Shashwati Mandal upholds the finest aspects of the Gwalior gharana, the oldest surviving style of khayal singing. She was born into a family of successful musicians - her grandfather Balabhau Umdekar 'Kundalguru' was a Scindias court musician in pre-Independence times.
She studied under the demanding tutelage of her mother Kamal Mandal before receiving a scholarship to learn from Balasaheb Poonchwale, and has also delved into the Gwalior gharana’s ancestry by studying Dhrupad with the Gundecha Brothers.
Her style is rooted in the Gwalior gayaki, but is also influenced by detailed study of other traditions including ghazal, thumri, Carnatic pallavi, and the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana (“one has to know the rules to break them”). She is considered to be one of the finest exponents of tappa - a semi-classical style derived from Punjabi camel-riders with fast, distinctively angular melodies and lyrics which typically depict the emotional outbursts of a lover.
"The musical form came to be known as tappa as it followed the gait of the camel. The camel riders had high-pitched, flexible voices. The tappas they sang were marked by a fusillade of short and quick melodic taan patterns that moved obliquely, in conjunction with a 16-beat rhythmic cycle creating a unique flavour."
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