Shashank Maktedar is a scholar vocalist, senior disciple of Padma Shri Pt Ulhas Kashalkar, generally regarded as the unmatched vocalist of his generation. Maktedar, originally from Nanded, Maharashtra, was raised in Aurangabad, and studied music under his first Guru, Pt Nath Neralkar, till he was 20 years. After that he trained under Pt Ulhas Kashalkar at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, for nearly nine years, till 2000. He was 29 years old, and his far sighted Guru told him to leave him, establish himself and develop his own gayaki. One of the foremost vocalists of his generation, Shashank is in Delhi for a concert at the India International Centre on 17 November. Excerpts:

Tell us how you started your career

Firstly, I want to state how grateful I am to ITC SRA, which gave me the opportunity to learn from Guruji (Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar). Those 9-10 years of training under him have set me up for life. It was my Guruji who told me to leave him, and find my own way as a vocalist. So I went home to Aurangabad and pondered on how to make a living with music. My first Guru Pt Nath Neralkar established my vocal foundations; Gayeki ka dhaancha,

gayaki ki style, Guruji (Ulhas Kashalkar) se milee (The structure and style of singing I got from Guruji). It was he who advised me to teach music, so I passed the necessary exams. Currently I am an assistant Professor in Goa, and have been teaching since 2002.

Would you say your Guru Pt Ulhas Kashalkar has made you what you are?

Yes, he has fashioned the person I am today. I did not receive only vocal training from him. In fact, at the time I didn’t realize what a unique training I was receiving. After training under him, my whole personality changed. I have to say, the person who encouraged me to view my Guru in this way was Pt Suresh Talwalkar. I regard him as my Guru too.

With Guruji, I realized when I was with him that unless I imbibed the essence of his personality, I would not be learning the essence of his music. My Guru has not just taught me music, he has taught me a way of living, my values, how to deal with people. He is immersed in music totally. Now, since Guruji lives in Pune, I am able to meet him much more often. When I go to Pune, I stay in his house and (practice) through the day.

So you say you are still learning music?

Today it’s not learning bandishes, or new Ragas, it is going in depth in what I have already learnt. Guruji now teaches me how to evaluate “darja” (worth). I am proud to say I amthe only person he has sung a jugalbandi (duet) concert with, despite my being only his disciple. He has proved to all of us students that a great singer can also be a great teacher.

Would you say music is a good profession to get into?

For me music was a passion, it became a career later, after I had already trained. But yes, if I think of it, I do believe it’s a good career despite the insecurity. Yes, there is job insecurity, but I feel there is insecurity in all careers. At least, as a musician you can be self- employed! In the last 25 years, I feel classical music is gaining popularity, especially in Goa. Today one sees so many young faces at festivals. I have two daughters, aged four and 13, and I am training them in music.

Do you believe it’s important to hear a lot of music?

Well I have heard a lot of Hindustani vocal music and still do. Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan, Vaze Bua, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Pt Gajananrao Joshi, Kesarbai ji, Pt Bhimsen Joshi ~ so many more.

Goa is culturally very alive. True?

Absolutely. The state government has created around 500 jobs for music teachers from the school level onwards, and are employing even more, and playing very good salaries. The state does a lot for the classical arts: they hold more than 10 big music festivals, their Kala Academy is doing a great job.

(The author writes on music, musicians and music matters)