Stepping Foot On A Foreign Land: Devendra Kudalkar

by: Anisha Nandan |

Devendra Kudalkar, son of Late Shri Shashikant Kudalkar, a great rhythm arranger, is continuing the legacy of his uncle, Laxmikant Kudalkar, a composer who was a member of the combo Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Currently, Kudalkar performs on the drums and percussion with the German orchestra Sonoro, a unit of Musik Forum Durlach, a non-profit organization that promotes its own orchestral productions for the past eight years.

DK 02A word from Mr. Peter Wüstner (Conductor of Sonoro) – Music, as a universal language, makes it possible to communicate across all supposedly cultural and linguistic borders. In my three orchestras, there are, of course, mainly German musicians, but also musicians from different countries, including Devendra, who is from India. I have always enjoyed playing with musicians from different nations and cultures, either actively or conducting them in my orchestras. Everyone contributes with their cultural background, and musically, and works together for the orchestra’s success. In this context, Devendra is also a great asset for “Sonoro”. 

Here, with Swar Aalap Digital, Devendra Kudalkar shares a part of his story.

How did this opportunity to be a drummer for “Sonoro” materialize for you?

To my luck, in the city of Karlsruhe, where I live, an organization called “Musik Forum Durlach” began a project in 2014. This project was to build an orchestra called “Sonoro” for adults who are 40+ and wanted to learn a new instrument and were eager to become a part of this. My wife saw this advertisement in a newspaper and took me along to this open-door event.

Mr. Peter Wüstner has been this orchestra’s conductor since its inception. It has been my good fortune to learn from him about the musical symbiotic relationship between an orchestra drummer and conductor. He frequently incorporates unique drum solos where I can flourish and improvise. Before Mr. Mattern retired, I learned for the first five years under him. I am currently receiving drum lessons from Mr. Andreas Engels, and congas and bongo lessons from Mr. Pedro Weiss.

DK 03Please tell us about your experience as a drummer with the German orchestra “Sonoro.”

For the past eight years, I have been a member of the German Orchestra “Sonoro” as a drummer along with my wife Birgit who plays the Flute. Ours is a Brass Orchestra with over 45 musicians and we primarily perform arrangements of European music. The arrangements are as vibrant as the music from Bollywood films. I would like to thank my uncle, Late Shri Laxmikant Kudalkar, and Shri Pyarelal Sharma, because of their amazing work with Western and Indian music and are primarily responsible for my exposure to Bollywood music.

What would you like to say about your father, Late Shri Shashikant Kudalkar?

Music was a major theme in my family while I was growing up. Whether it was Indian or Western, my father was always very interested in all genres of music. When my father was away making music recordings, I would listen to his collection after school or in the evenings. It aided me in developing a strong interest in all types of international music. It was natural that I would eventually enter the world of Rhythms.

My father, a great Tabla player, showed me the first Tabla bols when I was a kid. He wanted his kids to learn European Instruments. Hence, I started learning the guitar, while my sister started taking piano lessons. I remember, once I was practicing guitar, my father happened to tell me that I have a very good sense of timing in music. I did not understand this appreciation as a kid but now I am thankful for his praise.

DK 04I had the privilege and honour of learning European Notations from none other than the Late Shri Ramprasad Sharma (father of Shri Pyarelal Sharma). During that time, the majority of musicians in the film industry had learned from him. I also learned Indian Notations under Late Shri Balmukund Indorkar (the mandolin teacher of my uncle) and professional guitar from Late Shri Dasbabu. This continued until I became a Teenager. Then as other interests came up, my interest in guitar hit the low tide.

You learned to play the guitar when you were a child. What prompted you to switch from guitar to drums?
As a teenager, it was natural for me to want to pursue other interests and forge my own path. It is not necessarily what my father did or told me to do. A kind of Opposition, I think. I used to visit my father at the music recordings, mostly at the Mehboob Studios in Bandra. On one such occasion, I can vividly remember having an interesting talk on drums with India’s greatest drummer of that era – Mr. Leslie Godinho.

Mr. Leslie Godinho was also a golden-hearted person. He was the favorite Drummer of my uncle and also a dear friend of my father. He wanted to teach me drums because he felt that drums are my Instrument. He happened to tell me once that – “One does not choose a musical instrument, but rather it is the opposite.

  • (With reference to this, the question asked to Mr. Wüstner)

Have you ever seen Mr. Kudalkar’s interest in other musical instruments since you’ve known him for a long time?

I am convinced that he would also have the talent for other instruments. But it is very important and correct to concentrate and focus on a hobby alongside your main job. As per the requirement of concert pieces, Devendra also played a variety of percussion instruments like bongos, timpani, shakers, and tambourines.

DK 01What are the qualities that you admire about your Uncle, Late Shri Laxmikant Kudalkar?
My uncle used to take me along to his music sessions when I was a kid. I was completely captivated by the overall atmosphere. This was later told to me by my mother.

