Munawar Ali Khan was trained under his illustrious father Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan since childhood. One could find Munawar, while in his teens, accompanying his ustad to every concert, diligently following the minutest notes that the master delivered in each sequence. It was the typical style of Punjab, strictly speaking of Patiala, that went deeply into his style – prolific taans, exquisitely patterned sargam, boltan and such other embellishments, all being an assemblage of the total design.
Munawar Ali Khan is a polished musician and the success he has achieved is the result of his persistent strenuous practice besides his talent and precious ‘talim’. He has a deep-controlled sonorous voice which is his natural asset and also possesses an amazing range, vigour and vitality – all reminiscent of his illustrious father. Munawar also delves deep into the fountains of ‘Paachaia Thumri’, ‘Pahadi’ and Punjabi folk that are all forte of musicians of his ‘gharana’.
The vocal tradition of the illustrious Ramour gharana found its best expression in Mushtaque Hussain Khan. The musicians of Rampur claim descent from the great veena player Misri Singh, the son-in-law of Mian Tansen, Mushtqaue Hussain’s father Kalyan Khan happened to be the elder brother of Enayet Hussain whose daughter was given in marriage to the musician. Rampur, as a separate gharana, was recognised only recently because of Mushtaque Hussain’s association with this particular place. The legendary Gwalior and the Shah Shoan gharanas are responsible for a fusion the products of which culminated in the flowering of the musicians of Rampur. Mushtaque Hussain had his training from the stalwarts of this gharana as well as from Mehboob Hussain Khan, better known as Daras Pia of Atrauli and father-in-law of Faiyaz Khan.
The vocalists of Rampur were primarily dhrupad singers, but Mushtaque Hussain introducded the typical khayal singing, not as direct product of dhrupad, but rather as a distinct innovation in style. The characteristic pattern that he introduced in his khayal singing depended firstly on the steady elaboration of each note, the subsequent notes forming a framework for the raga in association with the principal swaras. Mushtaque Hussain’s voice ranged two and a half octaves with ease and fluency. A bit rugged but forceful, his voice seemed steady and distinct, it was moreover appreciated for clarity and range. Each note had a particular significance and he could unearth all its beauty as well as relevance with the raga that the notes described.
With Mushtaque Hussain the suddha ragas had a primary appeal. It was in Yaman that he could find a proper expression of his inner soul, in Kafi he could delight in the full emotive expanse. But that does not mean that he did not find enough to feed his feelings in other ragas. Malhar was his favourite choice and in kut ragas he excelled. His hour-long demonstrations would reveal, in the background, an austere artiste who struggled his entire life for that realization of some basic truth. Even his jubilant trend was highlighted by a markedly disciplinarian attitude to life and art. Mushtaque Hussain was also in proficient in tappa, thumri and tarana – all reflecting his style and personality.
Pandit Omkarnath Thakur’s death in 1967 truly marked the end of an era: the era of ‘monarchs’ in music. He was one of the most colourful personalities and loomed large in the music world for some three decades – during which no music conference in India was complete without him.
Panditji’s rise to fame was dramatic. His forebears were military men but he was born in penury in a far-off Gujrat village and orphaned at 14. He earned his living as a cook and then as a mill-worker. He tried to learn music from temple musicians and street singers till he came face to dace with Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, the great evangelist of Hindustani music.
There was something elusive about Panditji’s personality. He rendered the National Anthem and devotional songs at political conventions and chanted Vedic hymns at literary conferences. He delivered illuminating lectures on musicology, propounded thought-provoking theories and wrote authoritative books on the subject. Although he was steeped in the old shastras and claimed that he was orthodox in his vocalism, his approach to music sounded unconventional. The novel shape he gave his melodies evoked much-animated controversy in the musical ‘milieu’. His was the music that pleased the ear but baffled the mind. This indeed was the secret of the tremendous following he enjoyed.
The most significant talent that has emerged in the world of Indian Classical vocal music in the recent past is that of Parween Sultana. In a short period, she has become a star attraction in many of the Classical music conferences to-day.
Born in Nowgong, Assam, Parween evinced keen interest in music when she was barely six years of age. She received her initial grooming from her father Mohd. Ikramul Majid, who had his training from the late Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Later, at the age of ten, she became the disciple of the noted vocalist and musicologist from Bengal, Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri and took lessons from him for over eight years.
Parween’s singing is marked by pure sensuous joy and she shares it with her appreciative audiences in equal degree. She renders sprightly ‘khayal’, tantalising ‘thumris’ and exotic ‘ghazals’ with felicitous ease. Her presentations, whether classical or light classical, reveal delightful design and proportion. One finds in her performance a happy synthesis of variegated melodic and rhythmic patterns in a truly artistic scheme.
