Indian classical instrumental is a much sought after genre of music all over the world today. Gone are the days when listeners from Western countries could not make out if the instrument that was being played was sarod or sitar. The only sound that convinced Westerners that the music is really Indian was the constant drone of the tanpura. But thereafter, of course, the sounds of the sitar strings became recognizable everywhere and even got featured in a few Hollywood movies of the 1950s and 1960s. The sound was also noticed by many Rock bands of the West and some experimented with it in their music.
Bismillah Khan – Malkauns (Shehnai) :
Hariprasad Chaurasia – Pilu (Bansuri) :
Ali Akbar Khan – Gour Sarang (Sarod) Vocals: Asha Bhonsle :
Anoushka Shankar – Shuddha Sarang (Sitar) :
Note: Please inter-change the names of the last two songs after you download them. They were wrongly named while uploading.
Indian classical musicians worship their instruments as if the Goddess of knowledge, music and art, Saraswati, bestowed them to them herself. During the Monterey International Pop Festival of 1967, legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix smashed his guitar all over the stage and later burned it into flames at the finale of his performance. Another guitarist, Pete Townshend, followed suit by breaking his guitar into bits and pieces. In sheer contrast, Pandit Ravi Shankar, who also participated, lifted the sitar to his forehead as a mark of respect for the art and the instrument. Recently, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was seen weeping when his sarod was damaged during a flight. Herein lies the divinity of Indian classical music.
Indian classical music is a part of the Indian heritage, and is said to be found in the oldest scriptures, namely the Vedas. Indian instrumental music is a part of the classical music and is a much revered tradition of India. Globally, Indian instrumental classical music has greater acceptance than classical vocal music. The reason attributed for this is that the lyrics in Indian vocal music are incomprehensible to people other than Indians. Presented here are four of the most delightful performances on various instruments.
Ustad Bismillah Khan (1916-2006) was perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous and popular instrument and bringing it into the mainstream Indian classical music. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai were almost synonymous. Bismillah Khan was born in a small village called Dumraon in the state of Bihar, on November 21, 1916. His early childhood was spent in Benares, on the banks of the Ganga, where his uncle was the official shehnai player in the famous Vishwanath temple. His father was a musician for the Dumraon state.
He started his training under the guidance of his maternal uncle, Ali Bux, at the age of six. He often accompanied him to perform at marriage celebrations or music conferences. Bismillah Khan made a recording for the first time in 1930. However it was sold in the name of a relative, Vilayat Hussain, a more popular musician at the time. He made his first major public appearance in 1930 at the age of 14, when he played along with his uncle at the All India Music Conference in Allahabad. His second performance was at the Music Conference at the Lucknow exhibition, where he won a gold medal for his recital.
Bismillah Khan – Kajri Keharwa :
Bismillah Khan – Chaiti Dhun :
Bismillah Khan – Thumri Bhairavi – Aaye Na Balam :
Bismillah Khan – Dhun (from the film ‘Goonj Uthi Shehnai’) :
Bismillah Khan – Dhun – Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram :
Bismillah Khan had the ability to produce intricate sound patterns on the shehnai which, till before his time, were considered impossible on this instrument. The Government of India bestowed on him the title Padma Shree in 1961, and later, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. In 2001, he became the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, after M S Subbulakshmi and Pandit Ravi Shankar. Bismillah Khan died of cardiac arrest on August 21, 2006. He was 90. The Government of India declared one day of national mourning on his death, an event unprecedented for any musician.
The idea of Jugalbandi (duet) perhaps was born out of the curiosity of both the artist and listeners to see how a certain star or style fares in relation to another. The modern day jugalbandi is a ‘duel with a difference‘ in that it is a highly positive and creative exercise, born of the great degree of mutual respect between the players. The object is primarily to create synergy of sound in a celebration of the solidity of structure in Indian classical music which enables two perfect strangers to come together before an audience and make music together on the spot. For the listener however, it cannot be denied that the spirit of competition between titans is of great attraction. Perhaps, it is this which makes jugalbandi the most popular concert format in comtemporary times.
Sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan had a minor, but distinguished, presence as a jugalbandi artist. During the 1950’s he did several memorable concerts with the sarod maestro, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, whom he admired immensely. During the 1960s, he released two LPs of duets with his brother, Ustad Imrat Khan, on the surbahar. Thereafter, the sitar-surbahar duet of the brothers was also featured sporadically on the concert circuit. Starting from the 1980s, Vilayat Khan occasionally performed duets with his son, Shujaat Khan, on the surbahar.
By far the most durable, and also successful, partnership Ustad Vilayat Khan enjoyed was with the Shehnai maestro, Ustad Bismillah Khan. It was a reflection of their mutual affection and respect, as much as their parity in stature and compatibility as musicians. Their concerts were always sold out, and their recordings are prized collector’s items.
Raga Khamaj – Gat in Keharva Tal Part 1 : (Download)
Raga Khamaj – Gat in Keharva Tal Part 2 : (Download)
Raga Khamaj – Gat in Keharva Tal Part 3 : (Download)
Notice the excellent rapport between the two maestros, and the ecstasic and electrifying built-up towards the end. Ustad Vilayat Khan also sings in the above compositions. Accompanying them on the tabla is Sabir Khan.