My parents had only completed primary school in Marathi medium and had little knowledge of English. However, my mother Anuradha Kudalkar desired that both of her children be educated in English Medium schools in order for them to have a better future. My uncle was the only family member who supported her. This boosted her morale, and she was able to secure a place for me in the Kindergarten group of St. Xavier’s High School in Vile-Parle.  I am always grateful to my mother for her iron will which has helped me in a great way.

I have always admired the way my uncle composed Melody with his Partner Shri Pyarelal Sharma composing the Music. They are considered among the most successful composers in Hindi film history. For almost every music recording, be it for a song or Background, there were always over 100-120 musicians present.

My father and uncle have no musical background and have only completed elementary school. The hard work they undertook since their childhood to learn an instrument and overcome failures, rejections, and disappointments to reach the zenith of film music is unbelievable. This is what inspires me to move ahead.

How do you keep yourself inspired? What is it about the drums that make you so passionate about them? Was there a time when you wanted to give up?
Since 2015, every year we had an average of 4-5 Concerts in different musical Events at different Venues. This Challenge itself motivates me to stay focused. I am lucky to get this opportunity in my mid 40’s and it makes me happy. The aspirations to learn more and to develop my own way of playing are my goals. So I have never had a desire to give up.

I consider myself lucky because of my wife Birgit who has made me a better human being and a better musician, my Drum teachers, my friend Ole Fahnick for his valuable Drum contributions, and “Music Forum Durlach” especially Mrs. Andrea Wüstner, the first Chairlady of this Organisation for giving me this once-a-lifetime opportunity to be the drummer for the Orchestra “Sonoro”.

DK 05(With reference to this, the question asked to Mr. Wüstner)
As an Orchestra Conductor of Sonoro, you have probably met many amazing drummers in your over 30 years of experience. According to you what makes Mr. Devendra Kudalkar different from them?
Many drummers enjoy being the center of attention and must be curbed in their dominance in the orchestra.  However, with Devendra, it’s completely different. He communicates extremely well with me as the conductor, allowing us to modify and improvise rhythmic and dynamic changes within the concert pieces very finely and precisely together.

What if Mr. Kudalkar one day in the future wants to pursue drums as his profession, what would be your response to him in return, and what is the best piece of advice you would like to give him?

In Europe, full-time musicians have a very difficult time. This is quite frustrating for many aspiring orchestra musicians, because they really want to make it big in the orchestra and on the stage, and not teach 50 to 70 individual music lessons in a small basement room. 

But if you choose music as a hobby, you can live exactly the original dream, like playing in an orchestra or band and making music actively. I advise and wish Devendra to continue doing so. He can still take it to great mastery without having to make a living from it. The orchestra “Sonoro” in which he plays will continue to develop and gain new heights.

Mr. Kudalkar, would you like to share your personal views regarding the changeover in Hindi Film Music taste with generations.

“Music, like the color of blood, is universal”. It is only influenced by various international and cultural factors. So it doesn’t matter what generation or type of music you listen to or play as long as it makes you happy. You can make others happy only if you are happy. Music teaches us to be humble. Whatever instrument you play, remember that there is always someone better than you. So make the most of your opportunity by being devoted, enthusiastic, and loyal.

My mother always used to tell me, “You achieve success in life, but do not forget – it is only possible because there are people who are supporting and helping you. Take care of how you speak to them otherwise; you will tend to lose what you have achieved.”

I would like to thank Shri Dinesh Ghate and his Organisation “Swar Aalap” for reaching out to me for an Interview. Special thanks also to Ms. Rubina Khan and Ms. Anisha Nandan for their efforts. Looking forward to playing in India.

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Comments (7)

  • Sangram Dalvi Reply

    Congratulations, Devendra.
    You have been successfully carrying the mantle of your legendary family in the foreign land.
    Wish you continued success in your pursuit of musical happiness.
    Warm regards

    5 July 2022 at 6:03 pm
  • Pia Reply

    Lieber Devendra,
    wir kennen uns nun auf ungewöhnliche Weise seit deinen Anfängen in Deutschland.
    Du bist und bleibst ein optimistischer Sonnenschein und ein durch und durch herzlicher Mensch.
    Ich freue mich seht über deinen Erfolg!
    Viele liebe Grüße!

    5 July 2022 at 11:48 pm
  • Shribanee Sanjeev Reply

    Heartiest congratulations, Devendra?

    7 July 2022 at 1:22 pm
    • Clarence Carvalho Reply

      Congratulations Devendra

      27 January 2024 at 4:48 am
  • Nutan s Pradhan Reply

    Congratulations Devendra.
    Continuing a legacy and representing it on a Foreign Land is huge. The immense pressure you carry is appreciated, we feel very proud. All our wishes are with you.

    10 July 2022 at 6:23 pm
  • Joel George Reply

    Congratulations Devendra- Bunty, you’ve always strived for the best. Regards

    15 July 2022 at 3:19 am
  • Sam sharma Reply

    Wowwwww great sir ❤❤

    3 August 2022 at 3:24 am

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