Gandharva was born as Rambhau Kundgolkar in 1886 in a town named
Kundgol in Karnataka. Although he did not belong to a musical
family, he showed deep interest in music from his early days.
Entranced by the soulful music of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan at a mehfil,
he was brought to the notice of the Ustad who, impressed by the
singing talent of the young boy started the arduous task of teaching
him the nuances of Indian classical music. After his intense
training, he got married and returned to his native Kundgol. With
his handsome personality, musical and acting accomplishments,
Rambhau Kundgolkar was drawn to the Marathi stage where he excelled
in many leading female roles and won praise. He became a popular
singer in the company and earned the title of Sawai Gandharva after
the doyen of the Marathi stage, Bal Gandharva.
Though Sawai Gandharva maintained the melting melodious vocalism and
the meditative mood of his ustad’s vocal style, he kept his mind
open to absorb influences and impressions from the styles of
stalwarts from other gharanas , like Nissar Hussain Khan of Gwalior,
Bhaskerbuva Bakhale, Ramakrishnabuva Vaze and many others. His prime
disciples were the likes of Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraj Rajguru, Feroze
Dastur and Gangubai Hangal who in turn, moulded their training in
accordance their own vocal capacities and musical temperament.
Sawai Gandharva eventually gave up his acting career and devoted his
whole time to concert singing and grooming his shishyas, but the
raga based Marathi stage songs he popularized became part of his
repertoire along with khayals, thumris, bhajans etc.
Tragically, paralytic infirmities abruptly ended his concert career
in 1942, when he was only 56. But he continued to teach his protégés
till his death ten years later. After his death, his disciples led
by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi started the famous annual Sawai Gandharva
Sangeet festival in Pune.