Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mahesh Kale – The Maestro

When I think of Mahesh and his music, many feelings, thoughts evoke in my mind, who is he? A classical singer, a pop singer, a ghazal singer, a quawali singer or a semi classical vocalist, I will simply sum it and put it, “A Versatile Musician”. And why not, he has proved his mettle in every genre of Hindustani, Sufi music one can think of. I won’t be surprised if he belts out and out rock number in near future, for he is capable of pulling it off with élan. He has performed in many countries in front of varied audience, and everyone has been awestruck after listening to his music, be it in his school during annual gatherings, or inter-college competitions, at various festivals like Ganapati festivals, savai gandharva, Guru Poornima celebrations, and lately in Sangeet Natak “Katyar Kaljaat Ghusli“; or with renowned artists like Shiv Mani, Suresh Wadkar, Shridhar Phadke, Devaki Pandit and many more. His latest offering the Mélange is a sold out every time it is staged either in US or in Pune or Mumbai. Such is his singing prowess that the music stalwarts have whole heartedly appreciated and sang paeans of his performances.
Bhaskar Chandawarkar Awarding Mahesh
Lil Mahesh being awarded by Bhaskar Chandawarkar
Mahesh during Ganapati Utsav in Chicago
Mahesh Performing during Ganapati Utsav - Chicago

Guru Poornima Celebrations
Mahesh offering his respects to his Guru - Guru Poornima
He is an enigma to me and wonder how one person can have so much of talent. He has been surprising me all these years with his grasp of music and the way he produces excellent performances one after other. I think he is God’s chosen one who is sent in this world to enthrall audiences and give them immense happiness and pleasure through his music. I would add one more aspect to this. His mother Minal Kale was a talented singer and performed for years, his father, Mukund kale though not a trained musician has learned the nuances of music through years and years of listening to the greats at various Maifils across India. This legacy of music has been passed on to Mahesh and his brother Mandar who plays the Tabla; by his parents; and how good he has taken it forward is for everybody to see. I am lucky enough to witness his musical growth from his childhood till date, and have umpteen occasions to list wherein Mahesh has blown away the audiences through his versatility. I would like to share a few with you.
Heavenly Experience

Place Gondavale, near Satara

Sometime in Dec mid-nineties

Mahesh and his family are devotees of Gondavlekar Maharaj and have been visiting the holy place for years, especially during the guru poornima celebrations or the December Utsav. Mahesh has been performing here since he was a child. One evening during the celebrations, as always performances were in progress and performers were singing bhajans and other devotional songs. The audience was limited as most of them preferred to walk around and chit-chat than sit and listen. Mahesh was next in line to perform. When Mahesh sat on the podium people were surprised to see a boy in early teens with unruly curly hair. The moment Mahesh started singing people knew they were going to be treated to something exceptional, and the crowd began to swell. In no time the place was jammed with over 2000 people, yes 2000 people listening to him in rapt attention. That evening he enthralled the jam packed audiences for 1 hour with one musical gem after another. The audience was swaying, clapping, rejoicing all this while. People thronged around him when the performance was over. People were taking his autograph, clicking photos with him, some grandma’s were hugging him and kissing his cheeks, and some even touched his feet. The people were simply awestruck by his powerful performance and thought it was not Mahesh but Maharaj who was singing through Mahesh. That’s a compliment I would die for, All in all, Mahesh had won their hearts and treated them with something heavenly which they would cherish all their life. All this time his mother was next to him, tears in her eyes as she looked towards him with pride and happiness. This event is etched in my memory for eternity, for I too was one of the lucky who witnessed this celebration.

Mahesh at Gondavle
Mahesh producing a heavenly performance at Gondavle
Mahesh' s Rendition and huge audience at Gondavle
Audience abound listening to Mahesh at Gondavle
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A Fourrrr
Place Pune
Sometime in early-nineties
In Pune inter-college competitions has its own standing and are a stepping stone for professional singers, actors, musicians. There is a huge buzz in the colleges during the Firodiya Karandak & Purshottam karandak competitions. Mahesh was a natural member of his college team participating in Firodiya Karandak. Firodiya Karandak competition is like a Sangeet Natak where characters act, sing, dance and even sculpt. Knowing Mahesh’s talent I had forecasted his wins for all 4 years he represented his engineering college. With all modesty I would say there was not a single singer of his talent who would compete with him, leave aside win against him. My prophecy came out good and Mahesh won the best singer award for 4 years. During one of his performance I remember the crowd going berserk and shouting for an encore once he was done. The amazing thing was the gap between the no 1 position and the no 2 position. The no. 2 position was far behind Mahesh in marks or performance. Believe me if I was the judge I would declare Mahesh the sole winner, for there was no one even close to him in no 2 and 3 position. He made his college proud and I am sure he has been inducted in the annals of his college cultural events as the best all time performer.

