Bombay Showcase

An enduring musical legacy

The legendary Baba Allauddin Khan could play some 30 musical instruments.— Photo: Special arrangement  

Every April, students of Surbahar exponent and renowned music teacher Annapurna Devi organise a concert in memory of her father, the legendary Baba Allauddin Khan. Best known as founder of the Maihar gharana and guru of sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (his son) and sitar great Pandit Ravi Shankar, Khan is considered one of the most innovative Indian musicians ever. This evening, the tribute is being held under the aegis of the Acharya Allauddin Music Circle, and organised in association with Bhargava’s Musik and Bhavan’s Cultural Centre.

The audience can look forward to a sitar presentation by Parv Tapodhan followed by a vocal recital by Raghunandan Panshikar. “It is Annapurna-ji’s ‘shraadh’ to her father,” says sarod player Suresh Vyas, Devi’s disciple. He adds, “The Acharya Allauddin Music Circle was founded on April 25, 1975, on Chaitra Purnima day. The objective was to spread knowledge about Baba’s (Khan) music and create awareness about his contribution among the younger generation.”

In every sense, Khan was a unique musician. Three aspects of his musical personality clearly stand out: versatility, role as a teacher and his contribution as an innovator. Though his specialties were the sarod, violin and sursingar — a bass and larger kind of sarod — Khan could play some 30 musical instruments.

From his generation, Khan and Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan played a major role in popularising the sarod. But going by the sheer number of instruments Khan played, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say he has been India’s most versatile classical musician ever.

The world generally knows Khan as one of India’s greatest music teachers. Besides Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi, his disciples included sitar maestro Nikhil Banerjee, flautist Pannalal Ghosh, violinist VG Jog and sarod players Bahadur Khan, Sharan Rani, Shyam Ganguly and Jyotin Bhattacharya.

In addition to classical musicians, Khan taught music directors Timir Baran, Vishnudas Shirali and Robin Ghosh, and was known to have been a guide to music composers such as SD Burman, Roshanlal Nagrath (Roshan) and Jaidev Verma.

Khan’s contribution can also be measured by the number of raags he composed, his creation of or improvisation on instruments, and even the initiation of the concept of an orchestra; then unknown in Indian classical music. A huge number of raags have been credited to him, many of which were later played by Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, Annapurna Devi and their disciples. These include Hemant, Hem-Bihag, Maanj Khamaj, Bhuvaneshwari, Gandhi, Prabhakali, Shubhavati and Madanmanjari, which was dedicated to his wife.

As a multi-instrumentalist, Khan not only improvised on the tonalities and techniques of many popular instruments, but also developed the sitar-banjo, which is a combination of sitar and banjo, and the nal tarang, made of steel gun pipes.

The orchestra he formed was called the Maihar Vadya Vrind, or commonly, the Maihar Band. Mostly consisting of orphans whom Khan had discovered after a famine, and then trained musically, the band followed the western classical concept of having many instruments played simultaneously. The only difference was they played Indian raags.

There haven’t been too many commercially-released recordings of Khan, who passed away in 1972, though many enthusiasts would have heard his work on the Saregama HMV compilation album Chairman’s Choice — Great Gharanas: Maihar . However, the album only covered a minuscule portion of Khan’s actual repertoire.

There have been occasional efforts to create awareness about his music through audio-visual sessions. For instance, in August 2012, flautist Nityanand Halidipur, disciple of Annapurna Devi, conducted one such event at the NCPA. Starting with a recording of Khan’s raag Devgiri Bilawal on sarod, the audience was taken on a voyage that included rare compositions in Malgunji, Sindhura, Hem, Charjuki Malhar, Kaushi Bhairav, Komal Bhimpalasi and Shubhavati. Additionally, there were more popular compositions in Asavari, Tilak Kamod, Shuddha Kalyan and Shuddha Nat. A majority of pieces were played on sarod, but one also heard a few recordings on the violin and sursingar.

Among the highlights was the playing of two versions of raag Bihag, one on violin and another on sarod, and the rendition of Tribandh, which blended elements of Kedar, Khamaj and Kaafi. There were also a couple of recordings by the Maihar Band. Many of the pieces played were recorded when Khan was in his 80s, and yet sounded as though a young musician was performing them. Such was his mastery.

A note about this

evening’s artistes

Parv Tapodhan started learning the sitar at the age of four from his grandfather, Chimanbhai Tabodhan. Later, he learnt from Manju Mehta and Basant Kabra.

Vocalist Raghunandan Panshikar studied under Vasantrao Kulkarni, before becoming a disciple of the great Kishori Amonkar. Besides classical concerts and albums, he has composed and sung in many devotional records.

The event has become a special feature in Mumbai’s classical music calendar. Today, both performers will surely pay a perfect tribute to Khan.

The concert will take place at 6.30 pm at the SPJIMR Auditorium in Bhavan’s College, Andheri West. This is a free concert. However, seating is on first-come, first-served basis.

The author is a freelance music writer

From his generation, Khan played a major

role in popularising

the sarod

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 12:49:02 PM |

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