Dhondutai Kulkarni is perhaps the last living representative of the Jaipur-Atrauli school of music in its purest form. The gharana founded by the legendary Alladiya Khan, is known for its full throated singing, its complicated taans and its vast repertoire of raagas. She has been appropriately awarded the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1990.
Born on 23rd July, 1927, in the home of a Brahmin family in the then princely state of Kolhapur, Dhondutai's father initiated her into music. She became an AIR performing artiste at the age of eight!
She started training under Ustad Burji Khan (when it was unheard of for the daughter of a pandit to be even remotely connected with the performing arts, let alone be learning from a Muslim!). His father, Ustad Alladiya Khan, harboured a special soft corner for the young Dhondutai, and it was not uncommon to find this pretty girl sitting next to the legendary performer at music festivals.
Dhondutai's training then continued under the mentorship of Laxmibai Jadhav and then the immense Kesarbai Kerkar, ending up as her sole disciple. Over the years, she remarkably managed to consolidate the teachings of all these artistes. Her incredible repertoire of ragas sees to it that she rarely repeats a raga at two consecutive concerts.
At 74, Dhondutai can be saluted not just for her musical prowess, but for the fact that, in an age when compromise and dilution of the classical arts is the order of the day, here is one artiste who has held ground...without fear or compromise.