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Indian Music Today: Masters of Rampur Tradition

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The Sur Singar Samsad Festival starting in the city on Friday is about the right time for all of us to know something about the great musicians taking part in it. Here are thumbnail sketches (and other material) by one who knows the music and musicians well.

The Bombay Sentinel, January 3, 1956

The original article as it appeared in The Bombay Sentinel

The original article as it appeared in The Bombay Sentinel

Ustad Allaudin Khan of Maihar Has given us a number of unrivalled masters in music, and Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and Pannalal Ghosh, who are participating in the forthcoming music festival, easily rank among the best virtuosi of today.

Ravi Shankar, now 35, is the youngest brother of the world famous dancer, Uday Shankar

He accompanied his brother on his international tours at the age of 9, and made his mark as a dancer of promise through out Britain and Europe.

The association of Allauddin Khan with Uday Shankar’s troupe in 1935 helped young Ravi to discover his true vocation, and he forsook dance for music, much against the will of his brother.

He became such a consummate artiste under the guidance of his master that by the time he was twenty, music conferences and the radio alike began to clamour for his performances.

Ravi Shankar’s rendering on Sitar are specimens of both technique and creative imagination, and one finds in them a happy synthesis of linear grace tonal vigour and lucidity.

Orchestral research

Ravi Shankar with the author during an interview.

Ravi Shankar with the author during an interview.

Ravi Shankar is on the staff of All India Radio as conductor of AIR’s ‘Vadya Vrinda’. He has a flair for experiments in orchestral research, and is also conversant with the basic principles of the Western Orchestra.

The “National Orchestra” as AIR’s unit is also known, is probably the only Indian ensemble that approximates to the requirements of a modern chamber orchestra of the West.

Ravi Shankar has toured several European countries as a member of the Indian Cultural Delegation.

The Westerners in general he told me, are so music-conscious that even a mill worker or a peasant can appreciate the subtleties of a ballet of Tschaikowsky or an opera of Glinka.

He has many friends abroad. Notable among them is the violinist of international fame, Yehudi Menuhin. Ravi Shankar holds contemporary musicians in high esteems, and is also very popular in South India.

Ali Akbar Khan

THIRTY FOUR YEAR OLD Ali Akbar khan had his initiation in classical music at the age of three. He spent his early years in association with Ravi Shankar during the latter’s sojourn abroad, and he came into limelight as an instrumentalist of note in Uday Shankar’s orchestral unit.

Allauddin Khan, with the right blend of parental love, understanding and discipline, subjected his only son to a most exacting and disciplined training in music.

Not till he was 17 was Ali Akbar allowed to give a solo performance in public.

The Sarod unlike the sitar is essentially an instrument of discrete notes. Yet his slow-playing is as sweet and reposeful as his rapid work is vivacious, brilliant and precise.

Though Ali Akbar has settled in Jodhpur, he is always on the move. No major music festival is complete without a recital by him. Besides he regularly broadcasts from various stations of AIR.

A traditionalist by training, Ali Akbar is quite modern in outlook, His musical score in “aandhiyan” and other filmic ventures is a pioneering effort in using new styles and vogues, rooted in classical tradition, for cinematic purposes.

During his recent visit to Russia, Ali Akbar found that there was compulsory basic education in music right from the primary stage in that country. He highly commends the adoption of a similar system of music education in India.

Pannalal Ghosh

The pastoral flute had remained for centuries a simple folk medium, till Pannababu picked it up and raised it to the status and dignity of a major concert instrument.

The pastoral flute had remained for centuries a simple folk medium, till Pannababu picked it up and raised it to the status and dignity of a major concert instrument.

PANNALAL GHOSH was born in 1911. He inherits his passion for music from his father, Akshay Kumar Ghosh, who was a sitar-player by inclination. Pannalal to, in his younger days, took to the playing of the sitar and the flute as a hobby.

He joined the New Theatres in 1934 and that marked the beginning of his professional life. Meanwhile, he received guidance in music from the late Khushi Mahomad and Girja Shankar Chakravarty.

It is, however, his association with Allauddin Khan in later years that strikes he keynote of his musical career as a flute player of distinction.

Pannalal’s melody conveys intense emotional appeal, and the deep tonal range of his unusually large flute – which, by the way, is his own improvisation – invests his renderings with rare serenity.

A pioneer in the introduction of “Gayaki” to wood wind, his performances speak of his technical ability to enlarge the scope of his medium to wider field of classical form and design.

In 1938, Pannalal visited Britain and other Eropian countries as music director attached to Chow Dance Troupe of Seraikella.

The tradition of the Westerners to Indian music and other arts, in those days, was generally one of curiosity rather than genuine interest, he said.

His association with the film-land, though primarily in pursuit of his profession, is no less indicative of his sincere desire to make classical music serve the needs of the cinema. Pannalal hopes that films would eventually take to classical modes for their musical fare.

All Lucky

Few musicians have enriched the domain of instrumental music so well as Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar and Pannalal Ghosh . In a sense, they are all lucky in being born and brought up to the sound of lilting melody and rhythm –and even luckier in getting as great a master as Allauddin Khan.

The stamp of the genius is evident in their technique and presentation, though their media of expression are different. Yet, each is a master in his own right, and their styles are equally individualistic.

The advantage of a formal education has enable them to catch up with the medium of Western music, and and the recation their international sojourns evoked in their minds express themselves as much in their innovations as I their outlook.

The music world is driven with rivalries, and there was once a time when the very authenticity of their tradition was questioned.

Today, the technique of music initiated by Allauddin Khan and followed by his able disciples is acclaimed as representing the best traditions of Rampur’s Seniya Gharana.

The success of their impressive mode of expression can well be judged from the very big following they commond among the up-and-coming stylists of the country, such as Uma Shankar Mishra (Sitar), Sharan Rani (Sarod) and Devendra Murdeshwar (Flute).

Helping younger talent to recognition is part of their mission, and given certain conditions, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar and Pannalal should ensure a still brighter future for our instrumental tradition.

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