Best Performer always - Mahesh Kale
Mahesh making his college proud, Mahesh felicitated at his college
Musical gate crashing
Place Pune
Sometime in early nineties
Mahesh and his family were invited to a family function of one of their relative who was celebrating golden jubilee of his life and wanted to make this a grand event. Professional singers who had given playback in many Marathi movies were invited to grace the occasion. The hall was jam packed with around 200 people. The performers were belting out one hit number after the other with audience requesting an encore for each song. The singers were visibly on a high with great feedback they were receiving. Mahesh in the audience was also giving them a deserved applauds.

With an hour gone an intermission was declared and the host thanked everyone for turning in big numbers for this occasion. He also introduced Mahesh to everyone and talked about his singing talent, and invited him to sing a song. Mahesh politely turned down the request, for the singers invited would be offended as it was their show, but after concerted requests from many, he obliged and the rest is history as they say. Mahesh sang one of a popular semi classical song composed and sung by his guru the great Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki. The effect was such, the audience was left spell bound not knowing what to say when he stopped. There was a thunderous applause from the 200 odd crowds requesting an encore. I remember they clapped for almost 5 minutes non-stop. The singers on the podium were startled not knowing how to react; the over whelming response they received earlier was wiped out by this one rendition by Mahesh. After that they started the performance rather gingerly. When the performance was over people had left the hall and were seen surrounding Mahesh and congratulating him for this performance, as always the grandma’s were giving him their ashirwad’s, the young ones taking his autograph and others enquiring about this availability so that they could invite him for a performance in near future. In doing so they simply neglected the invited performers, who were visibly upset at this sight.

The surprise element was about to happen. One of the guests requested Mahesh to sing the famous Bhairavi “Sarwatmaka Sarveshwara”, the same crowd which had left the hall rushed into the hall again to listen to Mahesh sing. In spite of Mahesh’s resistance he obliged and gave such a performance that the crowd was mesmerized to say the least and was left wanting for more, the effect was such that the crowd discussed this for next hour not leaving Mahesh for a sec. All this while Mahesh’s proud mother was watching this with tearful eyes, at his son’s singing prowess and the adulation he was receiving. That night was an unforgettable night for me, for sure, and must be the same for the others. Everybody knew they had witnessed something enchanting and that Mahesh was no ordinary singer but one with “Daivi Dendgi” as they say, one who is blessed by Gods.

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Singing Harmonium

Place Pune  

Sometime in mid-nineties

Mahesh for a change had donned a role of “saha kalakar” for this event. A famous ghazal singer was to perform in Pune and Mahesh was roped in as a harmonium player. Ghazal is such a popular genre of music for people, not to attend the event in hordes. The hall was full and the singer sang some of the popular ghazals followed by some classical and semi-classical ghazals. Mahesh was aptly accompanying him on the harmonium. For any singer having talented musicians around is a great help for it motivates him and brings lively ness into the performance. Mahesh was playing the harmonium like a hard core professional and the singer was really surprised at the talent this boy was showcasing. He played such amazing music pieces from various ragas that the audience were equally surprised and were applauding promptly. Let me tell you, Mahesh has actually taken harmonium classes for not more than a year but with his enormous talent and grasp on music he was playing the harmonium like an expert. For any mere mortal with a year’s training in harmonium would not be able to play more than few songs, leave aside different ragas. After the performance the crowd as always congratulated Mahesh for his talent and amazing performance, but a bigger compliment was in waiting and came from the singer himself. He very selflessly confessed, more than his singing, Mahesh’s harmonium did the trick; and that was a huge compliment coming from a seasoned singer. As I said earlier he surprises me and others as well with his understanding and grasp of music; you would never know what next would emerge from his musical brain, singing, composing or playing other instruments. He is one complete musical package.
Zakir Hussain & Mahesh
Mahesh on Harmonium accompanying the great Zakir Hussain on Tabla
Sangeet Natak Debut – 100 not out

Place Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruh, Pune

March, 2010

Sangeet Natak is something that I always heard, read about for years, but have never seen one before. Number of talented artists in Pune is trying to review these immortal Sangeet Nataks for this generation to experience, for it is rich in music, content and art as a whole. When we came to know Mahesh would be a part of the famous Sangeet Natak “Katyar Kalzat Ghusli” we were thrilled for 2 reasons, this was sort of a debut for Mahesh as an actor plus he would have his name associated with Sangeet Nataks which has such a rich tradition in Maharashtra, and many illustrious names are associated with this genre of music.

