Abhishek Singh of UIUC recently sent me a recording of Ulhas Kashalkar singing Nat Kamod at a SPIC-MACAY concert at Urbana-Champaign in 2004. Ulhas also sang Kaushi Kanada, Shankara, Kafi, Desh and Bhairavi that night, but the Nat Kamod is the piece de resistance, and brought back so many memories. The classic bandish "Nevar baju re" with its dramatic octave-spanning gamak leading up to the sam has seen many great renditions in the past. Laxmibai Jadhav's drut version is busy, sparky, with little pause for thought. Mallikarjun Mansur takes a more relaxed approach, his trademark gamak-laced bol-taans highlighting the region around the sam. Kesarbai Kerkar produces probably the classic rendition, a masterpiece of warm, fluid waves of sound washing over one another with the nyas on individual notes and the prolonged aakaar taans going just that little bit further than seems humanly possible. Ulhas' version follows the Kesarbai mould, not quite in the same class but seeking the same sense of delayed climax and drawn-out, modulated sentiment (he also has a very pretty drut, "Sachi kaho tum", but let that pass).
But the rendition that sticks in my mind most is from the Agra fold, by Sharafat Hussain Khan. I first heard it on a tape of the AIR National Programme broadcast a week after Sharafat's death in 1985, sandwiched between, I think, a Kafi Kanada and a Khamaj thumri (the classic "Na manoongi"). I have never heard anything to equal his attack on the sam in this bandish: the andolan on the word "nevar" has to be heard to be believed. And really, other than maybe Faiyyaz Khan himself, only Sharafat could have pulled it off without reducing it to machine-gun chatter. It's been a long time since I heard that version, locked away on a cassette at home, and my current three minute mp3 is probably a different recording.
Here's a link to the Kesarbai version, if anyone's interested.