This recording captures one of the highlights of the 2005 Saptak festival, a twelve day annual celebration of India’s finest musical talents held in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Rashid Khan’s consummate rendition of Raga Jogkauns held the packed house at the Kashiram Hall spellbound on the evening of the 7th January 2005 with a performance reaffirming his status as a doyen of North Indian Khayal singing.
In spite of having the good fortune to be born great-grandson to Ustad Enayat Hussain Khan, founder of Rampur-Sahaswan Vocal Gharana, Rashid showed little or no interest in music as a young child. However, his tutelage under his illustrious grand-uncle and guru, the late Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, changed the course of his life. It was Nissar Hussain Khan who discovered the latent potential of his grandson and nurtured it by training him in the traditional one-to-one manner, first at his own residence at Budaon and subsequently at the Sangeet Research Academy where Rashid was resident until 1999. Nissar Hussain Khan was a strict disciplinarian and the long and arduous training under his guru moulded Rashid Khan into a perfect exponent of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana, a tradition which boasts a great lineage of classical vocalists including the great Ustads Wazir Khan, Enayat Hussain Khan, Bahadur Hussain Khan, Fida Hussain Khan and Mustaq Hussain Khan. Rashid gave his first performance at the age of eleven in 1977, and in the very next year performed at the prestigious ITC Sangeet Sammelan at New Delhi.
The history of Khayal has been dominated by several families of musicians who have shaped the course of North Indian classical music through the development of their own distinct approaches to classical music through the development of their own distinct approaches to classical singing. These gharanas form the backbone of Indian music today, each holding its own particular vision and rendering of the different ragas.
Khayal, originating from a Persian word meaning imagination, is the most popular genre of North Indian classical vocal music, designed to give the singer utmost scope for improvisation. Originating in the courts of the Moghul emperors as a less rigid alternative to the Dhrupad style, it has evolved into a remarkably flexible form that allows an artist’s individuality considerable rein. Even within the past five decades the form has undergone many changes, some of those initiated by Rashid khan. The performance of khayal usually involves two elements, the main bada (big) khayal followed by the chotta (small) khayal. The main difference lies in the tempo, bada khayal sung in slow, or vilambit speed, with the chotta khayal sung in medium of fast tempo. Khayal has several schools following different style traditions. Most of these gharans have been built around certain families or specific locations like Gwalior and Rampur. Gharanas traditionally followed the guru-shishya system of instruction in which direct, one-on-one teaching and personal supervision meant a clearer and therefore deeper understanding, of both the tradition of that gharana, the raga, and of the role of a particular style in exploring and presentation of each raga. Enayat Hussain, the founder of the Rashid Khan’s gharana, hailed from Sahaswan and was trained and lived in Rampur, hence, this gharana came to be called Rampur Sahaswan.
It’s always been a struggle for khayal singers to establish themselves on the ‘world music’ scene, because of the barrier of language. In fact, the lyrical content of the khayal while certainly enhancing the beauty of the presentation is widely regarded as secondary to the ability of the performer to improvise within the framework of the specific raga. The emphasis on lyrical content varies from artist to artist, many of the texts of khayal are written in an ancient form of Hindi known as Brij Bhasha. Khayal has also had a profound influence on instrumental music. For the vocalist improvised note patterns, or tans can be constructed around various sounds, for example aakar tans are sung to the vowel syllable ‘aa’, sargam tans are sung to the names of the notes (sa, re, ga etc) and bol tans are sung to the syllables of the words used in the text of the composition. Rashid Khan has developed the ability to incorporate a variety of tans into his repertoire, Sargam tans are a relatively new feature of Rashid Khan’s gharana but the singer employs them to great effect towards the end of the bada khayal in track 3.
Raga Jogkauns is an ingenious musical concept created by Jagannathbuwa Purohit Gunidas in the middle part of the last century, making it reatively modern by Indian music standards. It successfully combines Raga Jog and Raga Chandrakauns, two of India’s most popular and distinctive ragas, creating a new raga with its own personality. The recital begins with a soulful alap outlining the main melodic phrases of the raga. Most of Rashid’s performance is then taken up with an extended exposition of the raga in Vilambit Ektaal, a show tempo twelve beat rhythm cycle. This pace allows the singer the opportunity to fully explore the whole range of his repertoire. Throughout the recital the Murad Ali’s bowed Sarangi skillfully echoers the singers melodic patterns. Above all else Rashid Khan’s music captures the essence of ‘Tasir’, that rare quality which describes the ability of an artist to create a genuinely felt emotional response from the listener. Echoes of a great past, a golden era for Indian vocal music that was almost given up for lost are felt here in a sublime performance reminding us that Rashid Khan has made his own indelible mark on the art of khayal.
1. Alap- (8.06)
2. Bada Khayal in Vilambit Ektaal (34.08)
3. Bada Khayal- Part 2- (8.38)
4. Bandish in Teentall- (8.46)
Ustaad Rashid Khan- Vocals
Gopal Krishna- Table
Murad Ali- Sarangi
Mehmood Dhaulpuri- Harmonium
Alpesh Patel- Executive producer.