What we now appreciate as Hindustani (north Indian) classical music grew to maturity under the patronage of the great Mughal emperors in the 17th century. Babur, the founder of the Empire, Akbar his grandson, Jehangir, and even the pious Aurangzeb were lovers of music. In their darbars, in Delhi, Agra and Lahore, dhrupad singers were prominent and well respected as well as equally well-rewarded courtesans. Music was very much a vocal art in that epoch with nothing akin to the instrumental soloists that we have become so accustomed to in the modern ear. Still, musical instruments, many adapted from Afghan, Persian and Central Asian instruments, were common and it was during this time that the sitar began to emerge as a popular instrument.
In the 18th century, the Empire was shaky. Ambitious marauders from the north and south could smell the rot. Tributary nobles and rajas on the fringes of Mughalistan asserted their own authority over the great Shahenshah in Delhi. Cities like Dhaka, Lucknow and Hyderabad grew economies and developed societies to which artists of all types began to migrate. The old Indian style of music dhrupad was displaced by a lighter more imaginative style that became known as khyal. It is this style of singing that we love today.
In these regional cities, especially in Gwalior, ambitious and cultured rulers invested heavily in the arts (to use modern language). Singers and their families were invited to settle, practice and indeed, to a certain extent, ‘ invent’ their art. In these cities and in these times many of the established gharanas (schools) of classical music were founded.
The Sikh princely state of Patiala was fabulously rich. As the 20th century dawned and India moved towards Independence, the State’s maharaja, was a debauched fatty who loved cricket, whiskey and women more than statecraft and the social welfare of his people. The music of Patiala was also of an exceptional quality. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, one of the sub-continent’s greatest male voices, was the great proponent of the Patiala gharana.
After Independence in 1947, Patiala was subsumed into the Indian state. His ‘Exhausted Highness” as the Maharaja had been referred to, had died 10 years earlier. But the Patiala gharana lived (and lives) on.
In the new country of Pakistan, the gharana was represented by three brothers: Amanat, Fateh and Hamid. The first two rank in the forefront of Indo-Pakistani classical singers, and in my opinion, Amanat Ali Khan had the best voice of his generation. He sang classical khyal as a duo with his brother Fateh Ali, and in the last years of his short life became a much loved singer of ghazals and nazms. After Amanat’s premature death, Fateh was heart broken and stopped singing for many years but has since returned to the public stage and is considered Pakistan’s greatest living khyal singer.
Youngest brother, Hamid, is often referred to as a classical singer and indeed, he is. But his fame and honour in Pakistan and India derives primarily from his ghazal singing. A serious singer with a strong mid-range voice, Hamid Ali Khan has sung some of the most loved ghazals in Pakistan. The collection tonight is from the Radio Pakistan archives and includes many of these fine interpretations. My own favorites being, Tarq-e-Mohabbat and Abad Nay Dil Kay.
01 Mujh Say Bichar Kay
02 Mumkin Ho Aap Say
03 Chehray Parhta
04 Ghairon Ko Bhala
06 Kab Woh Sunta Hai
07 Sirf Ahsas Ki Aankhon
08 Suna Kar Haal
09 Abad Nay Dil Kay
10 Nahaq Us Zalim Say
11 Ik Moamah Hai
12 Hameen Say Apni
13 Kya Tumay Mera Haal