1- The Form of Khayal

Dr. Ibrahim Ali

The very word, khayal, indicates that it is a style of singing, based on the power of imagination of the singer. That is why, “It has tremendous scope and the capacity to absorb various features of musical expression, such as- alap, sargam, bol, boltan, behlava, badhat, gamak, khatka, murki, phanda, asthai, antara and so on.”[i]

Along with these, the special applications of vocal sound, as gamak, lahak, khatka, murki, kan, meed [soot], jamjama [kampan], gitkari, andolan etc are its fine decorations.


Most of above mentioned elements and decorations are found in the gayaki of Ustad Amir Khan in various proportions. He did not include bolbat with layakari in his style and also tihai was scarcely used. He was sparing in application of murki, but on the other hand, he increased the use of bol alap and sargam by means of merukhand in raga improvisation, in comparison to its usage in that period.


“There are two types of khayal- khayal of vilambit laya [slow tempo] and khayal of Madhya laya [middle tempo], which are known as bada khayal and chota khayal respectively. After these, singers also generally sing tarana in drut laya [fast tempo]. That is, middle tempo after slow tempo, and fast tempo after middle tempo, is used in khayal style, which is in conformity with natural activity of our daily life. In the morning, when we go for a walk, we walk slowly with our lazy body. After some time, we feel that our laziness has gone and agility increases. Our pace is quickened. As we walk on, our agility increased further and a situation comes when we want to run for some time and we enjoy running. During this process of walking, the sequence of our movement is the same-vilambit, Madhya and drut, as has been mentioned above in khayal style. Not only in walking, but in all activities of our life, generally the natural order of tempo is the same. That is why rendering first bada khayal, then chota khayal and in the end tarana, this sequence in khayal style is fully psychological. Because of being psychological, the ultimate impact of the khayal style is stability, concentration and absorption.”[ii]


In khayal style, there is ample scope for swara usage favorable to ragdari, nevertheless the discipline of consecutive order based on psychology, provides it a peculiar and classical form. The different elements included in vocal style of Ustad Amir Khan, are elaborated as follows: -


[a] Bada Khayal or Vilambit Khayal: - As per tradition, Amir Khan Saheb also used to present alapchari before vilambit khayal, but he used to start bandish of bada khayal after a quite brief alap. His alap used to be of one to one and a half minute duration. He did not present detail alap of nom-tom, as is done in Agra and Gwalior gharanas.


Usually he presented sthayee [refrain] twice in the beginning, which was having some variation. But he has performed sthayee only once in the recordings of LPs, as it has a time limitation of about twenty minutes. After the sthayee of bandish, he used to start raga improvisation. He never presented antara [second part] of bandish, just after sthayee of vilambit khayal.


Only after stabilizing tar shadja in sthayee alap, he presented whole antara in a single flow and then again came to the sthayee. He did not improvise the raga by means of alap, bol alap, bahlava etc in the antara, as is done by other artists. Only on rare occasions, he presented antara of bandish of vilambit khayal. Many of his recordings are without antara in vilambit khayal. In the LP recordings having vilambit khayal, he has presented antara only in marava, darbari and hansdhwani ragas.


In the context of vilambit gayaki of Amir Khan Saheb, it must be noted that his improvisation goes upward from mandra saptak and the sequence of different elements come in such a way that activity of swaras gets rapidity increasingly, but the laya of ati vilambit jhumra tal remains constant from the beginning to the end. Generally other khayal singers get the laya of tal increased by tabla accompanist, along with the part of bol bat.


[b] Chhota Khayal: - Observing the tradition of presenting chhota khayal after bada khayal, Amir Khan Saheb also presented chhota khayal after bada khayal. Exceptionally, he has also concluded someragas after vilambit khayal, for example, raga bhatiyar presented at Akashvani, Indore [Barani Na Jaya], and raga jayajayavanti preserved at the National Archives of Akashvani [Ay Mai Sajan Nahi Aye]. In these ragas, he did not present chhota khayal. Even if antara is not presented in bada khayal by Khan Saheb, whenever he presented chhota khayal, he presented it with sthyee and antara in the beginning. He used to present gayaki of bol alap and bahlavas and after increasing his laya, he splattered his sargam and tans. Some times he concluded his raga with tihayee, and some times without tihayee.


