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Return to pure classicism

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The Economic Times, June 4, 1989

Aslam Khan’s vocal recital sponsored by the Friends’ Circle at Grant Road on May 19, marks his welcome return to pure classicism. I say this, because he was seen frequently as an exponent of ghazals over the last four years – apparently carried away by the ghazal wave that had then swept the musical scene. As always, the wave predictably begun to subside.

It is to Aslam Khan’s credit that he has managed to retain his traditional moorings in spite of what may be called his brief obsession with ghazal singing. This recital proves, beyond doubt, that he remains a classicist to the core.

Aslam Khan is the brother-in-law and disciple of the veteran, late Azmat Hussain Khan, whose style and approach embodied the best features of the Agra and Atrauli-Jaipur gharanas. He had the benefit of grooming from other maestros like Ustad Shahi Khan and Ustad Murad Khan of the Hapur gharana, Ustad Altaf Hussain Khan of the Khurja gharana and Ustad Khadium Hussain Khan, the octogenarian doyen of the Agra gharana.

Aslam Khan, whom I have had many opportunities to hear before, always struck me as a vocalist who beautifully imbibed the spirit of his mentors’ vocalism. Specially notable is the fact that he has shown a flair for creating melodic innovations and composing bandishes in the manner of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan.

All these qualities of undoubted musicianship were seen to advantage at Aslam Khan’s performance. He began with Madhuwanti in madhya laya ek taal. The composition, “rang raliya karat”, was penned by Azmat Hussain Khan. The number, heard next, was Aslam Khan’s self-composed raga which he called Kadambari-Bihag, rendered in Khayal vilambit roopak taal and drut in teen taal. The final piece was in raga Jhinjoti in drut teen taal.

Sung in a husky, virile voice, all the offerings were charming for their well-defined modal contours. It was a delight to follow him negotiating the twists and turns associated with Azmat Hussain’s gayaki. What is more, he lent them a distinctively emotional touch.

Kadambari-Bihag sounded like a clever combination of familiar strains from Jog Bihag and Bihagda ragas. But there was no evidence of patchwork here. It is indeed a tribute to his sense of homogeneity. The build-up thus stood out for its coherence of form and design and its fascinating structure.

Aslam received competent support from two veterans – the percussionist, Hidayat Khan and the sarangiya, Liaquat Ali Khan.

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