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Cherishable musical memento

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The Economic Times, June 12, 1988

The Academy of Performing Arts of Hubli, in Karnataka, has brought out a five-cassette album of the music of Gangubai Hangal, the celebrated doyenne of the Kirana gharana, to commemorate the completion of her 75 years of age.

According to the sponsors, the recorded repertoire is an attempt to present to her aficionados reproductions of recorded renditions of 15 odd ragas. The fare includes selections from Gangubai’s 78 rpms released during the period from 1934 to 1936. These cover the opening side of the first cassette and comprise ragas Hindol, Pahadi (in ghazal style), Bageshree, Adana, Bahar, Malkauns, and Jogia, with an extended Marwa, which sounds like a reproduction from a disc of later years. The second side is a full-scale depiction of Maluha-Kedar, recorded in 1959.

The ragas Nat-Malhar and Bhairavi on one side and Marubihag on the other side, recorded, respectively, in 1968 and 1969 are in the second cassette.

In the third cassette, are khayal expositions in Madhuvanti and Basant, both recorded in 1969, on one side, while the second side covers Prabhat-Bhairav, which is dated to 1971.Hindol and Alhaiya Bilaval are on the opening side of the fourth cassette and Durga finds place on the second side.

Finally, the fifth cassette presents khayals in two rarely heard ragas, Koushi Kanada and Chakradhar, both recorded only last year.

The remaining pieces depict, in a way, the various phases of Gangubai’s evolving musicianship. Her Hindol is restrained but contident. The ghazal type Pahadi shows her weakness for the popular idiom natural in that age. Her Adana shows her vigour, while there is an element of buoyancy in Bageshree, Malkauns is striking for its fidelity of modal rendition. The Marwa and Jogia numbers give evidence of her growing maturity and her power to create the required mood.

Another characteristic feature of the album is the process of positive change in the quality of her voice. In the result, the style, approach and content of her signing has undergone a corresponding change. Her later piece thus reveal her predilection for ponderous gamaks and heavy swings. There is reduction in her speed which helps to lend more “body” to the tone.

The inclusion of ragas like Prabhat-Bhairav, Chakradhar and Maluha-Kedar come as a surprise, in that they do not belong to her traditional gharana repertory. That shows her progressive outlook. What is more, she invests these rather unfamiliar melodies with the characteristic dignity one associates with her gayaki.

With all these, the saddening fact is the over-all quality of the recording, save in a few cases. It is amazing that the sponsors could not cast their net wide enough to choose and select better pieces. Much more so, when they claim to have sought and obtained the co-operation of an institution like the National Centre for the Performing Centre. With all these short-comings, however, Gangubai’s fans will cherish the album both for its novelty and also aas a memento cherishable and preservable in their collection.


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