Amir Khan Saheb had two ways of performing chhota khayal. If he sang chhota khayal after bada khayal, in the same raga, he did not emphasize on any sequence of alap, sargam and tan. He blended all these elements very often. In LP records No.EASD-1357 Stereo, EASD-1331 Stereo, and EALP-1253, presented chhota khayals in Raga malkauns, lalit, marva and darbari after vilambit, fall in this category. If he presented any raga with chhota khayal only, then he started it with comparatively slower laya [in Madhya laya] and improvised it gradually with chaindari [patience] and then used to increase the laya of bandish in conformity with drut ang, as per requirement. That is, in chhota khayal, presented independently, without vilambit khayal, all the qualities of orderliness are found, which are generally seen in his vilambit khayal, whether it may be there in a three minutes gramophone record of 78 rpm, as presentation of raga shahana [Sundar angana Baithee]. In addition to this, Raga abhogi [Laj Rakh Lijo Mori] and raga ramdasi malhar [Chhaye Badra Kare Kare] performed at Akashvani Indore and among the audio recordings of concerts, raga charukeshi [Laj Rakho Tum Mori] etc, are such examples.


[c] Tarana: - In the vocal style of Ustad Amir Khan, tarana has the same place as that of chhota khayal. Hence it is not necessary to keep separate his khayal gayaki and presentation of tarana, from the point of view of musical elements. The reason is that, as he used to present chhota khayal in madhya and drut laya, in the same raga, after vilambit khayal, in the same way, he presented tarana after vilambit khayal, as an alternative to chhota khayal. That is why, on 29th June 1974, in All India Program of Akashvani, Acharya Brihaspati said about Ustad Amir Khan’s style of tarana “Khan Saheb used to sing tarana of khayal ang [like khayal style].”


For his different style of bandish and presentation of tarana from others, his way of thinking was mainly responsible.


Traditionally tarana is considered to be the medium of work of drut laya [fast tempo] and expression of dexterousness of pronunciation. Therein, bandish in atidrut laya [ultra fast] is presented along with atidrut tans. In the end, along with variety of laya khand [rhythmic phrases], dir, dir, tana, nana, tom etc syllables are presented with upaj ang, in the same atidrut laya. These syllables are like jhala, which comes at the end of razakhani gat, in tantrakari [instrumental]. Hence, naturally there is more scope for laya in comparison to swara and words, because words are meaningless and laya dominates the swara. That is why, tarana is considered to be without song [nirgeet]. But, different from all these, Ustad Amir Khan made swara the medium of expression in tarana, like the khayal, and meaningful lyric assisted it.


In the improvisation, coming after the bandish of tarana, it was specialty of alapchari, that he did not make simple akar etc the medium, but he used the words of refrain by way of bol alap. In these bol alaps, the usage of words and application of swaras has become as emotional as was in the chhota khayal. His view about the words of tarana being meaningful appears to be fulfilled here. In tarana, he used sargam [solfa] and boltan, as in chhota khayal. Different from chhota khayal, there was a specialty in his tarana presentation, that he used to conclude the rubai, coming in the antara, with a special atidrut tan [including three or four swaras in one matra], which began from the middle of Madhya saptak and reached the tar saptak, and with the avaroha of same speed, joined the refrain of sthayee. The usage of such tans is available in 78 rpm gramophone record: raga chandrakauns, in LP record: raga megha, in the program of Akashvani Delhi: in the taranas of raga jog and raga shudhakalyan. Some of his taranas were without rubayee in antara. But there he did not include bols [syllables] of Tabla and Pakhavaj, for example the taranas of abhogi and bageshri. Even in the tarana of bageshri, available in LP No. ECLP-41546, he did not perform antara. The two styles of presenting chhota khayal, 1-after bada khayal, and 2-presenting independently, is applied to tarana also. The tarana of raga puriyakalyan is an example. Its audio recordings in two different programs are available with the author: 1-in the form of drut composition after vilambit khayal, 2-independent presentation.


It has been mentioned before that the khayal style is based on psychological reasoning, and its basic purpose is to render a raga in such a way that it takes the concentration of mind to its climax. In creating such condition, laya also assists swara. That is the reason that the order of laya, madhya after vilambit, and drut after vilambit, is established in the form of bada Khayal, choota khayal and tarana gayaki. This sequence provides perfection to the khayal style. It was his own view that Ustad Amir Khan adopted chhota khayal after bada khayal and presented tarana in place of chhota khayal.

[i] Living Idioms in Hindustani Music-P. 65, ‘Khayal’, Author: Pt. Amarnath.

[ii] Quoted from the talk by Dr. Pyarelal Shrimal, broadcast in program ‘Sangeet Sarita’ of Vividh Bharati, dated 1-2-1981.