Kasur (also spelt Qasur), a small town near Lahore, Pakistan, is in a region which was famous for the ‘melody in its air and soil’. A large number of Sufi saints spread their message of love in the area. Their lives were imbued with music and they often presided over baithaks of rich classical fare. The great poet Bulleh Shah was from these parts and gave to the world his priceless sufiana kalam. The region saw the advent and growth of a great cultural era in which the dhrupad and khayal styles flourished along with the beautiful kafi, tappa and the rich folk music of the region.
It was from this ambience that Ustad Ali Baksh Khan and Ustad Kale Khan, with their abundant talent, brought to Patiala the fragrance, beauty and elegance of their own well established gharana of Kasur. From this fusion, emerged a powerful and melodious gayaki which was emphasized, clear and with meaningful bols, sparkling tans, intricate layakari and gamak. Genres of thumri and ghazal have a special place in this gharana. At the turn of the 20th century, Ali Baksh Khan was blessed with a son who was later to become the legendary Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Other sons followed – Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan and Ustad Aman Ali Khan. All these brothers, greatly inspired by the beauty of their inherited style, made their own invaluable Patiala-Kasurgayaki.
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan – Thumri – Ab Tohe Jane Nahi Dun :
Ajoy Chakrabarty – Thumri – Kaisee Bajayee Re Shyam :
Jagdish Prasad – Thumri – Chanchal Naar Dodhari Kataria :
Parween Sultana – Khayal – Det Badhai Sain Ko :
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (1901-1968) was a giant in the world of music who brought the Patiala-Kasurgayaki to the international stage. His singing was chiseled by years of devoted riyaz and infused with his phenomenal creativity in an endless striving towards perfection. His was a full throated, highly cultivated and melodious voice in which he rendered intricate layakari with ease and dignified finesse. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s contribution to the khayal thumri form was phenomenal and full of creativity. He also created the magnificent Surmandal, an instrument that has today become popular with most leading vocalists of the country.
Rasas or emotions that govern human lives are mentioned in the Natya Shastra, the 400 B C ‘bible’ of Indian music, dance and drama. Shringar Rasa, the emotion of romantic love, is the essence of Thumri and its allied forms, Dadra, Kajri, Jhoola, Sawan, Hori and Chaiti. Thumri is a short piece of semi-classical rendition usually sung at the conclusion of a classical music concert. Thumri is based on the romantic-devotional literature inspired by the Radha-Krishna love theme. The words are strictly adhered to, and the singer attempts to interpret them with his/her melodic improvisations. It is quite usual for a singer to deviate from the rendered Raga, but momentarily.
Most connoisseurs of art feel this strong urge to display their own preferences and taste in that particular art form. Almost everytime, deep inside them, they wish to see nods of approval from others, that their taste is indeed perfect and deserving of a true evaluator. Here are some more gems from my favourite playlist of Hindustani classical music, subject to your nods ..and nudges, of course.
In India, the common house crow (kaga or kagwa in hindi) is a widespread resident, except in high altitudes and dense forests. It is wholly dependent on human habitation for it’s survival. This highly vocal bird is seemingly unafraid of humans. Aggressive, it will attack and chase off any large bird of prey. Strangely, the crow has been given a place of pride in our classical music. For reasons unknown it has played the role of a lover’s messenger (“Ja Kaga Ja“), which in many a lyrical khayals, is even promised a ‘gold plated beak’ in return of favours rendered (“Ab Ke Sawan Ghar Aaja“). Pigeons, the otherwise commonly known messenger birds, have been given a back seat here.
Almost all vocalists have pleaded with this glossy black bird to pass on a message, in all Ragas possible, RagaDesi, Bageshri and Pahadi being the more common ones, although other Ragas are not being discounted.