The very first show that was staged at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagrah in Pune was a sold out, with very renowned artists like Rahul Deshpande, Subodh Bhave being part of it. This very play is one of the gems in the illustrious list of many Sangeet Nataks; with great story, music, songs and performances, All in all a benchmark of sorts for others to look at and admire. The music is composed by Mahesh’s guru Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki and the songs are still very popular with this generation. Mahesh plays the role of Sadashiv, a very important character in this play. Rahul Deshpande, Subodh Bhave were fabulous and performed their characters to the hilt. Seeing Mahesh perform on stage as an actor was a surreal feeling for his family and well-wishers. Mahesh being Mahesh, a confident and hardworking musician performed the role with ease and sang his heart out to live up-to every ones expectations. He came out winning with flying colors and garnered huge amount of fan following after this performance. Since then the appreciation and adulation has not stopped. Many renowned people who have watched this play for ages appreciated Mahesh’s role of Sadashiv; renowned photographer, Late Gautam Rajadhyaksha congratulated Mahesh saying this was the best Sadashiv I have ever seen. A compliment coming from such connoisseurs says it all. Zakir Husain the great Tabla maestro hugged Mahesh after his performance and applauded him whole heartedly. In fact I have come across many people in Pune who say, they watch the play only when Mahesh is playing the role of Sadashiv; now this is great achievement for any singer, isn’t it?
Musical Bonanza

Place Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruh, Pune

Feb 3rd, 2013

The latest offering from Mahesh’s musical brain, The Mélange has been an instant hit. Prior to hitting the Indian shores it was staged in US and was a runaway hit. This concept of bringing together music of different genres, in itself is a brave step and one which promotes musical forms, which are not that popular with the audiences. The one that was staged In Pune, difficult to express in words the reception it received. This entire idea is conceptualized so beautifully, it struck an instant chord with the audiences; and Mahesh’s rendition of these many musical forms, with consummate ease, was the icing on the cake. Singing a Tappa, bhajan, thumri, dadra, ghazal and a quawali one after the other is no easy task and it takes guts and self-belief to pull it through, the traits which Mahesh has in abundance.

The ease, with which he sang those songs of different moods and in various scales, was worth appreciating, and the musical effect created by the first song reached its zenith by the quawali he sang. The entire hall was on their feet dancing clapping like a wild child, savoring the musical brilliance presented to them by this genius named Mahesh. The aftermath of this show was teary eyed people especially Mahesh’s family members, friends, well-wishers. Everybody was simply stunned and did not want the show to end, for they all were enjoying the musical journey with Mahesh. I still remember my father telling one of his friend about the show and what the show is all about, his friend promptly asked who all are the performers who would be singing a bhajan, Tappa, quawali, ghazal etc. When my father told him it was only one person, he was not ready to believe, this in itself conveys a lot about Mahesh’s prowess as a versatile
singer who can take on challenges.

I have many such instances to share, which you might not be aware of, but then I would need another 1000 odd lines to do the same. So for a moment I would keep it short and sweet. J
Not many know Mahesh has done a playback for a Marathi movie Satrangi Re with Shaan. He has to his credit a jugalbandi with Shiv Mani whose name is synonymous with Percussions, has sung for an album whose music is composed by Shridhar Phadke and the list is exhausting.

Another aspect of Mahesh’s character is his humility, in-spite of having so much talent and fan following, never ever he would brag about his achievements; he leaves his music to do the talking. Many a time’s people, who do not know Mahesh, boast in front of him and take him lightly. Once I asked him why you don’t retaliate at such people, and he promptly said I don’t need to retaliate or hit out at them, my music will do that for me, once they listen to me they won’t take me lightly or boast in front of me, truly this has been the case, people who earlier thought of him as a pushover, now want to associate with him or want to perform with him.

The other thing that I like about him is he speaks impeccable Marathi even after residing in US for a decade now, which is hard to find. He does not pretend and is humble as earlier. As a fan and a well-wisher I would want Mahesh to continue his good work and enthrall the audience’s worldwide with his musical genius. I am pretty sure; with blessings from his parent’s and god he is going to achieve the zenith in future.

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Mahesh Kale: Katyar Kaljat Ghusli


  1. Thank you for sharing this with us, his voice is truly mesmerising. I have seen his vedio on you tube and was surprised to come across such talented yet humble person. I do hope to visit him someday.

    1. Thanks Pratibha, for taking time to comment. Yes indeed he is a versatile singer, I would say a person god send to delight humans thru his music. I have seen him grow to this level, he being my maternal cousin. His has immense talent which he is unleashing now :)


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