"Bhaiyyaa Alladiya, jahaan tumhaaraa galaa jaataa hein wahaan hamaarii najar bhii nahii jaatii" (Alladiya, what you produce, we can't even conceive). So said the Agra Gharana Doyen Natthan Khan. In this remark it is as if Natthan Khansaheb has explained the very essence of the Alladiya gaayakii.
I still remember him as I saw him in 1925 entering Mugbhat. He had such an impressive personality that oblivious to the rest, one would want to enquire after him only. Then somebody would inform with respect, "He is Alladiya Khansaheb. Kesarbai (Kerkar) has his taalim (training). He comes here for Moghubai's (Kurdikar) taalim." At that time I knew nothing about the deep aspects of classical music. Still I never missed an opportunity to observe Khansaheb. The effect of his personality has stayed with me for over 52 years since then. Govindrao Tembe would never bow to a musician. But whether it was at mehfils or on Chowpati or at Alladiya's place, whenever he met Khansaheb, he would touch his feet. Likewise for Bal Gandharva and many other vocalists. Unaware of Khansaheb's talents, I would touch his feet just because Govindrao would do so. Duly, somehow I entered his gaayakii and the more and more I learnt it, my respect for him continued to increase.
It is clear that the secret of his extraordinary personality is hidden in his gaayakii. During 91 long years of his life, the genius of many musicians including Bhaskarbuwa (Bakhale) and Manji Khan (Alladiya's second son) lit up with his gaayakii. Kesarbai and Moghubai have been awarded the prestigious President's medal and Padmabhushan awards. Now Kesarbai, too, is no more.
Any art, be it anybody's, is a product of its time. The honor of establishing a Gharana goes only to that artist whose art is 'different' from that of the rest. Alladiya's gaayakii has been accepted for over 60 years as 'Alladiya or Jaipur-Atrauli gaayakii' i.e. his style stood out from the contemporary styles. To understand this 'difference' some analysis of the-then-prevalent vocal styles is imperative.
Balkrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar's Gwalior gaayakii was prevalent when Khansaheb entered Maharashtra. To Balkrishnabuwa is accorded the honor of establishing khyal gaayakii in place of dhrupad-gaayakii. Buwa's style was complete with aalaap, bol-taan, sense of rhythm, gamak-taan etc. But still it was so free from gimmicks and easy to understand that it was called 'childishly simple'. Taan-firat was straight but attractive. It can be best described as 'straight- line-conception'. He formulated a sound base for the bandish in Khyal. It gradually developed into Alladiya's multi-colored and intricate style.
Agra Gharana found its base because of the unprecedented personality of Natthan Khansaheb. It was further enriched by Faiyyaz Khansaheb. Agra Gharana included various new forms of bol-taan and firat in Gwalior style and popularised hundreds of slow and fast cheez. Compared to gwalior style, it was more aggressive and hence more effective. Still both Gharanas have the same conception of beauty in priciple.
After Balkrishnabuwa and Natthan Khan came Bhaskarbuwa. He was well versed in Agra Gharana style and Alladiya's taalim had taught him the essence of the curving, slanted and difficult Alladiya gaayakii . He did a great service to musical world by linking the two styles. Having described Gwalior and Agra Gharana styles as 'straight-line-conception', Alladiya style must be described as 'curvature-conception'. It was difficult. So, only the knowledgeable could grasp it.
Bhaskarbuwa was an ace student of Faiz Mohammed Khan and Natthan Khan. He died an
untimely death. Alladiya reached his peak after Bhaskarbuwa's death. Bhaskarbuwa had
attained great fame nation-wide before Alladiya took on him as a student (Note 1). That
not only does Bhaskarbuwa feels blessed holding Tanpura behind Khansaheb in mehfils but
also doesn't think it beneath him to admit his inability to assist Alladiya in a vocal
recital had made Alladiya a most talked about vocalist. Now he shifted his base to Mumbai
and took on some famous musicians as his students. Hence the influence
of his gaayakii continued to increase. 32 years have passed since his death - but the influence has remained. This period saw Abdul Karim Khan, Manji Khan, Vaze Buwa, Savai Gandharva but
Khansaheb was the uncoronated emperor.
The roots of Khansaheb's truly extraordinary success reach his uncle Jehangir Khan and beyond. His Gharana (by birth) had seen an uninterrupted chain of famous musicians. He traces his lineage back to Nath Vishwambhar, an ancestor of Swami Haridas - the guru of Miyan Tansen. Khansaheb was born in such a pious family and fulfilled his life by his learning and achievements.
