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Beat Street


Surmanjari

Ustad Amir Khan

EMI CD, Rs. 199

IT IS like watching a river in all its serenity glide by. Gently assuming the contours during its course, while it negotiates all those curves and bends in the most majestic manner. And while it flows unmindful of the world, it envelops the onlooker with an overwhelming sense of quiet, a reposeful calm. It did not bear in its rendition the tensions of the contemporary society of post-Independent India, but had a deep thoughtfulness and a sense of melancholy.

It is impossible to confine Ustad Amir Khan, one of the greatest musicians of the century to any one particular gharana, though he himself said he belonged to the Indore gharana, a style that he evolved himself. This revolutionary singer, who had a healthy disregard for tradition, brought into his music the best of the legacy of Hindustani music, only to give it a distinct aesthetic personality entirely his own. And as an article (author unknown) in the Delhi Magazine rightly observes: "Amir Khan was not a destroyer of tradition. He simply knew what to do with it. He was a great builder and a great dreamer."

In Surmanjari, an album from the collection of Vimala Devi Foundation Nyas, released by EMI, the Ustad sings a monumental Kanada in three of its strains:

Abhogi Kanada (basically a Carnatic raga, Abhogi), Sahana Kanada and Suha Kanada. All the three ragas belong to Kafi that. In the descending scale, the raga demostrates a vakra sanchara. Particularly in the cluster da ma ga, ma re sa, when the raga acquires the character of Kanada. But when the svaras ma ga re sa are sung without any embellishment, the raga sounds like Bageshree.

In his characteristic style, the Ustad takes time over the build up of "Charana dhar aye ri" in jhaptaal, for his rendition of Abhogi Kanada, a night raga. In his extremely methodical approach, the Ustad takes on every single note and unfolds the raga in the most demanding manner. The bandish acquires a stately character in his slow, contemplative treatment, so totally unpolluted by feats that demonstrate his mastery over the form. He blends all the three ragas so beautifully, that if you have surrendered to his music completely you may not even know when he shifts from one raga to the other.

As Susheela Mishra says in her "Great masters of music" series: "His music combined the massive dignity of the dhrupad with the ornate vividness of khayal."

Kara na gori mana (adana, durbari kanada, malhar) Gundala malana Tuma bina more ajare, badhava bane, kakaru ho kaha karu.

Even as his evocative rendition brings in taans and sargams, the picture of restraint never gets disturbed. His sargams are a mark of his complex persona, which the Ustad negotiates with tremendous grace and ease. The way he glides between octaves is remarkable for its effortlessness.

DEEPA GANESH

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