Golden milestones is a collection of cassettes and CDs which is exclusive in many ways. Firstly, it is a series comprising recordings of some of the truly great artistes of the modern Hindustani classical music, both vocal and instrumental. Each one of them has the status of a milestone. Secondly, the recordings go as far back as to the 1930’s and ‘40’s, largely the 78 RPM, which are typically pieces of three and half minutes, with a sprinkling of EPs which are typically pieces of six and half minutes. Thirdly, all the recordings are exclusively with HMV Saregama. It is for the very first time that some of the 78 PRM records are being made available on CDs. The series is essentially a “heritage” series. The artistes chosen have been doyens of the classical heritage and of their respective “gharana”. The charm of the selection lies in the fact that though the chosen pieces are short, the artistes have been able to capture the essence tin the series has developed, each in his/her own way, a brilliant technique to encapsulate in a very short space the golden peaks of vitality and exuberance of classical music.
Something must be said about the range of the artistes as well as of their raga repertoire. The series presents some of the great instrumentalists (e.g. Ustad vilayat khan as well as pandit Ravi Shankar), and some of the vocalists (e.g. Bade gulam ali khan as well as Kesarbai kerkar). These are artistes of preat eminence who had dedicated themselves to maintaining the purity of the inherited tradition as well as developing it further on their own. The raga repertoire of the series too is highly representative of the artistes and their “gharanas”. Listeners will find here ragas and compositions immortalized by these artistes, e.g. Mishra khamaj aalap and gat rendered by Ustad vilayat khan, Gujari todi and the thumri “Yaad piya ki aye” by Ustad bade ghulam ali khan, Basant and the Tilang and bhairavi thumris by Ustad Abdul karim khan.
Ustad Vilayat khan is undoubtedly one of the greatest instrumentalists of the 20th century. Known for its purity of raga-presentation and a silken touch, his sitar-playing has been appreciated by those who value the kantha-sangeet (vocal music) tradition of India. He was born in 1928 in to a family of musicians. The family has the heritage of six or seen generations of musicians, ultimately tracing its roots back to Miyan tansen. Ustad vilayat khan received rigorous training from a very early age under the watchful supervision of his father Ustad enayet khan. After his father’s death in 1938, he received training within the family, from his maternal grandfather, Bande hussain khan, his maternal uncle, Zinda hussain khan, and also from his mother, Bashiran begum. All the three had received rigorous training in vocal music.
It is not surprising therefore that the Ustad should excel in the gayaki style of sitar- playing, a style which moulds the music flowing from the instrument in the true vocal tradition. It is he who was chiefly responsible for bringing into play the vocal style of dhrupad in the unfolding of the structure and mood of the raga. He is unsurpassed in the immaculate delineation of the aalap which is highly meditative, almost spiritual, in its approach. His technical innovations in sitar-playing, adding a further edge to the gayaki style, have had a lasting influence on the later generations of artistes. Thisselection for the Golden milestones consists of ustadji’s repertoire exclusively the 78 RPM and the EPs from a career spanning four decades. Ustad Vilayat khan’s master of the technique for the miniature recordings is amply evident in his aalap and gat combination or the asthai and jalad combination in ragas Gujari todi, Lalat, Shuddha sarang, Chandrakaus and Madhuvanti. The seven-minute rendering of panchamse pilu is a musical marvel.
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