in various genres.
Gaitonde’s performance, under the auspices of Karnatak Sangha’s cultural wing, Kalabharati, is a tribute to the late giants Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh. “Mehdi Hassan’s music has such depth. In its sweep and majesty, his ghazal singing is almost equivalent to khayal singing, while Jagjit Singh sang with such sensitivity and artistry,” said Gaitonde, who will be accompanied on the tabla by her brother Prasad Gaitonde and on the sarangi by Sandip Mishra. “I try to emulate them in my own little way.”