Gharanon ki Gayaki: Asad Amanat Ali and Hamid Ali Khan

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Hamid Ali and Asad Amanat Ali 

Continuing with the Patiala gharana this volume (the 12th) features the voices of Asad Amanat Ali Khan, son of Ustad Amanant Ali Khan and Hamid Ali Khan, youngest brother of the same great man and his brother Ustad Fateh Ali Khan.

Hamid Ali has a significant following in Pakistan though it has been hard to break out of the shadow of his two big brothers who are regardest as some of the finest classical vocalists ever to emerge out of the South Asian soil. His voice is slightly more gravelly than his siblings but when combined with that of his famous nephew, Asad Amanant, it works very nicely.  In recent years he has been re-discovered for a new generation of fans by the innovative (and sometimes maligned) fusion-folk Coke Studio television series.

The younger Amanat Ali made his name in the 80s and 90s as a popular film and ghazal singer with a voice that inhabits the lighter sweeter side of things. Its a pleasure to hear him in the present classical setting.

The Punjabi gharanas (Patiala, Talwandi, Sham Chaurasi) are famous in large part for their pairing of two males voices and on this wonderful recording it is such a pleasure to listen to two men who know each other’s style so well.  Hamid Ali and Asad Amanant have made many recordings together (mostly ghazals) and are therefore, simpatico partners able to bring out the best in each other. This is one of my favorite volumes in this series.

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Track Listing:

01 Malkauns

02 Behag

03 Marva

04 Purvi Dhanshree

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Gharanon ki Gayaki: Fateh Ali Khan

Fateh Ali Khan

Ustad Fateh Ali Khan

Fateh Ali Khan is one of those singers who is consistently described in the most superlative terms and compared to the greatest of previous generations.  To learn more about this amazing artist here is must read article full of information and anecdote.

The Patiala gharana like the Kirana gharana is an illustrious one. Home to the giant (in more ways than one) Bade Ghulam Ali Khan as well as the legendary Barkat Ali Khan the Patiala gharana is one of three Punjabi lineages.

This gharana tends to favour pentatonic ragas for their ornamentation and execution of intricate taans. Ektaal and Teentaal are the most common taals chosen by members of this gharana. Besides khyal, exponents sing the Punjab-Ang thumri.

The special feature of Patiala is its rendering of taans. These are very rhythmic, vakra (complicated) and firat taans, and are not bound by the rhythmic cycle. Taans with clear aakar are presented not through the throat but through the naabhi (navel).

This gharana has been criticized for neglecting basic raga characteristics such as the primary development octave and for overusing ornaments and graces without considering the nature and mood of the raga.

While singing khyal the khatka and murki are utilized, and the presentation of the khyal is embellished with bol-banav, bol-taan, sargam, meend and keeping to the laya and rhythmic cycle. (Wikipedia)

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Track Listing Vol. 9:

01 Bageshri

02 Naraini

03 Madhmadh Sarang

04 Multani

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ghar 10

Track Listing Vol. 10:

01 Bheempalasi

02 Megh

03 Shahana

04 Shyam Kalyan

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ghar 11

Track Listing Vol 11:

01 Bhopali

02 Kedara

03 Bairagi

04 Patdeep

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Too much loss: Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan

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Eighty two years ago Fateh Ali Khan was born into a family of courtly singers in the Indian princely state of Patiala. His father and grandfather had established themselves as prized royal servants and indeed, had been instrumental in founding an entirely new gharana of classical Indian music.

 

The young boy grew up learning the intricacies of khyal and the ancient mode of singing, dhrupad. He was an excellent student. He would sit at the side of his elder brother Amanat Ali to perform for the maharaja who quickly promoted the lads to official positions in the court.

 

The brothers travelled across India to sing at the major music festivals and ‘conferences’ where they wowed the staid and serious audiences. In the rarified world of north Indian classical music, Amanat and his younger brother, Fateh were as close to superstars as you could get.

 

Though they were blessed with golden voices (Fateh specialized in the lower registers, balancing the elegiac tenor of his brother) they shared a curse with an entire generation of Indians.

 

In 1947 their country was divided. A sort of inchoate whirlwind swept up Indians from all across the northern tier of the country and dropped them to earth, crushing families, livelihoods and dreams by the million.

 

Like countless other Muslims, Fateh’s family made its way to a new place called Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, hoping and praying it would a mini paradise on earth.   Whatever the country eventually became, in those early years, Pakistan was in chaos. The country needed administrators, soldiers, judges and teachers. Classical musicians, no matter how gifted, were completely ignored.

 

The family scraped together a meagre living, teaching and performing from time to time. There were offers and invitations from fellow musicians to return to India where at least some musical structures existed. Where audiences still existed. Where patronage still existed.

 

But Fateh and Amanat declined. They stayed loyal to Pakistan and eventually garnered a name for themselves. Radio and then TV welcomed them. Private mehfils were still few and far between but at least they were singing and recording.

 

Disaster struck again in 1974 when Amanat by now one of Pakistan’s most loved and accomplished voices, passed. Fateh sank into despair. In a grand gesture he refused to sing for several years, and when he at last took the stage again, tears stained his cheeks.

 

Yesterday, Fateh Ali Khan himself passed away. His life was bittersweet and touched repeatedly by death. His nephew, Amanat’s son, Asad, himself a master singer passed away at a young age. Despite his lineage, accomplishments and talent, Fateh was never able to make much money as a singer. The old patronage system had died in 1947. The only regular support he could count on was state TV and radio. Hardly enough to raise a family on.

 

He did find audiences outside of Pakistan, not just in India but in Europe, Japan and North America, too. Teaming up with his younger brother, Hamid or his son, Shafqat, Fateh Ali continued to make impressive music for many years.   But a certain sadness accompanied him throughout his life. In his eyes, voice and words there was always the tinge of regret and loss. As if all things irreplaceable had been snatched from him before their time.

 

We will miss you Ustadji.

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Track Listing:

01 Raga Bageshri

02 Raga Naraini

03 Raga Madhmad Sarang

04 Raga Multani

05 Raga Bheemplasi

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The Youngest Son of Patiala: Ustad Hamid Ali Khan

Ustad Hamid Ali Khan

Ustad Hamid Ali Khan

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.

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala

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.

Hamid Ali Khan

Hamid Ali Khan

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.

Subhanallah!

Hamid Ali Khan

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Track Listing:

01 Mujh Say Bichar Kay

02 Mumkin Ho Aap Say

03 Chehray Parhta

04 Ghairon Ko Bhala

05 Tarq-E-Mohabbat

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

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