To list out some of the greatest and most influential classical musicians of India is quite a daunting task. For the music of today, be it from the North or the South, is a product of a lifetime of tireless work by the past masters.
A slice of Indian classical music is brought to readers in Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan’s '50 Maestros and 50 Recordings'. The book documents the life and work of the genius vocalists and instrumentalists from the realm of Carnatic and Hindustani genres. With the book comes a CD that has peerless recordings of these greats hand-picked by the youngsters after listening to hours and hours of tape and CD.
The fact that these two sarod players are the sons of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and have been born and brought up in the lap of ragas and alaaps must have been an added advantage in getting information about many of the artists. The attractive jacket with snapshots of the 500 artists featured is catchy.
For the musically uninitiated, the introduction might prove quite helpful. Here, the authors explain the nuances involved in the two classical systems – Hindustani and Carnatic. What is a raga? What differentiates khayal from dhrupad? What are the various taals? Responses to basic queries such as these find place in the intro.
Each chapter deals with one legend. The format is kept simple – a brief bio of the artist followed by the details of the recording chosen. Amaan and Ayaan lend a personal touch to those artists with whom they got to interact as children like Mogubai Kurdikar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia or M.S. Subbulakshmi.
But if you are looking for extensive bios of the artists, this is not the place. Also one cannot call this a comprehensive list of iconic musical figures. For many Carnatic greats such as Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, who formulated the present kutcheri format, Madurai Mani Iyer whose style can never be replicated and the charismatic G.N. Balasubramaniam do not find mention. Similarly, missing are such names as Ustad Alladiya Khan Saheb and Mallikarjuna Mansur. Perhaps, the young musicians have planned a sequel to this book.
The CD is what makes the book worth picking up. For, the recordings are rare, simply timeless and the music takes the listener to divine heights!
(Published by Harper Collins, the book-CD is priced at Rs. 350.)