Nestling snugly between the covers of an elegantly designed book titled The Glorious Tradition of the Etawah-Imdadkhani Gharana—The Greats of Seven Generations is a compact disc with 25 very exclusive and rare tracks that are a collector’s delight. Authored by Arvind Parikh, octogenarian sitar guru and leading disciple of the legendary sitar maestro Vilayat Khan sahib, the book offers an “analytical presentation of its (the Etawah-Imdadkhani gharana) glorious traditions evolved during the last two centuries”. The accompanying CD is meant to provide an aural complement to the analysis presented by the author and contains rare gems for those with a fine taste in Hindustani raagdari music. And if that wasn’t bounty enough, the gorgeous archival photographs that adorn the pages of the book make it even more delectable.
There is musical bullion dripping from each pit and bump on that CD, with the 25 representative tracks providing glimpses of the gharana greats, including Imdaad Khan sahib, Enayet Khan sahib, Hafeez Khan and Wahid Khan. Among the 17 tracks by Vilayat Khan sahib, is a rare Miyan ki Todi recorded by the genius at age 9. It may be noted that this track does not contain the Li’l Champ variety of precocious talent that is the flavour of the day, but is an invaluable record of the blossoming of a master musician anchored to his art by the force and gravitas of discipline and taleem (education).
Remembered notes: Arvind Parikh.
But the one track on this CD that is unique in its charm is track 24, labelled, or rather mislabelled, Raag Thumri. There is, of course, no such raga, and it is rather surprising to see how such an error could creep into a book that otherwise is very evidently a labour of love and dedication. Nevertheless, track 24 has Vilayat Khan sahib teaching none other than Begum Akhtar, the great ghazal and thumri diva, the subtle twists and turns of thumri gayaki. Recorded at the author’s residence, it makes for fascinating listening. Vilayat Khan sahib leads and Begum follows obediently, never stepping out of line or adding an extra flourish to show her prowess, of which she had plenty. A harmonium accompanies the two legends, and makes one wonder who was playing it. Could it have been Khan sahib himself or was it Begum, who regularly accompanied herself on the harmonium? Possibly only the author could tell, as his voice too is recorded on the track encouraging Begum Akhtar with a “Bahut khoob, bahut achha” as she declares “Khan sahib, thak gaye isse” (Khan sahib, I have tired of this”), possibly meaning that the rigour of the lesson was too demanding and tired her out. The ustad and the diva never move to the actual bol or lyrics of the thumri, but float effortlessly in the prefatory movements till she falters slightly in repeating a glide that the ustad had enunciated. He points out the mend or glide to her again, and she attempts it repeatedly till she bursts into an infectious giggle, laughing at herself. Sadly, that is where the track is cut short and the listener left high and dry, wondering what happened next. Perhaps a petition could be made to the author to reveal the rest of this unique recording in subsequent editions of his book, which incidentally may not be easy to find in stores. Possibly the only way to get details of how to acquire a copy would be to call Miss Braganza at +91 22 6112 6000.
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