Among India’s front-ranking sarod-players today, Surmani Pandit Rajan Kulkarni has carved a special niche for himself, both as a performer and a mentor.

The Beginning

Pandit Rajan Kulkarni, born in  a family deeply associated with music, was initiated simultaneously into Vocal music and Tabla-playing in 1961 by his father, the late Pandit Vinayakrao Kulkarni, and his uncle, the late Pandit Raghunathrao Kulkarni. Incidentally, the late Pandit Raghunathrao was among the very first disciples of the legendary Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.

Pandit Rajan Kulkarni continued to learn Vocal music and Tabla till the age of 17, garnering a sound knowledge of different Raags and attaining proficiency in rhythmic nuances, which are of the essence for all Hindustani classical musicians, whether singers, dancers or instrument-players. However, it was instrumental music that beckoned to him all the time. He soon found the music instrument that his artistic temperament was most in tune with.

A Sarod-player in the Offing

It was about this time that the rich and resonant sound of the Sarod cast its spell on young Rajan and he decided to set out to make a career as a Sarod-player. With this aim in mind, he became a disciple in July 1978 of Pandit Ratnakar Vyas of Mumbai, a recognized performer and teacher. “My guru took keen interest in my training and was very particular both about the style of Sarod-playing and the purity of Raag and Laya”, recalls Pandit Rajan Kulkarni with gratitude. Besides receiving guidelines and useful tips from many a stalwarts of Hindustani classical music,  Pandit Rajan Kulkarni also received valuable guidance from the late Pandit Narayanrao Vyas, a well known singer and teacher.

The Style

Elaborating upon his style, Pandit Rajan Kulkarni says, “I concentrate mainly on the gayaki ang during the initial aalap and jod, but shift to the instrumental style with the advent of the table in the gat. I adhere scrupulously to the tenets of the Mahiyar gharana.” The result, pleasantly experienced by a number of his listeners in India and overseas, is a seamless blend of the mellifluous and electrifying aspects of Indian instrumental music.

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