Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan
"Following a gorgeous classical Indian alap sung by Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan over a rumbling bass drone, the first 21 cells made for a splashy, variegated opening."
- New York Times


July 28, 2016

“Our religion is to sing the glory of Ram and Rahim”

As Kairana makes news for all the wrong reasons, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, the torch bearer of Kirana Gharana, talks about therich legacy of the place and how an exponent of this family can never be out of tune.

Perturbed by the “besura mahaul” of Kairana, the birthplace of the famed Kirana gharana of Hindustani classical music; Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan the renowned exponent of Kirana Gayaki and Guru at the ITC-Gurukula, the Sangeet Research Academy (SRA), Kolkata, shares his mixed feeling of pride and distress for Kairana, that used to be a ‘sureeli jagah’, a peaceful abode of the legends, but is now making news for alleged exodus of Hindu families from the town.

Khan has recently been awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) Award, for his contribution to the world of Hindustani classical music. “My father Ustad Shakoor Khan received the SNA Award exactly 50 years ago and by his ‘dua’ and the blessings of the Almighty and elders, I shall be receiving it this year. Better late, than never!”

Excerpts from a conversation:

What was your reaction when you heard about the news of exodus?

I just could not believe it and called my relatives living there. They consoled me that there is nothing of the sort, these are just false rumours, being given political colour – yeh afwaahen hain, jinhe siyasi hawa de di jaati hai.

How did the gharana take shape?

The name of Kirana gharana was derived after Kairana, the hometown of stalwarts like Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan, who established this gharana. I was lucky to be born in a family of legendary musicians of this gharana, living in Kairana, situated near Saharanpur .

I still have my ancestral home there. Is kasbe mein bada sukoon tha. It used to be a peaceful and quiet little place. We all lived like a big family. I still remember once the door of a mosque got burnt and a Hindu bhai replaced it, making it with his own hands, his own carpentry. Festivals like Eid, Holi, Diwali were celebrated together with great fun and fervour.

How were you introduced to music?

I was trained under my father Ustad Shakoor Khan for eighteen long years starting at five years of age. He took me away from my mother, along with him to Delhi where he was working for the All India Radio (AIR). He was very strict as a teacher but very loving and caring too. I still remember, he would give me bath and comb my hair like my mother would do. I used to do my daily riyaaz (practice) in the vacant studios of the AIR, and the Station Director K.K. Mathur would allow this because he loved me a lot. I got the rare opportunity to meet the greats like the senior Dagar brothers, Pandit Ram Chatur Mallick, Faiyaz Khan, Vilayat Husain Khan, Khadim Hussain Khan, Ishtiaq Husain Khan and many more. I was just 20 when in a Kolkata Conference my father Ustad Shakoor Khan and Ustad Ahmad Jaan Thirakwa accompanied in my vocal concert.

Tell us about the proliferation of this gharana, far and wide

After being originated by the great Beenkar Miyan Bande Ali Khan, Kirana gharana proliferated in two main streams. Ustad Abdul Karim Khan’s disciple Sawai Gandharva took it to Maharashtra and Karnataka training Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Gangu Bai Hangal, Hirabai Badodkar, Suresh Babu Mane and their disciple Prabha Atre et al whereas Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan’s shishya parampara has stalwarts like Ustad Amir Khan, Begum Akhtar, Pandit Ramnarayan, Bahre Bua, Manik Verma, Ustad Niyaz Ahmed and Faiyaz Ahmed and many more. This gayaki went far and wide from Lahore, where Waheed Khan Saheb lived before Partition, to Hyderabad with Nanhe Khan, Rampur, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bidar, Mysore and Kolhapur.

What makes Kirana gharana unique?

The first and foremost is the ‘tavajjo’ (importance) towards ‘sur’! Whether you are a vocalist, a sarangi player or a beenkar; ‘sur ka lagaav’, the application of the accurate note is crucial. Ustad Waheed Khan used to say “Sur Ishwar hai, aur Laya, Imaan. Sur aisa lage ki dil men utar jaaye!” The sur should be deployed in such a way that it straight away reaches the depth of heart! This introspective approach is equally important in raga delineation as well, because you have to take care of the exact shade of the ‘sur’, appropriate for a particular raga.

The architecture of the raga being presented should have a firm foundation. So the ‘shadja’ and the mandra saptak, the lower octave should be dealt with utmost care. Penetration into the swara is more important than the rhythmic or other ornamentation in a presentation. Yeh Sukoon bhari Gayki hai, this is a contemplative gayaki.

The next important feature of this gayaki is ‘khanda-meru’, a technique of permutations and combination of swaras, a gift of Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan. Ustad Amir Khan imbibed this technique from him through his wife Munni Begum, who was the disciple of Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan. The Ustad would come to teach his wife Munni Begum and Amir Khan would listen him teach and learn.

The next feature is Dhrupad ang ki aalap aur been ang ki gayaki! One can see the effect of Dhrupad during aalap and the rest of the presentation would follow the technique of been or sarangi. This is the reason you will never find a ‘besura’ or out of tune artiste in Kirana.

Being practitioners of such a meditative gayaki, our religion is to sing the glory of ‘Ram’ and ‘Rahim’. We, from the Kirana gharana, belong to the ‘gobarahar bani’ and ‘Krishna-Mat’.

What an irony to hear such ‘Besuri khabar’, about our ‘Sureela Kairana! I can only say that these things should not happen. The solidarity and fraternity between Hindus and Muslims, which has been the signature of our mother town, should be maintained, so that a sense of security is felt by one and all.

Source: The Hindu

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