Pandit Venkatesh Kumar sings a varied brand of khayal, incorporating influences from across India. Born in Karnataka, his father was a folk singer and puppeteer who supported his son’s musical inclinations, but lacked the funds to help him pursue it (“we lived in poverty, sometimes meals were a problem”).
However at the age of 12 he was accepted as a student at the Veereshwara Punyashrama, run by the legendary saint-musician Puttaraj Gawai. He lived there for the next 12 years, mastering the Gwalior and Kirana vocal gharanas before branching out to other styles including Carnatic music.
His career launched when Pandit Bhimsen Joshi personally invited him to sing at a concert, but remained low-key for years as he preferred the stability and purity afforded by teaching positions to the unpredictable concert landscape. But he says that worldly recognition has not concerned him, as his music is a devotional endeavour (“I am after it to experience god. I am waiting for a divine experience in music every minute. This is for a lifetime.”).
"I present the bandish in the Gwalior style, and then do the vistaar in the Kirana style. When it comes to taans, especially short, sharp taans, I try to draw from Ustad Bade Ghulam Khan, Ustad Nazakat and Salamat Ali Khan...a lot of my sargam patterns are from the Carnatic tradition."
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