Khayal and the power of imagination

Spirited traditions: Khayal singer Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.

Spirited traditions: Khayal singer Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.   | Photo Credit: NARENDRA DANGIYA

The seminar on ‘Khayal and Allied Forms’ attracted many Hindustani classical followers to the NCPA’s Experimental Theatre, earlier this month. Organised by the ITC Sangeet Research Academy and Indian Musicologists Society in association with Music Forum and NCPA, its main aim was to highlight the various factors that went into this vocal music form.

Musical interplay

Most of the sessions focused on the individual styles of the important vocal gharanas, namely Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur-Atrauli, Kirana, Patiala, Rampur-Sahaswan and Delhi. But the tone was set by vocalist Pandit Umakant Gundecha’s presentation on how the style of dhrupad preceded khayal and Pandit Vijay Kichlu’s description of the importance of khayal.

It was pointed out that though the term ‘khayal’ has originated from the Persian word for ‘imagination’, the actual content was very Indian, in terms of lyrical language, terminology and style. It was also mentioned that the word could have originated from the word ‘khel’, referring to the interplay used by vocalists.

There were some fantastic sessions, and the presenters used different approaches. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande sang short versions of compositions to describe the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana’s nuances, whereas Jayavanth Rao, on behalf of singer Lalith Rao, used rare audio clips to explain Agra gayaki.

In his demonstration on the Patiala gharana, Pandit Ajay Chakraborty displayed how riyaz is done through paltas (exercises).

Varied approaches

One of the best sessions was by Dr. Vidyadhar Vyas, who talked of rarer styles like tapkhayal (blending the swift melodic changes of tappa with khayal), khayalnuma (similar to vilambit/ slow khayal with text in syllable-based tarana form) and trivat (which contains verbal text, tarana and percussion recitation). He also explained raagsagar, different from raagmalas in the way they used the names of raags in compositions.

Now for a few quibbles: most sessions focused on individual gharanas. As such, there could also been a segment on how different gharanas approached the same raag. Secondly, there could have been a longer analysis on bada khayal and chhota khayal, which were mentioned in passing, or even the role of guru-shishya parampara and music schools in khayal teaching.

A few gharanas like Mewati, Indore, Bhendi Bazaar, Kunwar Shyam, Benaras and Shyamchorasi were not touched upon. A combined session conducted by a musicologist could have been great. One would have loved to hear about the works of vocalists who blend gharanas. Earlier examples were Pandit C.R. Vyas, Pandit Gajananbuva Joshi, Manik Verma and Ustad Aslam Khan. Today, we have Pandit Arun Kashalkar and M. Venkateshkumar.

Expanding the audience

Of course, it would have been difficult to pack all these elements in a two-day seminar. The fact is that the event did serve its purpose of creating more awareness about different styles and approaches, and younger musicians, students and enthusiasts have surely benefited. All speakers communicated well, and there were welcome doses of humour. Perhaps, less time should have been spent on the history of gharanas and various lineages, but one always welcomes such events that lead to new information and perspectives.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 4:01:29 AM |

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