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Ustad Allaudin Khan (1862-1972), of the Maihar gharana, was one of the central figures of the golden age of Hindustani classical music. He is said to have mastered 30 instruments before settling on the sarod as his instrument of choice, and he was perhaps the only Ustad who could read and write Western music. Born in modern Bangladesh, he ran away to Kolkata as an eight-year-old, fired by a passion for music and a quest for the best teachers of the day. He travelled and learnt music from teachers of every kind including Munne Khan and, after a great deal of struggle, the great veena player Wazir Khan of Rampur.

Next week, to mark 150 years of his birth, Prasar Bharti, in collaboration with NCPA Mumbai, will pay tribute to this extraordinary musician with a concert by Basant Kabra on the sarod and Hari Prasad Chaurasia on the flute. Both were students of Baba’s daughter Annapurna Devi. A special feature of the Maihar gharana is the way it allows individual traits and temperaments to inflect the music. “As a result, no two musicians sound the same,” says flautist Nityanand Haldipur who studied under Annapurna Devi from 1986 and refers to Baba as his dada guru. Of special interest is the launch of five CDs from AIR’s Akashvani Vadya Vrinda, a home-grown instrumental orchestration wing. This National Orchestra broadcast several compositions and performances by Baba on AIR.

Baba’s eclectic and itinerant background was packed with adventures, which extended his musical experiences. When several children in the small princely state of Maihar were orphaned after an epidemic in the region, he started teaching them music and pioneered Western-style orchestration in Indian classical music as a way of keeping them busy. During this phase he also fashioned instruments like the saranga (a bigger sarangi played like a cello), sitar banjo and nal tarang made from abandoned rifle barrels lying around the estate in Maihar. The Maihar Band, as they were called, went on to perform at several prestigious music conferences in North India in the 1920s. The band will perform a short piece at the NCPA too.

Before settling in Maihar, Baba spent a lifetime in pursuit of music of every kind and trained students like Ravi Shankar (sitar), his son Ali Akbar Khan (sarod) and his daughter Annapurna Devi i (surbahar). Other students included Pt. Pannalal Ghosh, Nikhil Bannerjee and Timir Baran. Baba also composed new raga s, including Hemant and Manj Khamaj.

DEVINA DUTT

Baba: A Tribute to Maihar Maestro

When:October 20

Where:Tata Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai

Bottomline:On his 150th birth anniversary, a tribute to a genius.

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