His father Ahmet Khan knew thousands of cheez. He died when khansaheb was about 15 years old. Then his uncle, himself trained by Ahmet Khan, took over him and taught him dhrupad for over 5 years and then khyal for over 8 years on a daily 6 hours basis. Khansaheb would spend the rest of the time in riyaz (practice) and meditation. Govindrao has noted how Khansaheb would practice a 'palaTaa' (Taan) night to dawn even when he was 51 years old.
There has been no dearth of hardworking musicians. But Khansaheb's gaayakii had a very special sense of beauty. This is reason why it stood out from the rest of the prevalent styles. Take the method of voice production for instance. There are many prevalent forms depending on the view point of the vocalist. Khansaheb method was very natural (Note 2). Apart from Agra Gharana, the rest of the styles had a sense of rhythm but the important point was to end Avartan into a 'sam' i.e. performance was based on the beats of the rhythm. Khansaheb would consider fraction of note and beat in vilambit Khyal also. The high point would not be the pre-decided sam-note but somewhere in the interval between two notes. This would create a very charming slantedness. And these points would be joined together so gracefully that gaayakii seemed very specific. That is why it was called 'specific gaayakii' (Note 3). In every Avartan, he would include one note in such a manner that it would remain the high point of the Avartan. That note would sparkle like a precious dimaond in an otherwise mild necklace of the Avartan. And it was the speciality of Khansaheb to design the necklace to stretch the expectation of the listner to the most appropriate limit.
Khansaheb's firat was very special. It was not straight but very forcefully interwoven. This firat exerted influence to such an extent that almost all other vocalist began using the common note-groups in their recital. But it would be embarassing because they could not produce the right background. It was very difficult to guess which form his taan would assume. Out of blue, a piece would be interwoven so unexpectedly that the listner would be delighted even more. In addition, he would stop and break in between the taan. Especially in the heady battle of fast taans, he would stay long on a single note or a group of note to stretch the expectation before comming to the fulfilling sam. This curved firat was whole-heartedly welcomed and struck a chord with the ordinary listner also.
In Bol-taan, Khansaheb would pronounce words as if he were catching a delicate flower. The swar would pierce the whole body of the syllable. Bol-taan can be very irritating if syllables are not sung true to notes. Khansaheb would take the note by 'aa' and then release syllables into it. This method has not been fully understood yet. Every Bol-taan would be woven so naturally and gracefully that it would appear to be a novel, independent cheez.
Khansaheb would normally sing only difficult, unheard-of, mix Ragas in musical sittings. His students were trained in the same ragas. Maharashtra was used to common ragas such as Yaman, Shankara, Bageshri. Khansaheb's splendid rendition of the difficult Ragas would amaze listner and vocalist alike. He popularised many difficult variations of Nat, Bilawal and Kanada. That is why he was known as 'ajab gavaiyya' (amazing vocalist).
There are many other aspects of his gaayakii. But the ones cited above should suffice.
At the base of Khansaheb's gaayakii is an incident which can not be overlooked. When he was about 35-40 years old (Note 4), he lost his voice on account of numerous mehfils. It stayed like that for 2 years. When it opened up, it had lost the shine of old and had become somewhat base. Khansaheb's earlier gaayakii was based on aalaap only. But to survive from this permanent handicap, he had to invent a new style and that immortalized him. This single event developed Hindustani Classical Music to such an extent. It was said of Nepolean that he was never as great as in disaster. Isn't it true of khansaheb also?
- Note 1: Bhaskarbuwa never had a 'Ganda-Bandhan' ceremony with Alladiya. Also, no details are available as to whether he paid Alladiya or not. According to Manji Khan, Alladiya taught Bakhale 2 Ragas (khokar and something else). But there is a consesus (Vishrabdha Sharada - Vol 2), that Alladiya adored Bakhale (b.1869 d.1922) and taught him treating as a son. [**Recall Alladiya's famous comment after Bhaskarbuwa's death: Bhaskar gaye, ab mai gaanaa kisko sunaaoon?"**RP]
- Note 2: Khansaheb disapproved of the constricted Kirana and nasal Agra method of voice production. He held that singing should be natural - the sound should come straight from the chest. Also, he would apply all notes, including the first 'saa', in gamak-form i.e. 'saa-saa' only.
- Note 3: This 'sam' is desribed as 'aamad' sam. As explained by a well-known musician, "the 'sam' would blossom with every note. It won't say that I am here because I happened to wander in the neighbourhood. It said that I am here because I intended to come here".
- Note 4: The event took place in 1886. Alladiya (b. 1845) was about 31 years old then. By his own admission, his voice had lost the sweetness of old and could not be expected to evoke emotions and that because of this he had to, out of necessity, resort to the gaayakii that depended heavily on Taans. Note that Taans have not been given much importance in the traditional classical music.
(Translated from Marathi by Vishwesh Kulkarni)
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