Two young talents, Adnan Khan and Farid Hasan, paid a fitting tribute to the memory of the great Ustad Abdul Karim Khan at a concert in New Delhi
Ustad Abdul Karim Khan was one of those rare musicians who had, in addition to their great art, a vision for the future. Born in 1872 in a family of musicians in Kairana in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, he gave up playing sarangi and took to singing. He was able to evolve his own style of singing that came to be known as the Kirana gharana gayaki. It placed emphasis on a slow, note-by-note elaboration and development of a raga and accorded due importance to the emotional element.
He was the first gharanedar musician who organised ticketed concerts in public in the early years of the last century as he realised that classical music needed a new kind of audience and had to leave the confines of the royal courts and wealthy patrons’ mehfils to come out into the open. In 1908, at a ticketed show held in Sholapur (Maharashtra), he presented his four-and-a-half year old daughter Champakali and seven-year-old son Abdul Rahman. Breaking the prevalent practice of observing secrecy in matters of one’s art, he publicly announced the name of the raga whose sargam would be sung by Champakali and alap would be rendered by Abdul Rahman. In later years, Champakali came to be known as Hirabai Barodekar and Abdul Rahman as Sureshbabu Mane.
Ustad Abdul Karim Khan spent some time at the Mysore court and recognised the need to bring the Hindustani and Carnatic systems together. He was especially enamoured of the Carnatic vocalists’ treatment of sargam and he enthusiastically incorporated it as an important element in his own singing. Moreover, he introduced many Carnatic ragas such as Kharahapriya, Abhogi, Devgandhari and Saveri. He was also one of the few top notch khayaliyas of his time who agreed to record their music for posterity. His students included well-known artistes like Sawai Gandharva, Hirabai Barodekar, Sureshbabu Mane, Saraswatibai Rane, Balkrishnabua Kapileshwari and Roshan Ara Begum. The second generation of gharana torchbearers included Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Manik Verma and Prabha Atre, just to name a few.
This past Tuesday, Message Charitable Trust organised a concert at New Delhi’s India Habitat Centre to offer musical tribute to the memory of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. It was a badly organised but was a badly needed event. The playing of Abdul Karim Khan’s recordings in the background while announcement was being made from the dais showed the casual approach of the organisers. However, it showcased two young talents and made the evening worthwhile Adnan Khan, who has learnt from his sitarist father Sayeed Khan and is now under the tutelage of well-known Kirana vocalist Mashkoor Ali Khan, opened the evening with Jhinjhoti and offered a short alap followed by a vilambit gat that veered towards madhyalaya. His sitar was tuneful though the tonal quality left something to be desired. However, he impressed with his handling of both the raga as well as the instrument. Predictably, keeping to the Kirana idiom, his music was rich in emotional content and stayed close to khayal gayaki. Widely regarded as a principal raga of the Khamaj thaat, Jhinjhoti has a special charm because of its vakra build and blossoms only in the mandra and mahdya saptaks. Adnan paid due attention to gandhar in the avrohi movement. It was an apt choice as Abdul Karim Khan’s Jhinjhoti thumri “Piya bin naahi aavat chain” was his best known cheez. As the story goes, ten-year-old Bhimsen Joshi left home after listening to a record of this thumri as he wanted to learn to sing like this. Adnan wisely chose Gaud Malhar as the second raga and played a gat that went up to the fast jhala. Rashid Niyazi accompanied him on the tabla.
Farid Hasan belongs to Delhi gharana and is a student of Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan. Equipped with a good, resonating voice, he opened his recital with Miyan ki Malhar and gave a good account of his grooming. However, one felt that the raganga Malhar was accorded less prominence than the Kanhda component. He sang three bandishes with his youthful exuberance. Rafiuddin Sabri regaled the audience with his tabla accompaniment. The evening concluded with a flute recital by Rajendra Prasanna.