Maestros in the making: Sitar and Vocal recital

As I have become increasingly involved in the music community, I sometimes hear comments that strike me at first as being gross generalizations. Later, I  wonder if there may be some truth to those comments.  One such comment is that Bengal has the best instrumentalists and Maharashtra the best vocalists of Indian classical music.

I have heard this sentiment articulated by both Bengalis and Marathis, and for that matter, people of other communities as well.  While one may argue with the use of the term “best,” it is quite clear that Maharashtra (including the neighbouring towns of  Hubli and Dharwad) have provided some of the leading vocalists of the modern era – Hirabai Barodekar,  Mogubai Kurdikar, Kesarbai Kerkar,  Bhimsen Joshi and  Kumar Gandharva, to name a few, come to mind.  The current reigning queens of vocal music, GanaSaraswati Kishori Amonkar and Swaryogini Dr. Prabha Atre, also hail from Maharashtra, as do Padma Talwalkar, Ashwini Bhide, Ulhas Kashalkar, Arati Ankalikar and Prabhakar Karekar, all performers in their prime.

Into this seemingly crowded field of vocalists from Maharsahtra, Manjusha Kulkarni Patil has emerged as one of the brightest voices of her generation.  Groomed in the Gwalior gharana tradition by senior artists, including her present guru Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, Patil is one of the most sought-after vocalists in India today. She has performed at major music samellans in India and overseas such as the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav in Pune, the ITC SRA Samellan in Kolkata and the Darbar Festival in the U.K.

While the suppleness of Patil’s tone makes her rendition of Khayals mesmerizing and her taankari especially thrilling, the reckless abandon with which she sings complex compositions of natya sangeet ( Marathi stage songs) can often take one’s breath away.

Torontonians will soon have an opportunity to listen to this exceptional artist as she makes her Canadian debut on May 13th in a double bill with sitar player Hidayat Husain Khan.

Calling into question the comment that the best instrumentalists come from Bengal, Khan hails from a gharana that has its roots in Etawa, which is in Uttar Pradesh.  However, Hidayat Khan’s father and guru, the Aftab-e-Sitar (Sun of Sitar, a title bestowed by the President of India) late Ustad Vilayat Khan, was born in what used to be East Bengal (and is now Bangladesh), and spent most of his life in Kolkata in West Bengal!

Toronto audiences were very fortunate to have heard Ustad Vilayat Khan at Raag-Mala concerts – to this day, I remember  the 90-minute alaap he played on raag Yaman almost 30 years ago.

Toronto music lovers have also had the pleasure of listening to Hidayat Husain Khan when he made his first appearance in 2014.

Today, Khan lives in New York, but spends a significant part of the winter in India, when the music season is in full bloom. In addition to playing classical music, the staple of his training, Khan has lent his versatility to several compositions for film, and has performed in numerous fusion concerts, independently and in collaboration with such illustrious musical names as, Ndugu Chancler, Ronnie Woods, Alicia Keys, Usher, Zakir Hussain, Pete Townshend, Will.I.Am, Jay Z and Darryl Jones.

Mohamed Khaki, President Raag-Mala Toronto


Where and when:

Saturday, May 13th at 7pm
McLeod Auditorium (University of Toronto Campus)
Tickets online:
Inquiries: Rishi 647-521-3816,  Manoshi 416-493-1338