While khyals and thumris are secular, another type of classical Hindustani song — the bhajan — has religious overtones.
“Bhajan is a devotional song,” Kvetko said.
While the lineage Deshpande belongs to is mostly practiced by Muslims, the Hindustani classical tradition allows for rich interaction between Hindu and Muslim cultures, Kvetko said.
“The art transcends their religion and regional identities,” he said. “It’s a powerful identifying force in India because it can transcend boundaries.”
Muslim masters often sing bhajans about Krishna, a Hindu god, because they address themes of love and desire that are universal, Kvetko said.
Indian classical music is a few hundred years old, and Deshpande sings in a vocal style that was founded by Alladiya Khan, who died in 1946.
“He was kind of a modernizer; he blended 19th and 20th century styles,” Kvetko said. “His style has spread throughout western India.”
Indian classical music will also be showcased this Saturday and Sunday at Peabody Essex Museum, during Sensational India, a weekend-long festival of Indian culture.
At Salem State, Deshpande will perform with another vocalist, Saili Oak Kalyanpur, and they will be accompanied by musicians playing a tabla, or pair of hand drums, and a harmonium, a small, portable organ.
The two singers have a master-disciple relationship that Kvetko will discuss in a talk before the concert.
“We wanted to have a master and disciple on stage together to emphasize the continuity between generations,” he said. “This is an opportunity for people to learn about this incredible classical tradition, handed down from tradition.
“It was all done orally. You have to have the face-to-face relationship.”
IF YOU GO
What: Ashwini Bhide Despande, with Saili Oak Kalyanpur: Two Generations of North Indian Vocal Music
When: Monday, April 7, 7:30 p.m. Pre-concert talk by Prof. Peter Kvetko, “The Guru-Disciple Relationship in Indian Music,” at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Salem State University, Recital Hall, 71 Loring Ave.
Information: Tickets $15 general admission, $10 for non-Salem State students and senior citizens, at www.salemstatetickets.com