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Indian Music Today: Exponents of Khayal

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The Bombay Sentinel, January 5, 1956

The original article as it appeared in The Bombay Sentinel.

The original article as it appeared in The Bombay Sentinel.

Of all the prevalent forms of classical composition, Khayal has received the special attention of the best musical talent during the last hundred years.

Today it is synonymous with the classical style with which our ears are familiar.

The credit for its continued popularity in the concert hall and the radio even to this day, goes to veterans like Alladiya Khan, Fateh Ali, Hassu Khan, Haddu Khan, Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze, Abdul Karim Khan, Faiyaz Khan and Balakrishnabuwa.

Though the names of these old masters are only memories for us, we have still in our midst eminent Khayalists like Kesarbai Keskar, Moghubai Kurdikar, Bade Gulam Ali Khan and Nissar Husain.

Through The Mill

Kesarbai hails from Goa. Among her masters were such names as Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze and Alladiya Khan.

But evidently she is particularly proud of having received her best and longest period of training from the Patto.

She has not, however, achieved her success without going through the mill. Her rise to fame is almost as dramatic as a thriller.

There may be sweeter and deeper voices, such as those of Hirabai and Roshnara Begum. But for sheer dignity and spaciousness, there is probably none to excel Kesarbai.

Her voice is rich enough to be heard in the farthest corners of an auditorium even without the use of a loudspeaker.

Her music concerts are spectacular in many ways.

A picturesque personality, Kesarbai makes an abiding impression on her listeners by her very presence. The slow steady and sure development of her vilambit Khayal has the dignity and poise of dhrupad.

She delineates her melodic theme without having recourse to embellishments and impressionism and that speaks of her versatility.

The excellence of her drut Khayal lies as much in its rhythmic element as in the rich variant of taan she spins out in due proportion after her great master. She renders both well-known and less-known ragas with fluency and ease.

Many prized laurels, rewards and medals from the princely durbars of old and music conferences have come her way. Rarely has she cared to use them with her name.

ThePresident of India, too honoured her in 1953 by conferring on her the National Award for music.

Yet there is something strangely elusive about her personality. To her the radio is taboo. Forthright yet temperamental, Kesarbai shuns publicity and does not easily condescend to sing in public.

Nor has she cared to groom any disciples after her. Advancing age has not taken away the melodic power of her rendering and Kesarbai is still a name to conjure with in the world of music.

Early Despair

MOGHUBAI was also born in Goa. An artiste gifted with natural talent, her early life was not one of lucky breaks, but of despair and frustration.

And she stuck to her goal in the face of heavy odds.

She too received her initial training from Ramkrishnabuwa and then from Haidar Khan. Her art, however, received its magic feel from Alladiya Khan. To this master’s feel she has added an industry unstinted in its nature and a determination unequalled in its measure.

The result of such mastery of technique and suavity of representation as belong only to veterans.

Behind her shy and modest manner lies a firm control of her medium. Moghubai has a gifted voice and a highly cultivated sense of rhythm.

Khayal is her forte and through it she reveals the varied facets of her art without pretence. She develops her rendering exploring all its melodic possibilities in a simple and clear style till its form stands out in bold relief.

Her rapid work in drut Khayal is notable for its raciness combined with accuracy and grace.

Moghubai stays in Bombay. Kishori Kurdikar, her daughter inherits a taste for music from her mother and broadcasts regularly from AIR, Bombay.

FATEH ALI and Ali Baksh respectively ranked among the stalwarts of Patiala and Kairana schools of music, and it was from them that Bade Gulam Ali received his lessons in music. His style of singing, therefore , represents the quintessence of both the schools.

Mainly a Khayal singer, Gulam Ali carries with his art a tremendous popular appeal.

His chief asset is a clear and mellifluous voice that has both depth and range and he has admirably adapted it to render fluent Khayal, sprightly thumri, erotic ghazal and also devotional bhajan with uncanny skill.

While his vilambit shows a fine melodies line, his drut presents a unique blend of tuneful gamak and colourful taan. Here indeed is an artiste who combines tradition with appeal and technique with grace.

54-year-old Gulam Ali is now resident of West Pakistan. He spent the best part of his life in India and cherishes happy memories of his younger days.

His performance at the Durbar of the Prince of Wales in the early twenties was the beginning of his rise to fame. Meera Chatterjee and Tulsidas Sharma are among his puplils.

Nissar Husain

Bespectacled and distinguished looking Nissar Husain is the scion of an illustrious house of musicians, and he learnt his art from his father, Fida Husain.

A master in the art of presentation, Nissar Husain has a repertoire of some rare composition of old masters like Haddu Khan of Gwalior. His style is noted for its vigour, and embodies all the salient features of the Gwalior Gharana.

Sargam, boltaan and quite a profusion of taan-ranging upto three octaves at times-find the most exquisite expression in his renderings.

Nissar Husain now nearing fifty, was a Court musician of the former Baroda State. He has now settled at Badaun, in Utter Pradesh.

Hafiz Ahmed Khan, who broadcasts from AIR, Lucknow, ranks among the best disciples of this renowned vocalist.

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