A two-day event organised by the IGNCA, while focusing on the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, failed to satisfy the more curious among the audience

It looked like a very promising first evening of a two-day event titled “Shastra & Prayog” (Theory & Practice) organised by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in collaboration with Naad Saagar Archives and Documentation Society for South Asian Music. On Monday, the fare included a session of “Guided Listening” that was to begin with an illustrated talk on “Ustad Alladiya Khan and Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana” by Professor Amlan Dasgupta of Jadavpur University, followed by a vocal recital by an authentic representative of the gharana, Pandit Rajshekhar Mansur. In 2000 Dasgupta, along with Urmila Bhirdikar of Pune, brought out a short autobiography of Ustad Alladiya Khan (1855-1946) that was based on the notes jotted down by his grandson Azizuddin Khan of the anecdotes narrated by the great maestro in the last decade of his life. Dasgupta and Bhirdikar translated these notes from Marathi into English, edited them and published the book with an introduction.

One went to the talk expecting that Professor Dasgupta would throw some light on how the legendary Alladiya Khan fashioned his gayaki so as to establish a completely new style of Khayal singing and, in the process, founded a new gharana that came to be known as Jaipur-Atrauli. One was curious to know as to what kind of constitutive elements went into the making of this new, highly cerebral and complex individualistic style that distinguished it from all others, and in what way. However, Dasgupta focused mainly on the ustad’s autobiography and, like the book, his talk too remained confined to discussing the social and historical roots of Alladiya Khan’s family, some anecdotes of his life and such like. Though the talk was delivered with sensitivity and understanding and was very informative — especially to those who did not have access to the book — there was hardly any shastra in it.

Ustad Alladiya Khan was one of the greatest Khayal singers of the modern period. His disciples included some of the biggest names of the 20th century — Bhaskarbua Bakhle, Kesarbai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar (whose daughter and disciple Kishori Amonkar is among the top vocalists today), Nivrittibua Sarnaik and Govindrao Tembe. The ustad had more than his share of misfortune. His extremely talented son Manji Khan died young, while the other son Bhurji Khan became a great teacher but not a great performer of music. It is an irony of history that neither Alladiya Khan nor Manji Khan left even a single recording behind. Consequently, one has no idea about the real Jaipur-Atrauli style, as it has come down to us not through the members but through the disciples of the gharana.

Pandit Rajshekhar Mansur is the son and disciple of the late Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur who was trained by Ustad Alladiya Khan’s son Manji Khan. Alladiya Khan specialised in rare and jod (combination of two or more) ragas and his followers generally shun the commonly attempted ragas. Therefore, it came as a surprise when Rajshekhar Mansur preferred Shuddh Kalyan over his gharana’s favourite Jait Kalyan, Savani Kalyan or Nand Kalyan to open his recital. This audav-sampoorna raga (one that uses five notes in the ascent and all seven in the descent) that omits Madhyam and Nishad in its ascending section has come to be identified with the Kirana gharana vocalists who do wonders with it. However, Rajshekhar gave a good account of himself and sang a madhya laya khayal, “Aali He Mohe Mana”. His rendering resonated with the complex and intricate taans associated with the Jaipur-Atrauli style, and the scant meend treatment of Madhyam and Nishad was in keeping with the nature of the raga.

After Shuddh Kalyan, he chose a typical Jaipur-Atrauli raga Basanti Kedar whose creation is attributed to Alladiya Khan. As the name suggests, it combines two ragas — Basant and Kedar — but only sparingly makes use of the Basant elements, dropping the Komal Dhaivat altogether. He sang the famous khayal “Atar Sugandh” and remained true to his guru’s style and made judicious use of gamak and rapid meends. Rajshekhar concluded his recital with a rarely heard raga Meghavali that has elements of Sur Malhar and Nayaki Kanhda. Durjay Bhaumik and Paromita Mukherjee provided performance-enhancing accompaniment on tabla and harmonium respectively, while Ashok Kumar Mishra and Arun Upadhyaya handled the tanpuras.