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Master of Rhythmic Melody – Faiyaz Khan

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Master of Rhythmic Melody – Faiyaz Khan

Bharat Jyoti, November 28, 1948.

The article as it appeared in Bharat Jyoti in 1948.

The article as it appeared in Bharat Jyoti in 1948.

Aftab-i-Mousiqui Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Court-Musician of the Baroda Durbar, stands out prominently among the great musicians of today, who have dedicated themselves to the task of preserving the rich cultural heritage of our Motherland.

Scion of the renowned family of Rangilas, Faiyaz Khan inherits his priceless treasure from his grandfather, Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan and Ustad Nattam Khan of Agra, who was his “Guru”. The Rangila school of music traces its origin to the Mughal period, the period of great cultural activity. The school originally represented the Dhruped and Dhammar styles of Hindustani music. Tansen, the uncrowned king of musicians is believed to be the supreme exponent of the Dhrupad style.

Hori Songs

THE DHRUPAD (or “the Burden of the song”) was noted for its rhythm purity of form and coherence of structure, and it could best be sung in a masculine and voluminous voice. The nature of the raga in which a particular Dhrupad song was to be sung was first fully brought out in what were known as “Alaps” or “Nometomes”. The Dhammar too was a contemporaneous rhythmic style. The songs sung in this style were known as the “Hori” songs. A kind of solemnity characterised the Dhrupads and “tans” were conspicuous by their absence. The Hories, on the other hand were replete with rhythmic “taans”. They had a distinctly romantic, if not erotic, appeal as they generally contained vivid descriptions of “Ras-Leelas” of the ever youthful Cowherd-God.

The aforesaid distinguished predecessors of Faiyaz Khan were not only veteran interpreters of these ancient styles of music, but also singers of Khayals, a modern style, lyrical in form and substance. Theirs was indeed a multi-sided talent; and what is more, all the peculiarities of their superb “Gayaki” are perfectly exemplified in the melody of Ustad Faiyaz Khan.

A portrait of the singer on a long play record.

A portrait of the singer on a long play record.

Faiyaz Khan renders both common and uncommon ragas with equal dexterity Lalit (Tarpat hun jaise), Todi (Garwa main sang), Desi (Mhare dera awo), Jaunpuri ( Phulwan ki), Khat (Vidyadhar guniyan), Megh (Aye at dhum), Samant-Sarang (E mai piya),Puria (Main kar ayi) Maluha-Kedara (Achara mora), Chhayanat (Jhanan jhanan baje), Sindhura (Mang re ho), Jaijaiwanti (More mandar) and Darburi (Ghungat ke pat) are his most favourite ragas.

Picturesque Personality

USTAD FAIYAZ Khan’s music concerts are spectacular in many ways. Hardly do we come across so picturesque a musical personage. Smartly dressed in black “sherwani” and immaculate “Achkan”. Faiyaz Khan’s personality has the dignity of a blue-blooded Mughal courtier basking in the sunshine of royal favour. He makes a permanent impression on his audience by his very appearance. When , with an important air, the Ustad takes his seat on the rostrum in the midst of his accompanists, the Tamboras begin to sound deeply, and he attunes his haunting voice to the instruments. His eyes sparkle and heavy eye-lids become steady. Soon the slowly-breathing strains of “nometomes” (alaps) thrill the entire “mehfil”. The steady stream of ‘alaps’ is reminiscent of sensitive and eloquent notes of Sitar.

Interpreter of Moods

FEW MUSICIANS understand and interpret the concordant relation between a Raga and its dominant mood in so subtle a manner as Ustad Faiyaz Khan. His alaps in “Megh” during one of his monsoon performances on the Radio reminded me of those early showers of rain that awaken the drowsy fragrance of the earth and with his song-

“Aye at dhum dham …. Rain andheri Damani damake.”

The rain was actually on the roof after a roll of thunder as though by a strange coincidence.

Faiyaz Khan’s militant personality is no doubt reflected in music. Nevertheless, emotional strains of his Jaijaiwanti do cause sweet unrest in many a lacerated heart. “More mandar ab lo nahi aye.”

Similarly, his skilful grace-note of “Komal Gandhara” heightens the poignancy of the theme in his Tilak Kamod: “Ek sugan ko bicharo bamana.”

His renderings are at times onomatopoetic and sensuous: “Jhan Jhan Jhan payal baje” (Nat-Behag).

How aptly does his melody produce the jungling sound of anklets! The stupefying repetition of the next line of the song is sensuous: “Jage more sas manadiya.”

The yearning heart of a young beloved is tossed between the two extreme emotions of love and fear love of her lover, and fear of her vigilant mother-in-law and chiding sister-in-law. But her pangs of separation brook no delay. So, at the dead of night, in the glancing rain, she goes out to meet her lover: “Mai kar ayin piya sang rang ratiya” (puriya).

But the intrinsic grandeur of his melody lies in its rhythm. Both the vocalist and the instrumentalist (the table-player) invariably appear to be masters of rhythm; both try to outwit or “out-ply” each other by all sorts of musical and rhythmical trickeries. The audience watches the neck-to-neck race with baited breath. The soul of the audience, tranced by the undulating stream of music and rhythm, moves from the finite to the infinite, and experiences the divine revelation of Naad-Brahman as it were!

Love Songs

THE SHRINGARA sentiment is very finely depicted in his “Hori” songs: “Khelat Nandkumar, Kumar re.” (Hori Kafi).

The blandishments of love of Gopala, the flute-player of Brindaban are well known. The Gopis love him for all his impish doings.

Faiyaz Khan renders his “Thumries” and “Dadras” with full but sort emotion. The quality of suggestiveness that they bring out can only be felt and not expressed:“Piya itani araj mori man” (Thumri Khamaj) “Jhama Jhami pani bhare.”

These songs would find an echo in many a sighing bosom.

We thus remain hypnotised by the magic of his melody. His Bhairavi awakens our souls to the realities of the world; and

“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not.
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

Big Following

The SUCCESS of his imoressive mode of expression can well be judged from the very big following that he commands. Perhaps modern methods of teaching of music may not be quite agreeable to him. All the same, Ustad Fiayaz Khan is progressive in his outlook. Although he might rightly feel that the purity of the pristine art should be scrupulously preserved, he is surely not one of those older musicians-many of whom often refused to part with their music knowledge. Faiyaz Khan has thus drawn his disciples irrespective of caste or creed. Swami Vallabhdas, Pandit Ratanjankar, Ata Husain, Azmat Husain and Krishna Udyavarkar are some of his outstanding disciples. But it is a sad truism that most of them –barring of course an exception or twp-have not properly understood the art and mind of their great master.

In a way, Ustad Faiyaz Khan is a traditionalist among reformists, and a reformist among traditionalists. His melody typifies the grand evolution of the Hindustani music from the ancient Dhrupad down to the modern Khayal and Thumri.

The fame and grandeur of the sun of music (Aftabi-Mousiqui) has spread far and wide in the country.


1 Comment

  1. Hello, thanks a lot for your posts. They are very informative

    Do you know any biography of Ustad Faiyaz Khan Saab ?
    It would be lovely to read about his life in detail.

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