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




Released April 7, 2017
© 2017 Nimbus Alliance

Audio CD, 63:05 min
Mashkoor Ali Khan, vocals
Anindo Chatterjee, tabla
Kedar Naphade, harmonium
Michael Harrison & Shampa Bhattacharya, tanpura

Album content

Raga Desh: Man Rang Dani, drut bandish in Jhaptal – 9:45
Raga Shahana: Janeman Janeman, madhyalaya bandish in Teental – 14:17
Raga Jhinjhoti: Daata Tumhi Ho, madhyalaya bandish in Rupak tal, Aaj Man Basa Gayee, drut bandish in Teental – 25:01
Raga Bhupali: Deem Dara Dir Dir, tarana in Teental – 4:57
Raga Basant: Geli Geli Andi Andi Dole, drut bandish in Ektal – 9:05

A True Master of Khayal; Recollections of a Disciple

In 1999 I was invited to meet Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, or Khan Sahib as we respectfully call him, and to accompany him on tanpura at an Indian music festival in New Jersey. It was late at night and as it was I met him just before he was about to perform. Moments later I was accompanying Khan Sahib on stage; it felt like I was being catapulted on a flying carpet into the musical realms of his imagination. I had heard a lot of great Indian musicians, and performed a lot on my own, but I had never heard a master musician like Khan Sahib. First he sang a long vilambit (composition in a slow tempo) in raga Yaman, which concluded with the amazing tarana that I later arranged for our collaboration. Later he sang the Janeman in raga Shahana that we recorded for this CD. The beauty and subtlety of Khan Sahib’s renditions of these ragas and bandishes (melodic compositions) moved me to the core, and these bandishes have remained as some of my favorites. The day after the concert I came back for a lesson and invited Khan Sahib to stay at my apartment in Brooklyn. He graciously accepted and stayed for two months, during which time, I became his disciple, receiving an extended lesson almost every day. This was one of the most remarkable times of my life. From that point on Khan Sahib not only became my esteemed music guru, but also a trusted friend. In the following years whenever I went to India to study with him, his family welcomed me as one of their own. We traveled India together while I was learning, and shared the exquisite culture and traditions that only deepened our connection and my understanding of the music.

I remember the first time I heard Khan Sahib sing the fast tarana in raga Desh that is presented here. It was during a concert at the shrine of the Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan in Delhi, with Khan Sahib’s brother Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan and his nephew Amjad Ali Khan both singing. The entire space was illuminated with the powerful emotions of this great and ancient music. Khan Sahib soon taught me this composition, along with any old and rare bandishes that I asked to learn. Since then I have accompanied Khan Sahib on tanpura and as supporting vocalist in at least 50 concerts. A few highlights were the ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan in New Delhi, where I met Bhimsen Joshi, who also performed one of his last concerts, a concert at La Monte Young’s Dream House in lower Manhattan, a private concert with his friend the great sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan sitting right in front of us, two late nights for the Chhandayan All-Night Concert, and annual raga cycles with dozens of morning, afternoon, evening and night concerts at the Rubin Museum of Art and at my company Faust Harrison Pianos near Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Khan Sahib also attended most of my concerts when he was in town and was always present and supportive. I invited him to hear concerts of Western music and often played recordings for him of everything from Bach and Mozart, to Stravinsky and Chick Corea. The music he liked best was invariably that of virtuoso artists performing works with great clarity and a sense of balance and structure. One such example is Glenn Gould’s first recording of the Goldberg Variations.

Over the years this music and my relationship with Khan Sahib has transformed my life, and those of numerous others who have devoted themselves to intensive practice and study with him. It was only after singing ragas daily that I began hearing the serious compromises of the Western equal tempered tuning. This led to a lifetime work of creating my own tunings and composing in just intonation. It was after meeting Khan Sahib that I began work on “Revelation,” which become one of my landmark works, both as a composer and performer.

Over the years, I have come to realize what a special person Khan Sahib is, not just as a musician and guru, but as a friend and family man. It is remarkable how one man supports no less than eight members of his extended family and hundreds of rare and special pigeons with his music. He lives and breathes his music and is completely devoted to keeping the music of his family lineage alive and flourishing.

Khan Sahib’s music is the full manifestation of one of the oldest continuous music lineages in the world. The Kirana Gharana, Khan Sahib’s family lineage, can be traced directly back to the legendary musician Gopal Nayak in the 13th century, then passed down mostly from father to son within the same family. The name of this school of music derives from Kairana, a small town in Uttar Pradesh where Khan Sahib was born. The international esteem of this gharana is testimony to the genius of Khan Sahib’s two great-uncles, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, who were both born in or near Kairana in 1872, and who were largely responsible for innovating and popularizing the gharana. It is here that Khan Sahib lived and received his early training from his father, Ustad Shakoor Khan, the esteemed disciple and devoted sarangi player for Abdul Wahid Khan.

