The last century had probably seen the greatest development of individual stylistic patterns of the vocal and instrumental gharanas in Hindustani classical music. There was an overwhelming abundance of incredibly innovative and successful musicians. Stylistic diversity was always an integral part of the music, chiefly because of diverse racial, ethnic and linguistic variations. Highly evolved master musicians dedicated their lives to the enhancement of not only their own performance levels, but also set very high norms of gharanedar gayaki (singing styles) for their disciples and admirers to follow.
A two-day seminar was organised at ITC SRA, on the 23rd & 24th of August’04, to observe and analyse the salient features that might have played significant roles in the various stages of the development of these brilliant individual styles.
In his introductory speech, Amit Mukerjee, Executive Director said that two days were undoubtedly insufficient to do justice to such a vast subject. However, an attempt was being made at drawing attention to the superhuman effort that went into the making of these fundamentally unique styles.
Following historical chronology and links between the intra-cohesive styles, the presenters focussed their study into the stylistic patterns of the following vocal and instrumental maestros: Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Surshri Kesarbai Kerkar, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Dattatreya Vishnu Paluskar, Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Vilayat Khan.
Mashkoor Ali Khan, Guru of the Academy commenced the inaugural session with a presentation on the undying music of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, pioneer of the Kirana gharana. Being the son of the renowned Sarangi player Shakoor Khan Sahib, a direct descendant of this gharana, Mashkoor Ali Khan could share many anecdotes heard from his father. While elaborating on the technical and aesthetic facets of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan’s gayaki, he interspersed it with several audio examples of the Ustad’s singing, including compositions in ragas Hindole, Mian-ki-Malhar, Jhinjhoti, and Bhairavi.
Ustad Faiyaz Khan of the Agra-Rangila gharana was the next stalwart, presented by eminent musicologist and member of the Expert Committee, ITC SRA, Kumar Prasad Mukherjee. Aptly titled Aftab-e-Mausiqi and also popularly called Mehfil ka Badshah, the phenomenal musicianship and artistry of Ustad Faiyaz Khan had an inherent completeness of all the aspects of Hindustani vocal classical music. This was evident in the recorded illustrations of compositions in ragas Lalit, Jaijaiwanti, Darbari and others that were played.
Sruti Sadolikar Katkar, Guru of the Academy, presented Surshri Kesarbai Kerkar, indisputably the greatest woman classical vocalist of all time. Kesarbai did her illustrious guru, Ustad Alladiya Khan, proud, through her singing of the subtlest nuances of the Jaipur tradition. Recordings of her renditions of compositions in ragas Sawani, Tilak kamod, Khamaj and Bhairavi, among others, gave an ideal and inspiring example of what proper talim could produce.
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s singing was art at its exhilarating best. Buddhadev Dasgupta, Guru for the instrumental section, ITC SRA, took upon himself the responsibility of presenting this great maestro of the Patiala gharana. Explaining the dynamics of the Ustad’s magical vocalism while playing compositions in ragas Adana Bahar, Chhayanat, Bageshri, and others, Dasgupta showed how the balance of power, pathos, devotion and serenity were effortlessly maintained in his gayaki.
The second and final day’s first session saw Ulhas Kashalkar, Guru at the Academy, presenting Pandit Dattatreya Paluskar, the honey-toned vocalist of the Gwalior gharana. The recordings of bhajans as well as compositions in ragas Gaud Malhar, Jaunpuri and Shree were expressive of the ashtang or eightfold characteristics of Gwalior gayaki that this great vocalist had already mastered despite the fact that he died so young – at the age of 34.
The second session, conducted by Amit Mukerjee, Executive Director of ITC SRA presented Ustad Amir Khan. The Ustad’s sublime voice and his contemplative way of singing were an extension of the Kirana-Indore gayaki developed by Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan and Ustad Rajab Ali Khan. Using recordings of his Marwa, Malkauns, Bageshri Kanara, Suha and Bhatiyar, Mukerjee illustrated how intelligently the Ustad had incorporated some of the Carnatic styles, obtained from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendibazar gharana, into his repertoire.
Turning to instrumental music, Pandit Ravi Shankar’s disciple Deepak Chaudhuri presented his guru’s music. Panditji, under the guidance of his Guru Ustad Allauddin Khan, first successfully achieved the assimilation of the Veen ang into Sitar. This was illustrated through his alapchari in raga Darbari. Gats in Khamaj and Kedar, the ageless Kirtan of Bengal as well as experimental pieces with maestros of the West, were also played. What came as a surprise was the singer Ravi Shankar, presenting one of his immortal compositions ‘Hey nath, hum par kripa kijiye’.
Buddhadev Dasgupta then presented the emperor of Sarod, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. A series of recordings of the Ustad’s father, Ustad Allauddin Khan, and the recordings of Darbari, Jhinjhoti and others were played. These amply demonstrated the sustenance of notes in alap, use of todas and gamaks in jod, use of chikaras and the in-built tanpura strings or thhat strings of his instrument to deliver a beautiful strumming, and all the other facets that mark the Ustad’s unique style of sarod playing.
Arvind Parikh concluded the two-day seminar with a power point presentation on his Guru Ustad Vilayat Khan, the Shahenshah of Sitar. Dealing at length on his great ancestry, audio excerpts of ragas Puriya, Saanjh Saravali, Khamaj, Rageshri, Kamod and others were played. The vocalist Vilayat Khan appeared in the Kaul ‘Man Kunto Maula’. Vilayatkhani Sitar baaj was how his inimitable style of playing could most perfectly be described.
The seminar on Pathfinders left an indelible impression on all those who participated, whether as presenters, announcers, reporters or even members of the audience. It was almost as if those wonderful days were being relived with the greatest musicians of all time performing yet again.