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Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande

Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande (b. 1951) is a uniquely creative Hindustani classical vocalist whose contribution to the world of music as a performer, composer and musicologist cannot be easily overlooked by anyone with an enlightened interest in the field. Like his greatest mentor, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, he was born with an uncanny capacity to reproduce the music of the great masters. This talent together with the musical exposure he received in his father, the eminent musicologist Pt. Vamanrao Deshpande’s house, soon established him as a child prodigy. He decided to devote himself fully to the study of music under the guidance of Kumarji, with whom he lived in Devas in the true spirit of a disciple. Pt. Deshpande knew that Kumarji’s guidance was only the beginning of a hard yet fascinating journey that he would have to undertake alone. He thus began to lay the foundations of his own style, constantly gathering compositions from traditional sources, trying at once to be true to its essence and re-interpreting it to suit his personal temperament. With the help of a Ford Foundation grant, he has established the Samvaad Foundation at his residence in Mumbai. Here he has created the largest and most valuable collection of Hindustani archives in the country. The method he adopts is one of unprejudiced comparative analysis between alternate interpretations of classical forms. This work, besides being unquestionably of great value to contemporary and future students, has also deeply enriched Pt. Deshpande’s own vision of music. He is a recipient of many awards including the Homi Bhabha Fellowship (1996), the Kumar Gandharva Fellowship (1999), Sursingar Samsad’s Tansen Award, the Raza Award for creativity (2006), and most recently the Vimla Devi Foundation Award for social work, for his work with the Samvaad Foundation. He has been performing in major music festivals all over the country and abroad, and has also occasionally sung for films, his most remembered performance being in Lekin with Smt. Asha Bhosle, for which he won the Best Playback Singer of the Year award. Other films have also seen him singing with Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar. His albums ‘Kahen’ and ‘Thumri Katha’ have become immensely popular. ‘Kahen’ is a collection of bandishes, both traditional and those composed by Pt. Deshpande himself, that takes a fresh new look at the latent creative potential of classical music. His album ‘Thumri Katha’ is his attempt at reinterpreting the tradition of thumri singing. Each thumri in this album comes from a different part of the country and has a different aesthetic, its own character and, consequentially, a different style of presentation. Pt. Deshpande is a man who possesses as thorough a grounding in the Hindustani tradition as it is possible to have in modern times; and yet for all his deep-rootedness in the tradition, he has allowed himself to emerge organically: spreading himself like a tree in all directions, putting forth new branches and leaves, and shedding what he no longer feels necessary, without forgetting even for a moment his connection with the rich soil from which he derives his creative strength. He has thus achieved an enviably precarious balance between the demands of the tradition he has internalized so profoundly and those of his own imagination and personality. Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande lives and works in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

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