Satyasheel Deshpande

Satyasheel Deshpande

Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande (born January 9, 1951) is an Indian musician who specializes in singing khyal. He is a prominent disciple (pattashishya) of Pt. Kumar Gandharva and the son of musicologist Vamanrao Deshpande.

Early life

Like his greatest mentor – Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Satyasheelji 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.

Satyasheelji decided to devote himself fully to the study of music under the guidance of Kumarji, with whom he lived in Devas for three years in the true spirit of a disciple. Satyasheelji 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.

Satyasheelji 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 internalised so profoundly and those of his own imagination and personality.

The Samvaad Foundation

With the help of a Ford Foundation grant, Satyasheelji 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 Satyasheelji’s own vision of music.


Satyasheelji 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 that in ‘Lekin’ with Smt. Asha Bhosle. Other films have also seen him singing with Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar.


Kahen (Musicurry, 2004) ‘Kahen’ is Satyasheelji's two-CD anthology of 16 bandishes - both traditional as well as his own. To quote him, "While the Bada Khayal is an integral part of any performance of Hindustani music, we also have a huge repertoire of small, very meaningful compositions that audiences are deprived of. Kahen is an attempt to present such 'haikus' that hold their own in spite of the epic Bada Khayal." Kahen takes a fresh new look at the latent creative potential of classical music. In his concise renditions of various classical compositions, Satyasheelji explores the song within the bandish, so to speak, unraveling and developing its infinite possibilities in a way that brings out and enhances its lyrical content instead of suppressing it for the sake of purely musical elaboration.

The recordings were supervised by Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshkar, who took deep interest in the project from the start. The album was released by Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar. Lataji has also graced the album with a few words of her own, bringing out the significance of ‘Kahen’ as a musical statement.

Thumri Katha - The Story of the Thumri (Ninaad Music, 2007) The Thumri is one of the most enchanting forms of north Indian music. This unique album, Thumri Katha, the first in a series of its kind, is an attempt to showcase the various faces of this charming, addictive form of music that has the power to engage connoisseurs and the uninitiated alike. The Thumri is essentially thought of as an expression of Shringar Rasa – of the delicate, passionate, playful utterances of the young woman in love. And like young love, the thumri’s playfulness occasionally gives way to emotions of indescribable divinity.

While this album displays the Thumri’s immense power to enrapture its audience, it is testament to the versatility of this ‘light’ form of classical music. The music on this album makes its way through a host of attitudes – from the mountains to the plains, from Banares to the realm of the Shayars, from the Bandish and the Tappa of the courts of kings to the Thumri of the Kotha.

This album has Satyasheelji singing seven Thumris. Each Thumri comes from a different part of the country and has a different aesthetic, its own character and - consequentially - a different style of presentation.


Among the many awards Pt. Satyasheel Deshpande has received are:

  • The Sursingar Samsad's Tansen Award
  • The Homi Bhabha fellowship
  • Kumar Gandharva Emeritus fellowship
  • Best playback singer for the film 'Lekin'
  • Raza Fellowship and Raza Award 2007

External links

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