Date:16/11/2005 URL:
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Durbar-e-Khaas by Munawar Ali Khan,Vol 2

EMI, CD, Rs. 199

His name brings great expectations. Simply because he is his father's son. Munawar Ali Khan is the son of the legendary Patiala gharana vocalist, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. There aren't too many recordings available of Munawar Ali Khan because he came to the music scene rather late in life. Precisely for that reason, Durbar-e-Khaas, a two-volume CD, is important. Not just for the legacy it carries, but also because it comes from that period in the history of music when emotion took precedence over virtuosity. Munawar Ali Khan's rendition, from the word go, says it all.

In his full-throated voice, he takes on the lower octave, the mandra stayi, of one of the most majestic ragas of Hindustani classical music, Darbari. The rendition is as grand as its name. In fact, the build of the bada khyal has the grandeur and majesty of the dhrupad. After a brief alaap, the "Hazrat Tuk Kamaan" cheez is prayerful, going with the spirit of the lyrics. Khan saab negotiates it so beautifully that you feel you've never heard Darbari like that before. It's meditative, contemplative, and vibrant... all at once. Each note in this poetic rendition assumes a character of its own and what emerges is a stunning piece of architecture. The note-by-note build up of the raga is exploratory and penetrating as it gradually moves on to mandhra sapthak. The andolan on gandhar and the elongation of the dhaivat, so characteristic of the raga, sounds beautiful. But the Ustad does it in such an unpronounced fashion, weaving it subtly into the structure, that it seems a natural outcome of the exposition of the raga. The build up in the mood goes along with the build up in pace.

At one point, Raza Ali Khan (I assume this because Munawar Ali Khan used to be accompanied by his son), who provides brilliant vocal support to the Ustad, soars sharply to the upper octave. With an intense voice that cuts through the listener's heart, Raza Ali Khan dwells for a while in these realms. His exposition is so brilliant that the Ustad cannot contain his appreciation: "Wah! Kya baat hai" he says several times. Nevertheless, the next instant, you have the Ustad, coming right back gracefully to the mandra sapthak, from where Raza took off. In a it's-not-yet-time-for-that tone.

There is a discerning use of layakari and tihais, an aesthetic use of swara and laya, which is never overdone at any point. The swaras are poignant and thoughtful, the tans are torrential and full of energy. There are intricate gamaks, bol tans in various speeds, but the energy never dips.

The Ustad is accompanied by a brilliant saarangiya (name unknown), who follows his singing closely. So closely that one would expect it would disturb the focus of the musician. Instead, the duo seem to seek inspiration from each other and share a good chemistry. In fact, he is just brilliant in the Des thumri "Kaari ghata gir aayi sajani." The thumri, which soaks in shringara, suddenly shifts to being spiritual; capturing the essence of Indian aesthetics, where there isn't much difference between bhakti and shringara.

This is a brilliant piece of music, something that one would hold close to one's heart. Pity there are no sleeve notes.


Sangeetha, CD, Rs. 100

Bhavaveene is different for two reasons. There aren't too many women writing in the genre of Bhavagethe and this collection has poems written by M.R. Kamala. She also has to her credit the two-part book on African women, Kappu Hakkiya Belakina Haadu. Also, in this collection, music composer C. Ashwath uses real instruments, unlike the profusion of electronic instruments one gets to hear in the recent times.

"Bhavavondu Veene" is a nice tune. It uses the oft-used imagery of broken strings of an instrument that become a metaphor for souring relationships. Though, the poem does have some lovely lines: "Avaravara kanasanarasi avare dweepa vaadaru/ naduve harida doniyanne toredu bittaru." These lines capture the divide between the individual and the community rather poignantly. The beautiful rendition by Mangala Ravi with subtle improvisations do lift the song in a big way.

Ravi Mooruru's "Nirashe Yeke Geleya" has a lovely take off. This forceful rendition has overt Kafi graces. The tabla and flute bits in Sangeeta Kulkarni's rendition of "Yaake Kaaduve Madhava" is brilliant. The tabliya (as usual, no details) works out some intricate patterns, even as the flute tries free-flowing, long flourishes. The contrast works well.

"Yaara haada koralagi", in a way, defies the tradition of Bhavageethe, where you have any number of songs in which the woman seeks to merge into her beloved's identity. For instance, "Nagisalu neenu, naguvenu naanu", "Neenirade balondu bale Krishna". But in this you have the woman lamenting her past, trying to come into her own. Rathnamala is good, but sounds too shrill in the upper octaves. The "Amma" song is too sentimental for comfort, and M.D. Pallavi is not quite her own. The orchestration for the album is by Prasad.

Considering the recent output of assembly-line bhavageethe albums, this sure is refreshing.


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