A Rare Pairing: Jnan Prakash Ghosh and V.G. Jog

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The obiquitous harmonium or hand pump organ, were it to be classified within the caste structure of Hindu society, would definitely not be considered a Brahmin.    It is far too common and lowly for that.  Perhaps the rank of shudra, those who service the rest of society, is more appropriate.  Like the shudra or lower castes the harmonium provides an essential, indeed, indispensable service to Indian musicians, especially singers.

Whereas about 150 years ago, before the current version of the harmonium was reinvented for Indian conditions by Dwarkanath Ghose, it was the sarangi that vocalists chose to accompany them.  But over the years as musical tastes, technologies and consumption patterns changed the harmonium has succeeded in almost totally pushing the sarangi to one side.

Now every singer of ghazals, geets, bhajans, qawwali, nat and kirtans either plays the harmonium her/himself as she/he sings or has someone sitting close to her/him who keys out the melody line.  Though purists continue to look down their noses at the instrument–its foreign, its ugly, its cheap–and for nearly 25 years it was forbidden (!) to be played on All India Radio, its place in the concert hall is as secure as that of the tabla or sitar.

Though it is often a scorned instrument, there are many absolutely fantastic, nay, virtuoistic harmonium players from all rungs of professional and informal music worlds.  In the villages it is played with a rough raw abandon that is a wonder to behold. On classical and semi classical stages it is more demure–often simply peppering the vocal lines by way of emphasis.  The number of qawwalis that open with extended harmonium solos are far too many to count.   But despite its amazing versatility across genres and styles the harmonium has rarely ever been given center stage. As an instrument worthy in its own right  to be heard, to sing, to fly as a voice as serious as Ravi Shankar’s sitar or Ali Akbar Khan’s sarod.

But all that is about to change today!

While digging around in my collection I came upon this fantastic and rare (in concept, if not in availability) recording.  A jugalbandi (musical conversation) between the violin, played by the legendary Prof. V.G. Jog and the harmonium played by percussionist and all round musican Jnan Prakash Ghosh.

I’ve been listening to this over and over, thrilling to the idea and sound of one of my favorite instruments, finally getting the recognition it deserves.  To make its case and assert that it is not content to just sit on the sidelines ‘servicing’ the stars of the show but that it too is worthy of being fully in the limelight.

This particular record was issued in 1985 but there is an earlier recording of the two gentlemen made in 1967.  I’m not sure whether they are one and same and this one is a reiusse of the original or if there are multiple such jugalbandis out there. But I’m on the case, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy this tremendous and unusual recital.

 

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Track Listing:

  1. Shyam Kalyan
  2. Jhinjhoti and Misra Kalengra with Dhun Kaharwa

Jugalbandi Ho!

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Early Sound: Shiv Kumar Sharma

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The Kashmiri Samrat of the santoor, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, has been playing his magical instrument for nigh on to 65 years now. And it never fails to thrill me to hear the mezrab (mallets) gently knock against one of the one hundred strings of the instrument.

 

The flute, the jaltarang, the tabla and of course, the sitar, all evoke India from the very first notes they sound. And so too, does the santoor, possibly the most electric of all of India’s musical instruments.

 

And sadly for all other players of the instrument, they are destined to live and work in the deep shadows of Pandit Shiv Kumar ji who has so dominated the santoor that he has become synonymous with the instrument.

 

Here is an early (the earliest, some say) recording of the master. Recorded either in 1960 or 1967 and available with a couple different covers (both of which I share) this album pulses with the tingling sounds of the santoor.  Panditji was to develop a more complex, fuller sound in the years to come and as such this recording is certainly not his best. But it is still excellent and I’m pleased to share it with you today.

Track Listing:

  1. Raga Lalit (Gat in Jhaptal &Teental)
  2. Dhun in Bhairavi (Keherwa)
  3. Raga Kalawati (Gat in Teental)
  4. Dhun in Pahadi

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Updated Files: Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

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A few days ago I posted Volume 53 of the Music Pakistan series which features the singing of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali KhanAs mentioned many times already about the Music Pakistan series, a number of tracks on about 7 of the discs are completely unlistenable—damaged beyond repair during the (somewhat shoddy) production process.

Well as so happens from time to time, a reader of the blog reached out with the following message:

When I listened to this great release on the Music Pakistan series by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, I found the Bhopali track very familiar. On investigation it seems I can help you, as all the music you posted from this CD was previously available and I have pristine digital versions of all the tracks…

Talk about tantalising! Of all the corrupted CDs in the box set this volume was the one I regretted the most. And here was someone claiming to have not just listenable and identical versions but pristine copies!

Well, I replied to the mysterious gentleman who shall go only by the initials ‘ljf‘.  And over the course of a couple of emails he laid out his amazing detective work which he’s agreed for me to share.

According to ‘ljf’: Most of the recordings seem to have been digitised from LP’s or 78 RPM’s as there are plenty of pops and crackles, but they are still quite listenable. Almost all the recordings of Bade Ghulam Ali that I have are of poorish technical quality, except for the few LP tracks that he recorded.

A few years ago, on the usual commercial digital  websites like Amazon etc, you could get a download “album” called “Hindustani Classicals Indian Classical Vocal Music” by Bade Ghulam as well as other similar albums by several other artists from around the same era like Gangubai Hangal amongst others (attached is cover from this digital download). They were from a company called NAV Records in 2015. These downloads were in MP3 format and now all seem to have disappeared from the commercial download websites. Mostly these recordings came from Akashvani Sangeet or Doordarshan CD’s released by AIR. This is also true for this digital download of Bade Ghulam from NAV records, which had 19 tracks. The first 9 tracks came from 3 Akashvani Sangeet CD’s (C-ARCH)H 36-38 , but I could never figure out where the other 10 tracks came from. Now I know, because these are exactly the same 10 tracks as on your Music Pakistan CD !

