The Patiala Heritage Festival which started in 2003 and held consecutively till 2007 has been revived this year. Organised by Punjab Government, it was held in Patiala from February 21-27.
An attempt was made to showcase all the notable old heritage buildings of Patiala, by holding events at different venues – in front of the Darbar Hall in the fort of Qila Mubarak, the Shahi Samadhs, (royal centopaths) the Yadavindra Public School, Baaradari gardens and old Motibagh Palace (now the National Institute of Sports).
The music sessions were handled by Delhi-based Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development. The first evening featured Prof Madan Gopal Singh and his “Char Yaar”, the second evening had Patiala gharana exponent Pandit Ajoy Chakravorty followed by Banaras thumri exponent Pandit Channulal Mishra. The sole instrumentalist of the festival was Ustad Shujaat Khan, followed by Gwalior doyen Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar. Rain disrupted proceedings on the fourth day, inaugurated by Kathak dance by Manjari Chaturvedi, followed by Rampur Sahaswan vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan. Banaras vocalists Pandits Rajan-Sajan Mishra were followed by Mewati gharana veteran Pandit Jasraj. The last evening featured qawwali by the Hyderabad-based Ustad Naseer Ahmed Warsi, ending with Punjabi pop singer Harshdeep Kaur.
As Pt Ulhas Kashalkar analysed after his truly wonderful concert, (his first ever in Patiala), the Patiala style of singing obviously took mainly from the original vocal gharana of Gwalior, but had evolved its own specialities, which he tried to showcase during his concert. He chose to open with raga Kamod, a favourite of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan; though the gayaki was of course Gwalior, one was reminded of the Ustad’s full throated renditions. The lyrics of the first composition were truly appropriate to the majestic setting, in front of the erstwhile royal Darbar Hall, with the backdrop of the elegant, lit up stone work wall of the 18th Century fort, Qila Mubarak — “Tore Darbaar Aayo Nizamuddin, Ritu Basant Ki Deyo Mubarak”. The second raga, Hameer featured the Ek taal composition of Shah Sadarang in Punjabi “Tendere Kaaran, Mendere Yaaran” (Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan used to sing this starting with the words “Mendere Yaaran”, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar recalled). The next item was a fast paced tarana in Teen taal. He concluded his extremely finely etched, truly brilliant recital with the raga of the spring season Basant, in which he sang “Phagawan Brij Dekhan Ko Chalo Re”.
Stalwarts of music
The Festival brought to mind the dying Patiala gharana; a vocal gharana, founded by Mian Kalu from Delhi, but popularised by the duo, Ustad Ali Baksh Khan, (Mian Kalu’s son) and his friend Ustad Fateh Ali Khan — the famous duo of “Alia Fattu”. They were court musicians of Patiala, in the late 19th century, in the court of Maharaja Rajinder Singh. Famous descendants included Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan, who interestingly also taught an Afghan called Mohammed Hussain Sarahang who stayed and learnt from him extensively in India, and could speak fluent colloquial Punjabi!
Others were Ustads Fateh Ali Khan and Amaanat Ali Khan who were born in Patiala but moved to Pakistan after 1947. Surprisingly, the best known exponent of Patiala gayaki was Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan who was actually from Kasur (in Pakistan), and never lived in Patiala at all. He learnt from Ustad Akhtar Hussain Khan (father of Ustads Fateh Ali Khan and Amaanat Ali Khan) and Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan of the Patiala gharana, in addition to his main taalim from his father Ustad Ali Baksh and uncle Ustad Kale Khan.
Today, comparatively speaking there are not so many well known exponents of the Patiala gayaki in today’s generation of vocalists, apart from Kaushiki Chakravorty. An upcoming singer, starting to make waves, to look out for is Samrat Pandit, son of Pandit Jagdish Prasad, disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.
The reason, as Pandit Ajoy Chakravorty, (today the leading exponent of Patiala gharana, but who self confessedly has imbibed the music of several styles) analysed could be the physical difficulties involved. He explained, Patiala gayaki requires a huge amount of time as essential requirements are correct enunciation, (bani) correct voice throw (aakar), correct articulation of scales (sargam) and above all, great tayyari (practise). It’s not that all Patiala gharana exponents had all these attributes, he added, but they should. He recalled when he went to Pakistan, friends of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan who had grown up with him, said his gayaki was as difficult as playing with a snake!Gharanas today have merged into one another anyway; but the Patiala gharana from its inception was an amalgamated vocal style, he added, and as such, lives on.