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Glimpses of Aman Ali’s vocalism

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The Economic Times, January 8, 1989

The vocalism, known as the Bhendi Bazar gharana, was conceived and shaped by the late Indore maestro, Aman Ali Khan.

The style is distinct and different from the several contemporary khayal styles in many respects. First, it is known for its high-degree rhythm play. Secondly, the voice production is marked by delicacy and bewitching inflections. The swara sequences remind one of the footwork of a skilled dancer. So are the balance and poise of the “tonal arches” that are built up in the scheme of the raga unfolding.

Last, but not least, is the prolific use of sargam, as an integral part of the general scheme of khayal presentation which is mostly in madhya and drut layas.

These thoughts crossed my mind when Shaila Piplapure gave a tidy and steamlined performance at the NCPA recently. Her repertoire covering Yaman, Madhu Kauns, Bhoop, with athumri and abhajan to round off, gave many glimpses of Aman Ali’s vocalism.

As it happens, this gharana has thrown up more teachers–like T.D. Janorikar, Shivkumar Shukla and Ramesh Nadkarni–than concert performers. Shaila Piplapure seems to be one of the three exponents of this style, the other two being Kumudini Mundkur and Suhasini Koratkar.

Shaila Piplapure has earned much popularity on the concert platform than the other two possibly because her approach to Aman Ali’s vocalism is not one of blind imitation. True, she has had a long period of grooming form Ramesh Nadkarni, who is her last guru. But before this tutelage, she had the benefit of studentship with the lave V. K. Joshi of Raipur in Madhya Pradesh which is possibly why she reveals many graces from other styles.

Her conscious attempt to give an individual form to her singing is indeed laudable, for it is in tuen with the new trend towards eclecticism.

This was specially noticeable in the raga depictions. Endowed with a voice which is brilliant and flexible in its range, Shaila moulded her melodies into elegant portraitures. There is now less preoccupation with sargams and super-fast taans in her drut movements.

Of interest was her chaturang composition in Bhoop which embodied four aspects of music-like word content, tarana, sargam and tablabols. This variety has gone almost out of vogue on the concert stage.

By contrast, her thumri and bhajan numbers somehow did not create the same impact. It looked as if she was keen to show her flair for these genres within the limited time-frame assigned to her. Nonetheless, it was sprightly, colourful performance.

Anant Rane on the harmonium lent the veteran’s touch to his instrument. Young Valmik Dhande on the tabla was just competent.

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