As to the source of these 10 tracks, none are new material, all were previously released on LP, EP or 78 RPM. Tracks 1 & 3, Bhopali & Kamode came from an LP LKDR 1 released in 1970 by EMI-Pakistan called simply “Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan”. This LP has been posted on Tawfiq’s blog a while ago and the covers stated that the music came from Radio Pakistan broadcasts (this LP has also been released by EMI-Pakistan as a digital download, with the same mastering as the original LP). The other tracks came mainly from Gramophone Company of India 78 RPM’s recorded in 1948 which were later re-released on LP’s. Incidentally track 4 labelled as a Piloo thumri is I believe in Manj Khamaj. Likewise track 5 labelled as Raag Kajri is actually a kajri in Raag Bhairavi.

Probably the most interesting track is the Bhopali from the EMI-Pakistan LP. Actually the version on your Music Pakistan CD is slightly different to that released  on the LP. There’s absolutely no doubt it is from the same live performance, but your version is around 1:30 minutes longer than on the EMI-Pakistan LP version (and also on the corresponding digital download). It took me a while to realise that this is a different edit to the version released on the LP. The sound is clearer, though there is more background noise and a section around 1:30 minutes long (starting around 4:00 minutes) has been cut out for the version issued on the LP. Quite exactly what has been going on here is not exactly clear, as it seems likely that some editing has been carried out in India and some in Pakistan. The longer version has some coughing on behalf of Bade Ghulam, and possibly this has been cut out and is the reason for the shortened version making its appearance on the LP.

Attached is a pdf file with a track by track listing of the original  sources for the Shalimar RBC CD. I stress that though the source recording is the same, it seems that these have been all reedited for the Shalimar release. This may have entailed going back to the original 78 RPM’s /EP and re-transcribing them in digital format. I don’t know if
they had access to the original Radio Pakistan recording (presumably done on acetate discs?) but it seems likely as it is around 1:30 longer than on the EMI-Pakistan LP.

Track by track source material for CD Music Pakistan

So here you go folks! Pristine Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

LINK

 

The Big Man: Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

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Continuing with the Music Pakistan CD Box Set, today we share the playable part of Vol. 53.  If you’ve followed this blog and are aware of the Music Pakistan Box Set you’ll know that about 7 of the original CDs were very poorly reproduced.  To the point of being unlistenable. Some tracks were so corrupted by clicks and cracks and other distortion, they rendered the music completely unlistenable.  Other tracks simply don’t play.

And sadly, this is the case for this volume. Of the 10 tracks only 4 are not completely damaged. Luckily, they include a complete rendition of Raga Bhopali and a few other morsels.  Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan himself needs no introduction to lovers of Hindustani gayaki.  Claimed by both India and Pakistan as a native son (and both are true!) Bade Ghulam Ali Khansahib is truly the Big Man of classical Hindustani vocal singing of the first half of the 20th century.

I’ve included a complete set list below but remember, only the first four tracks are presentable.  I’ve also had to improvise a cover for the CD as the original is missing as well.

With those (hopefully acceptable caveats) I present to you volume 53 of Music Pakistan Box Set.

KHUB!

Music Pakistan Nr.53 Classical Vocal

Track Listing:

53-01 Raag Bhopali – Tit Bitat Ghan

53-02 Raag Peelo – Saiyaan Bolo

53-03 Raag Kamode – Chadde Mora Aanchal

53-04 Raag Peelo Thumri – Kankar Maar Jagaiye

53-05 Raag Kajri – Nainan Morey Taras Gayay

53-06 Raag Kedara – Naveli Naar

53-07 Raag Gujri Todi – Bhor Bhai Tori

53-08 Raag Paraj – Latkhat Chalat

53-09 Raag Malkauns – Mandir Dekh

53-10 Raag Jaijaivanti – Un Ki

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Gharanon ki Gayaki: Hameed Ali Khan and Fateh Ali Khan

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Fateh Ali Khan and Hameed Ali Khan

Thank you to a reader of this blog for pointing out that in wrapping up this series of  20 volumes of classical singing from Pakistan I have neglected Volume 18!  And he is right! Apologies for that!

I had the pleasure of hearing Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, one of the featured voices on this volume, in an openair concert in Karachi several years ago. He was a mesmerising presence. I remember he sang an old raga Malkauns and held the audience in the palm of his hand. He sat tall and straight holding his swarmandal in his lap. With eyes closed he started slowly sometimes seeming to do nothing more than groan. But as he sang on the intensity and urgency built and before long his eyes were fully dilated and his open palm at the end of his long extended arm rising and falling with drama.  This was the first I had heard him and of course he stole the show. A genuine master for whom the title ustad is absolutely appropriate.

Bearing the same name as one of the all time great singers of gayaki Fateh Ali Khan‘s life is less well known and documented than his namesake and brother of Amanat Ali Khan.  Even more so his brother and singing partner Hameed Ali Khan. So sadly, I’m not able to share many biographical details with you but then again, probably if you asked them, they would refer you back to the music anyway.

The brothers were proponents of the Gwalior gharana (the other Fateh Ali Khan and Hamid Ali Khan belong to the Patiala gharana) about which I’ve provided a bit of information in earlier posts. But here is another take on that old school of singing which you might enjoy as well.

And so, though a bit out of chronlogical order, this series on Gharanon ki Gayaki does end with this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and that these recordings will accompany you on your way for many years in the future.

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Track Listing:

01. Kafi Kanra

02. Gandhari

03. Bairagi

04. Bhopali

05. Gujri Todi

06. Puriya Kalyan

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