And unbeknownst to most, the Kirana gharana has already had a profound influence on Western classical music. La Monte Young and Terry Riley, regarded as the founders of minimalism, one of the most influential developments in the second half of the 20th century, each devoted the better part of 26 years of their adult lives to the study, practice and performance of music from the Kirana Gharana as disciples of Pandit Pran Nath. The special qualities of this music transformed their lives in a way that gave their work unique qualities in the history of music.

Khan Sahib continues this legacy with his deeply emotional renditions of ragas and bandishes, virtuosic flights of imagination, intricately varied melodic phrases, sublime ornamentation, perfect intonation, masterful vocal technique with a three octave range, incredibly complex taans (fast rhythmic melodic phrases) that he improvises at lightning speed while never missing a beat, and the ecstatic joy and power he imparts as he soars into his upper range. As with any great artist, all of his mastery is at the service of a deeply nuanced performance, creating a spellbinding mood and deep well of emotions that captures his listeners, transporting them to a sublime realm of the musical imagination.

Michael Harrison, December 2016, New York.

Michael Harrison is a composer and pianist who has bridged the European musical traditions with those of Indian classical music, forging a new approach to composition through tunings and methodologies that employ and extend the ancient concept of “just intonation.” Before becoming a disciple of Mashkoor Ali Khan in 1999, Harrison was a disciple of Pandit Pran Nath, La Monte Young and Terry Riley, with whom he studied since 1979.

Tracks description

Track 1: Raga Desh, Drut bandish in Jhap tal

Desh, meaning country or homeland, is a raga of extraordinary seductive power. Meant to be sung during the monsoon season, it can bring out the emotions of separation and longing as well as that of romantic love. The bandish sung here is a rare one and represents an old style of tarana, a style of composition which uses sounds and syllables with no meaning in the first verse and ends with a Farsi rubai (a quatrain in Persian) in the second.

Man rang, Dani, tanum tanana dere na shiraz Nadir dir dani tadani oda tana ta derna ta derna. Chamn-e keta qyamat, gule u bahaar banda Sanam-e kebar jamalash, do jahan nisar banda.

Track 2: Raga Shahana, Madhyalaya bandish in Teental

Shahana, meaning beautiful or gorgeous, is a raga of celebration and joy and often performed during weddings. The composition rendered by Khan Sahib here is attributed to the 12th century Sufi poet and musician Amir Khusrau and is one of his signature pieces. It is also composed in the Farsi language dedicated to Khusrau’s spiritual guru Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and ends with an unusual tihai (phrase repeated three times) using some tarana syllables, notably to inject some joyousness and flourish into the finish.

Janeman janeman, Jaana ne man Tabu nadaram judai neshta. Guftaa Khusrau pir ma Nizamuddin. Dartanema dartanema, Sanam sanam. Dhirkit tak tirkit tak tikran ta dha, Dhirkit tak tirkit tak tikran ta dha Dhirkit tak tirkit tak tikran ta dha.

Translation: O my beloved one, you are my heart and soul. I cannot bear our separation. Khusrau states that his pir or saint Nizamuddin is his idol and his loyalties rest with him.

Track 3: Raga Jhinjhoti, Madhyalaya bandish in Rupak tal & Drut bandish in Teental

Jhinjhoti is warm and luminous in its character and is best expressed in the lower and middle octaves of the human voice. The first bandish is an old special composition belonging to the Kirana gharana and one of Khan Sahib’s favorites given its devotional content. The second fast tempo bandish is one of Khan Sahib’s own compositions.

Daata tumhi ho jag kartaar. Naiyaa bhanvar me aan basi hai Tumhi lagao bera paar.

Translation: O generous one, you are the creator of this world. My boat is stuck in the turbulent waters of this life, please help me cross and reach my destination.

Aaj man basa gayee ri, piya ki suratiyan Pyari pyari more man ko lubhaye.

Translation: Today my heart is overwhelmed by my beloved’s thoughts and I cannot focus on anything else. Oh, how lovely is her face and it is so alluring to me.

Track 4: Raga Bhupali, Tarana in Teental

Bhupali is a raga with an ancient structure that corresponds to the major pentatonic scale but the simplicity of the structure often masks its complexity and non-linearity. The short composition presented here is a tarana set to a fast tempo 16 beat Teental.Ina tarana certain words and syllables (e.g. “odani”, “tadani”, “tadeem”) are based on Persian and Arabic phonemes and are rendered at a medium or fast pace. The words have no specific meaning. The composition is attributed to Bahadur Hussain Khan from Senia gharana and is one of Khan Sahib’s favorites given its beautiful use of varying tempos and rhythm.

