Friday, 19 September 2008

The Hoax of the Century - II

[Continued from Part I]

Q. You just mentioned three forms of the North Indian music. Are they all counted as classical music?”

A. “That depends on how refined an example of each type may be and how excellently it may be presented by any particular singer. There may be a ‘classical’ performance of a ‘Natyasangeet’ or a pedestrian performance of the finest of Khyals.”

Q. “What are the lakshanas of the Khyal in Hindustani music?”

A. “The Khyal is one among several extant types of North Indian music, like the Dhrupad, Dhamar, Hori, Kajri, Thumri, Dadra, Tappa, Qawwali and others. It is certainly the most difficult type of North Indian music to perform adequately and yet it has become the most popular form of North Indian classical music, because out of the five essentials, the pseudo-Khyaliyas have simply eliminated sahitya, rasa and tala and made an efficacy from svara and raga, camouflaged with the cover of tans (alankars) with no reference to the image of the cheez or composition. To carry the simile further: a single match stick could burn the effigy down in a trice. Just ask a Khyaliya “What are you singing about?” If he had a sense of humour, he might answer – “Five thousand rupees”, or whatever his fee was. But they don’t have a sense of humour, nor do their dumb patrons have any and that’s how the farce of “Classical Hindustani music” flourishes and grows. You remember the little child in Hans Anderson’s “The Emperor’s new Clothes”? We have long since passed that age when an innocent little child could show up the farce by saying – “Look, the Khansaheb isn’t singing any cheez at all, he is just exercising his lungs”. Today we need the sword of Mansurji, heralding the end of a yuga, to put all bogus artists in their place and to stop them fooling everyone.”

But we are living are living in a world of ‘make-belief’ from bogus swamis and bogus beggars even – ‘Ersatz culture’ all the way down. There’s nothing our mechanical world cannot simulate – ready- made heroes, ready-to-swallow opinions and ready-made awards and instant glory.

But let us for a moment pull ourselves back from the jetset age to that of the horse and the buggy and the palanquin. No media men to manufacture ‘messages’ and opinions. It is rather the sophisticated age of the later Moghuls. The scene of classical music had shifted from the temple to the Moghul court. The audience could be counted on one’s elbow tips, but they were men of learning and taste. By Muhammad Shah’s time, the Dhrupad had already declined to a duel between the singer and the drummer – a denudation of all rasa and bhava. It was at that

point that the Khyal emerged as a reaction to the soulless Dhrupad. The time-filling alap of the Dhrupad was dispensed with and many alankars were introduced into the body of the composition, always consistent with the meaning of the words of the composition. In place of the four parts of the Dhrupad, the Khyal consisted of only two parts – the astai and antara. The tals of the Khyal were simpler than those in Dhrupad. Otherwise the essential dignity of the dhrupad was preserved in full.

But the forte of the Khyal was the manner of its improvisation. An authentic singer of the Khyal had to be quite as musically versatile as its composer. He had to virtually create new compositions (bandishes) with the cheez in all his improvisations and not merely mechanical permutations and combinations of the notes of the raga. Just imagine what this involves by way of training and skill. You cannot have teenage prodigies giving public recitals of Khyal as you may have youngsters making a mark in instrumental music. Here to a knowledgeable rasika can easily distinguish between mere ‘control of an instrument’ and real depth of exposition.

Then, the singing of the sargam in a Khyal recital is the most infantile of inanities in Hindustani music. It was probably introduced by Abdul Karim Khan to flatter South Indian audiences, and Parween Sultana has built her reputation from this infantilism and no one has pointed out how ridiculous it is. But in the traditional school of the Khyal, the names of the svaras are not mentioned even in the tuition stage and yet they have the finest of Khyal compositions with the subtlest modulation of svaras.

In the Khyal you see the art of musical improvisation at its best, something you do not meet in any other form of North Indian vocal music. Yet it must all seem effortless and not as if the singer was contesting in a tournament of tans and tals as Krishnarao Shankar Pandit gives the impression he was.

The proper facility for vistara (improvisation) requires first the foundation of a few hundred merited compositions learnt by talim, from a guru in the Khyal tradition and not merely from a graduate of the Bhatkhande School. After a few decades of practice based on those compositions, so that the vistara will be not just a grammatical elaboration of the raga but a thematic elaboration of the cheez, through new bandishes in every avartana. Such an elaboration cannot be extended beyond 15 to 20 minutes for a cheez, if repetition is to be avoided. I marvel at the tolerance of our audience who are prepared to sit grimly through the “systematic grinding of a raga” by the pseudo-Khyaliyas, in imitation of the inferior instrumentalists.”

Q. “Now that you mention it, it did not strike me that the present day Hindustani vocalists are actually imitating the manner of the instrumentalists who are “free from the tyranny of words!”

A. “Not merely that; when instrumentalists were exposed to good vocalists, their instrumental music likewise had the quality of bandishes – whole and complete phrases – as represented by that greatest of instrumentalists of this century – Ustad Bundu Khan.

That quality now, belongs to the past. Unfortunately our present day musicians have never heard either vocal or instrumental music of that quality, which goes by the name of gayaki ang. Today this term is not understood (or represented) even by reputed masters like Ravi Shankar because they simply have not heard vocal music of the gayaki ang.”

Q. “Then where would one encounter the real gayaki ang in the Khyal?”

A. “Eminently in the music of Sadarang. There are scores of Khyal compositions of Sadarang, in which a single astai contains more beautiful bandishes than one would hear in a whole concert of the pseudo-Khyaliyas.”


[Continued in Part III]

3 comments:

indianidollive said...

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Sushama said...

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Chetan Vinchhi said...

indianidollive said...

> This letter is to inquire
> if you would be interested
> in hosting your links on
> our site.

I am all for this. But I have 3 conditions:

1. Bring classical-based rounds into the competition. The so-called classical forays by participants are lame and the useless judges keep applauding sub-par renditions of the fast-fast tarana bols of "laagaa chunarii me.n daag"

2. Throw out useless judges (e.g. Javed Akhtar who is partisan, is embarrasingly sexist, knows nothing about music but pretends to, over-uses "talaffuz" just because he thinks he can say it correctly and is generally a royal pain in the...) and bring in good ones. Sonu Nigam was the best so far.

3. In addition to paying 1 crore (or whatever the current stakes are) to the winner, distribute 1 crore among, say, 10-20 excellent but poor classical musicians. Yeah, yeah, you can have your SMS votes for that, but candidates have to be screened by us.