It was a treat for the aficionados of the Indian classical music, it was a treat for the lovers of ghazal singing, and it was a treat for those who find their spirits elevated by Punjabi tunes set in the folk rhythm of fast Keherwa as Ustad Hamid Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana performed at the Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) on Friday evening.
It was a splendid musical event by various standards. The Ustad met the audience’s expectations in all the genres he sang, be it Khayal, ghazal or Punjabi Kaafi. Another striking aspect of the event was the presence of a large musical ensemble. Apart from the instruments that commonly accompany a classical vocalist such as the tabla, the sarangi and the harmonium, there was also the Dhol, the violin and the keyboard.
A visible taanpura was also a source of pleasure for those yearning for old tradition. Nowadays, the drone instrument, whose prime purpose is to set the scale, is not often seen on stage as a small machine without a human being plucking its wires performs the task of the taanpura.
The accompanying musicians, some of whom are among the top instrumentalists of the country such as tabla player Ustad Jari Khan, harmonium player Ustad Khursheed Khan and sarangi player Ustad Akhtar Khan, were already seated on the stage when the door of the concert auditorium were opened for the public.
Before the Ustad entered, the musicians kept on playing tunes of famous old songs of Noor Jehan and other singers.
The large number of instruments made it a beautiful experience for the audience as they heard the tunes of songs such as Rim Jhim Rim Jhim Paday Phohar, Chalo Acha Hua Tum Bhool Gaye, Chandni Raatein, Tera Saaya Jahan Bhi Ho Sajna and Payal Mein Geet Hain Cham Ke.
For this scribe, the violin made a big impact during this sequence.
ACP President Ahmed Shah gave a warm welcome to Hamid, calling him the last of the great classical vocalists of the country.
The vocalist announced that he would start the show with a short Khayal, after which he would be proceeding with ghazal and geet as per the mood of the audience.
The raag he chose for the Khayal was Bhopali, a staple of the Patiala tradition. The raag of five notes was beautifully improvised by the Ustad in both the slow and fast tempos. It created the feeling of a calm and romantic atmosphere as if someone is in a beautiful valley surrounded by snowy mountains.
The Ustad adhered to the textbook description of Bhopali by mostly singing it in lower notes because staying too much on higher notes may create the illusion of another raag Deskaar. Taan emanating from the chest, which reminded of Hamid’s elder brother Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, sounded a beautiful embellishment throughout the performance.
The Ustad also let the table player showcase his dexterity during the Khayal.
Once Raag Bhopali had been rendered, the Patiala Gharana doyen announced he would be rendering a famous ghazal sang by his legendary elder brother Ustad Amanat Ali Khan. The ghazal was ‘Yeh Aarzoo Thi Tujhe Gul Ke Roobaroo Karte’ by Khwaja Haider Ali Aatash.
Before singing a particular stanza, he said he would try to copy his elder brother’s inimitable style and he was near perfect. The way he articulated the rhymes of Roobaroo, Guftgoo, Justuju, etc. and other words was simply a pleasure to hear.
However, he ended the ghazal with a stanza that is most probably not part of the Ghazal. It seems that someone else had composed that couplet with the same rhyming scheme as the scribe could not find it in Aatash’ poetic works as well as no credible source on the internet such as Rekhta attributed it to Aatash. The couplet was “Meri Namaz-e-Janaza Parhai Ghairon Ne/ Maray They Jin Ke Liye Woh Rahay Wuzoo Karte”.
It was followed by a ghazal by Amjad Islam Amjad originally sung by Hamid himself. Its lyrics were “Guzar Gaya Jo Zamana Use Bhula Hi do”.
Some at that time might be wondering why a Dhol was present on the stage as the tabla was proving more than sufficient as the percussion instrument for the ghazals and Khayal that had so far been rendered.
However, after sometime, the Ustad announced that he would sing a Punjabi Kaafi whose lyrics were penned by mystic poet Wasif Ali Wasif. It was in this performance that the Dhol overpowered every other instrument. The Ustad said he had brought the player, Khurram Abbas, with him from Lahore.
Later, the Dhol player again came to the fore when Hamid sang a Punjabi song composed in Darbari raag, Menu Tere Jiya Sohna.
Another striking performance of the day was again a ghazal originally rendered by Ustad Amanat — the famous Honton Pe Kabhi Un Ke Mera Naam Bhi Aaye by Ada Jafri. Again the singer tried to sing the ghazal in the style of his late brother, which delighted the audience.
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