Deem dara dir dir tana niti tanom, Dir dir ta derna derna derna Tadeem tanana dir dir, nita tana dere na, Tadeem tadeem ta dana nana. Na dir dir tom tanana nana, Oda tana derena Tadare niti tana tadeem, Tadeem tana derena tadare tana nana.

Track 5: Raga Basant, Drut bandish in Ektal

One of the seasonal ragas, Basant celebrates spring and aptly captures the happiness and joy of the season. The composition presented here is set to a fast 12 beat Ektal and conveys the melodic depth, ingenuity and the power of the raga well. The lyrics are in Brijbhasha, an old dialect of Hindi, and sing praise to the season.

Geli geli andi andi dole sab naari Garwa lag rang barase, rut basant manayee, Jobanva ko aas tori. Sholava shingar karan varan Payal payal baje baje, Phul phul gund gund layee, Abir gulal liye barajori.

Translation: Celebration of spring is all around us; the women are walking about happy and joyous, greeting and embracing each other. The emotions and colors of the season are in full display. How my heart is longing for you! I am taking my time and decking myself up in so many ways. Anklets are ringing and flowers are being set into garlands. People are engaged in a playful Holi (the spring festival of color).

Artists profiles

Mashkoor Ali Khan

Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan comes from a distinguished musical line that includes some of the foremost figures in Indian Classical music. A direct descendant of the family of the great Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and the legendary Sartaj-e-Mousiqui Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, who were luminaries of the Kirana Gharana, Maskhoor Ali is the son of the great Sarangi-nawaz Padmashree Ustad Shakoor Khan. Initiated and trained by his father for fifteen years, young Mashkoor Ali had secured a place for himself in the world of music even before his father breathed his last. Since the 1980’s he has been a Guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, India’s premier institute of Hindustani classical music in Kolkata. He is well respected as the Khalifa of the Kirana gharana because of his lineage and his erudition and keen understanding of the nuances of the gharana’s gayakee or style of singing. He is also credited as having one of the richest collection of melodies in the khayal genre of music in India.

He has recently appeared at such prestigious events as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Festival, Delhi, Harballav Sangeet Sammelan, Jalandhar, Saptak Festival, Ahmedabad, ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan, Kolkata, Delhi Classical Music Festival, Delhi, Lalit Kala Academy, Pune, to name a few. In the past, he has also performed in equally prestigious venues like Dover Lane Music Conference, Kolkata, Sawai Gandharva Sammelan, Pune, Sajan Milaap Sammelan, Mumbai, Swami Haridas Sammelan Festival, Mumbai, Victoria Memorial Concert, Kolkata, Apna Utsav, Delhi, among others. Outside of India, he has performed recently at Carnegie Hall, the Rubin Museum of Art and Raga Music Circle in New York, MITHAS in Boston, Raga Samay Festival in Philadelphia and many other venues.

His awards are many, but include the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, 2015 and the Gandharva Award by the Hindusthan Art & Music Society, Kolkata, 2012.

Anindo Chatterjee

Gifted with an ability to summon crystal-clear melodies from his drums, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee is recognized as one of the world’s greatest tabla players today. He belongs to the Farrukhabad gharana. Inspired by his uncle, he first began playing tabla at the age of five, studied briefly with Ustad Afaq Hussain Khan of the Lucknow gharana, then advanced to Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, with whom he studied for three decades. The recipient of the prestigious President’s Award in 1970, Chatterjee became the first tabla player to perform in the House of Commons later and received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2002. In addition to solo performances, he continues to work with most of the preeminent Indian classical musicians of his generation.

Kedar Naphade

Kedar Naphade, is one of today’s leading exponents of the art of harmonium solo and accompaniment in Hindustani classical music. He is a senior disciple of the legendary maestro Padmashri Pt. Tulsidas Borkar as well as Smt. Padmavati Shaligram, a veteran of the Atrauli-Jaipur Gharana. Naphade has performed harmonium solo concerts and accompanied vocalists at numerous concerts in India, Europe and in the U.S. including prestigious venues such as the Alladiya Khan Smruti Samaroha, Dadar Matunga Cultural Center in Mumbai, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and beyond. He has been featured on National Public Radio and has shared the stage with luminaries such as Pt. Jasraj, Smt. Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, Smt. Prabha Atre, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, Smt. Laxmi Shankar, etc.

Recorded on 29-30 May, 2015 at the Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
Produced and Engineered by Adam Abeshouse
Edited, Mixed and Mastered by Adam Abeshouse
Co-produced by Shampa Bhattacharya, Michael Harrison & Peter Robles
Sponsored by the American Academy of Indian Classical Music (AAICM)