Amongst the present-day generation of Classical vocalist, Prabha Atre ranks very high. Gifted with a very sweet and melodious voice, she had the privilege of being groomed by a stalwart like Hirabai Barodekar and her talented brother, the late Sureshbabu Mane. Added to the innate musicality of the Kirana School, she displays a rare melange of originality, virtuosity, ingenuity and craftsmanship which make her recitals and put her in a class by herself.
She comes from a distinguished family of Poona. Her rigid academic pursuits culminated in her achievement of a doctorate in music. Her tours of the Continents, the U.K. and the States has enriched her experiences in a way that moulds her music patterns in most contemporary fashion.
Her ‘khayal’ singing is particularly striking for its creative revelations and is punctuated by richly decorated ‘alasps’ gliding ‘sargams’ and the vibrant yet intricate taans that present to listeners a very pleasing and euphonious picture of the raga. In ‘thumri’, she conceives tender, lyrical ideas with such richness that one feels her creative resources are inexhaustible.
Ustad Rajab Ali Khan was born on September 3, 1874, at Narsingarh (M.P.) He received his training in music from his father Mughal Khan and his illustrious progeny and disciple, Mubarak Ali Khan, the fountain-head of Jaipur ‘gharana’. Ustad Rajab Ali Khan moved to Dewas and then Kohlapur with his family. He became a disciple of Ustad Bande Ali Khan Beenakar at Pune. Bande Ali Khan is the fountain-head of Kirana ‘gharana’.
Ustad Rajab Ali Khan returned to Dewas as a disciplined, trained and accomplished musician in the early years of 20th Century and remained there ever since. He stormed the country with his vigorous and beautiful music, travelling widely.
In him the pecurality of ‘khayal gayaki’ and Beenkari as well as those of Gwalior-Jaipur-Kirana ‘gharanas’ were beautifully fused. He breathed his last on January 8, 1959, at Dewas.
The style of ‘Purbi gayaki’, the musical tradition of eastern Uttar Pradesh, is marked by its rural vigour, its refined lyricism and eloquent phrasing. With the passing away of the great luminaries like Begum Akhtar, Rosoolan Bai and Siddheshwari Devi, who inherited and enriched the tradition with the magic touch of their vocalism, the music world is left with fewer leading lights to carry forward his multi-splendoured tradition. And Shobha Gurtu is one of them.
Born at Belgaum (now in Karnatka), Shobha Gurtu received her initial lessons in music from her mother Smt. Menakabai Shirodkar, a noted dancer of her time who also had training in vocal music in the Atrauli-Jaipur ‘gayaki’os Ustad Alladiya Khan. Later, she had the privilege of advanced training in Classical singing from Ustad Nathan Khan and in light classical and popular music from Ustad Ghamman Khan. Her father-in-law, Pandit Narayan Nath Gurtu, the erudite scholar and musician, also gave her valued guidance and direction in her artistic pursuit.
What puts Shobha Gurtu in a class by herself is not merely he the unique quality of her warm, sensuous voice, but the equally unique combination of talent and soul that makes her self expression worth listening to, ever so often. She has evolved a technique that lets her negotiate, with equal ease, everything from ‘thumri’, ‘dadra’, ‘holi’, ‘kajri’ and ‘chaiti’ to ‘ghazal’, ‘bhajan’ and Marathi natya sangeet with all their regional and stylistic variations.
One of the foremost exponents of North India Classical music, Sunanda Patnaik ranks high amongst the much-acclaimed Khayal singes of the present day. She hails from Odisha, as a state known as the land of Lord Jagannath, place of legendary Joydev, Vishvanath Kaviraj, Bhima Bhoi, Salbeg, Baldev Rath, Gopal Krushna and other saint-musicians, Sunanda imbibed musical spirit and religious fervour at a tender age.
Sunanda was born a prodigy. Her illustrious father, late Baikunthanath Patnaik, took all the care for her training at an early age. Sunanda took rigorous training from Pandit Omkarnath Thakur whose manner of presentation has left an indelible mark on the singing of Sunanda. Her tuneful voice, extraordinary flexibility, astounding range and emotional exposition are the remarkable features of performance. Amongst living exponents, Kumar Gandharva’s performance seems to have influenced Sunanda partially.
Sunanda is a dedicated artiste. With maturity, she has developed a distinctive style of her own and her approach towards a raga, its expansion and her flights of imagination with emotional urge are fascinating and unique. While her forte is khayal and tarana, special mention should be made of her renderings of Bhajans which sparks with inconceivable ecstasy of deep devotion.