A legacy worth celebrating
The longevity of art depends on the inheritance of its practice. Generations of Indian classical musicians have shown how art can be immortalised by holding on to their distinctive legacies and traditions. A recent solo sarod recital by Amaan Ali Khan at the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre was the perfect portrayal of artistic legacy being passed down through the generations. Amaan gracefully took his position in front of a beautifully decorated portrait of his grandfather and pioneering musician, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. The Gwalior Gharana of instrumental music was popularised by Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan in the late 19th century in spite of the predominance of vocal music back then. Amaan reminded us of the contributions of this virtuoso of the sarod.
He commenced his performance with the popular afternoon raga, Bhimpalasree, breaking the predictability of its movement from the very beginning. He emphasised the komal gandhar and restricted the rotation primarily to the lower and the middle octaves. The joyfulness of the raga flourished in the alaap and climaxed beautifully in the upper octave. The alaap was followed by a gat set to rupak taal. The rhythm of the rendition escalated with the uneven beats of the taal and was enhanced by the variations on the tabla played by Anubrata Chattopadhyay and Ishaan Ghosh. The style of these two artists was distinctively different, adding to their charm. Their coordination with the sarod was flawless. This collaboration became more powerful in the madhyalay and drut teentaal gats, leaving the audience in a soulful trance.
His second choice was Raga Lalita Gauri, which has a totally different tone from the previous one. The quietude of the raga was established in its long and innovative alaap. Lalita Gauri is amongst the favourites of Amaan’s father, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and the former took on the challenge of presenting his own discovery of, and imprint on, the raga. His expert playing of the komal rishav brought out the essence of this raga. Unlike the joviality of Bhimpalasree, Raga Lalita Gauri filled the auditorium with a sense of peace. The 14-beat adachowtaal gat made this raga more arresting. The subtlety of Anubrata Chattopadhyay’s tabla was noteworthy.
Lalita Gauri was followed by Raga Nandkauns, which changed the mood yet again. Amaan’s absorption with the raga was key to conveying its depth to the audience. The fast pace of jhamptaal evoked a magical atmosphere through its many tihais, paltas and taans, both short and prolonged. Amaan’s interactions with the tabla resonated with listeners. He left ample scope for his accompanists to shine — Anubrata Chattopadhyay’s playing was characterised by smoothness, while young Ishaan Ghosh demonstrated skill with speed and clarity. The programme concluded with a scintillating version of Raga Kirwani, which brought together the emotions of love, joy and sorrow. The mellifluousity of the raga was overwhelming for the audience.
The magical blend of speed and expertise embodied by Amaan is the true legacy of Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan whose depth and musicality are now being upheld by the seventh generation of the Gwalior Gharana. All this is courtesy of the superb and rigorous training of Amaan by his father, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, a true upholder of parampara.