Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tabla Yogi Khaprumama and the Shahenshah of Sitar

We suppose the last available recording of musicologist Dr. Balaji Pathak, father of Missus, was done by none else than YT. It was a Yaman recorded in 1984 at Ram Bhawan, Allahabad. The tabalchi turned up late and Dad was initially constrained to sing a dhamar, while we were anticipating a khayal with his booming taans. No, explained Dad, layakari has lost a great deal in the decline of dhrupad and dhamar. (Of course the tabalchi did come and the historical recording is here). It was then that we learnt about the great ӍҞji of ᵹἅ from Dad. If Ustad Nizamuddin Khan played his last bols on the पोळपाट , ӍҞ did it on his chest. The craft is similar to the one we discussed in the post on taal enrichment in chha gaye baadal, and represents the theoretical or  academic underpinning of the practitioner's art.

The following passage is taken verbatim from Rajan Parrikar’s unique site, and is narrated in his own voice by an Icon of the Music World:

Mama (d.. 1953)
It was in the mid forties that I first met and came to know ӍҞji of ᵹἅ. My friend, the wonderful tabla player and teacher Taranath Hattangadi was the one who got us together. I had already known about ӍҞji as a pakhawaj player, but learnt more about his layakari and ginatkari or the tremendous command over the calculative approach of laya, tempo and taalas,  rhythmic cycles. I even had heard a 78 rpm 3.5 minutes record of his where against a nagma of lehra on sarangi playing teel taal of 16 beats he first counted in numbers ranging from nine to fifteen and recited a short pakhawaj bol composition for each of the numbers. Hearing this record I had marvelled at his uncanny control and ability to do this. One found such perfect  control over laya very much there in the North till the early 20th century, mostly among the dhrupad and dhamar singers and pakhawaj players and some kathak dancers. But (it waned) with the popularity of khayal singing alongwith sitar, sarod and sarangi and  tabla, when most of the musicians developed and concentrated upon more tayyari (virtuosity), beauty, and to attract, please, and excite the listeners even more. Of course there were some rare exceptions, whereas in the Caranatic system of south precision of laya had always been there among the singers, instrumentalists and specialist drum players and is more so even today. This aspect has improved in North Hindustani system in general since about 40-50 years. I personally was attracted and applied layakari as much as raagdari from my earliest musical career. I found ӍҞji, may be in his seventies then, to be a sweet natured, very simple old man, without any air of being such a unique musician. Out of 3 or 4 times that I saw ӍҞji, he was once in my recital at some music circle at Bombay sitting in the front. Boyyyy......was I nervous that evening! But I was rewarded afterwards, by his appreciation and blessings. In the other meetings I remember having requested him to recite some bandishes and complicated countings. He lighted up and I heard some mind- boggling complex drum compositions orally from him. He always was counting new ones even in his sleep. His breathing and even talking was affected by very fast pulses as micro-divisions of beats. He even talked like this ....I /have/heard/you..~dha/dhin/dhin/na...(laughs) etc. Like some of the very great musicians I met in my life I will always cherish the memory of this astounding person ӍҞji.

The identities have been masked for the time-being as a ploy to just underline the harsh truth of the day: “if you don’t blow your own trumpet, people will use it as a spittoon...” (apologies if you have guessed identities or already know boss...)

While we come up with the missing pieces of the jigsaw shortly, we’d leave behind the following thoughts: (a) the speaker of the passage above is highly articulate, cultured, and polite- ӍҞ  JI he always says (b) remarkable is the meticulousness and punctiliousness our Icon displays about theory and practice of his own craft [*](c) the greatest exponent of his instrument is nervous sighting Nobody in the front row, and cherishes the approbation bestowed on him by Nobody after the recital (d) the part of the iceberg we see is only 1/14th of the whole...(hint: sitarist in URL, he,he,he...)

We’ll also scandalise about a calcareous spindle in the cupboard of Hindi Film Music- the who and why of a tribe called the “Arranger”...  in the new post...

[*]  The experiments go like this: fitting a composition in ektaal into a frame of teentaal, or fitting 15 matras into a teentaal of 16 matras. That's why our music is called 'shastriya'...based on principles...why call it 'Classical' ...isn't that another sample of those slavish practices?

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