11-Rasa and Bhava Aspect

[Aspect of Aesthetic Expression of Sentiment and Mood]

 The vocal style of Ustad Amir Khan is the result of talent and sense of aesthetics. Along with quality of his voice, emotional depth made his gayaki heart touching. On the basis of grammar and technique, only purity can be evaluated, not the aesthetics of his gayaki. As the trends of aesthetics, while being developed and stabilized, take the form of principles and technique in the fine arts. So the gayaki of Ustad Amir Khan played both roles- 1 the follower of prevalent trends, 2 the setter of trends. That is why he has been called ‘Trend Setter’ in reviews. Also Acharya Brihaspati, accepting ‘expression of emotions’ in a raga as most important, writes in his book ‘Sangeet Chintamani’: - “A raga is an instrument, not the goal. The goal is expression of emotions.”


Whatever Khan Saheb adopted from the prevalent music and whatever he left, or whatever he produced new by his imagination, in the back ground of all that, his aesthetics was at work and its aim was expression of emotions. He did not do any thing in gayaki with the aim to demonstrate his genius or capability. Although there was peculiarity in his gayaki too, but it was full of aesthetics and not miraculous. Mr. V. H. Deshpande, writes in his book, first published in 1961: “One more worth mentioning quality of Ustad Amir Khan is that, he is totally free from prevalent trend of miraculous presentation, which disbanded the enjoyment. Wrangling in jugalbandi [duet] prevalent in today’s big music concerts and the desire to spellbound the audience; he is exception to all these. Bade Ghulam Ali, Pt. Ravi Shankar the Sitar player, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan the Sarod player or Vilayat Khan the Sitar player, all these people have become Musical gods of music concerts. Similarly Amir Khan also gets invitations from the whole of India. From this point of view, if  he has also fallen in the line of miraculous ness, there could have been no objection. But his honesty to his art is so strong that in the midst of this cacophony, he never allowed his art to fall least. - - - Despite so much popularity and so much opportunity to become corrupt, he never allowed his art to degenerate. Howsoever his artistic integrity is applauded, it will remain scanty. - - - If the coin is genuine, such slow gayaki too can get currency in big societies. They listen to it with pleasure and can enjoy it. Does this fact is not proved by honest gayaki of Amir Khan Saheb? - - - Amidst unseemly and insipid trend of miraculous ness of today, there is at least one ray of hope and this is the matter of satisfaction in it.”[1]


Prof. C.L. Das, a writer of reviews and articles, specially on the art of Ustad Amir Khan expresses the same in following words: - “This fact is worth mentioning that the sense of aesthetics, the view of synthesis, refinement and artistic balance produced by khayal singing style of Ustad Amir Khan, should be considered as an important achievement in the Hindustani music of today. - - - The most important subject in the vocalism of Khan Saheb is his emotion dominated style, that is why the importance accorded to vilambit khayal by him, was perhaps not given to it by any one else before him. By this, I don’t mean that there had been no other vocalist more melodious than Ustad Amir Khan. But as an ideal example, his vocalism definitely proves that the vocalist can express the emotion, generated by raga, maximum in vilambit rendering.”[2]


In vocalism of Khan Saheb, mainly the expression of sentiment of tranquility [shant rasa], pathos [karuna rasa], devotion [bhakti rasa] and romance [shringar rasa] is found. For the first time, the gayaki of Khan Saheb proved that the mode of vilambit khayal was most suitable for the expression of sentiment of tranquility. Remaining within the frame work of sentiment of tranquility, other auxiliary sentiments can also enter, as in raga todi pathetic vilambit khayal “sagun vicharo bamana, jo begi aan mile more sai” and in raga marva “piya more anat des gayilawa, na janu kab ghar avenge”. On the other hand, vilambit khayal in raga megha, expressing beauty of rainy season, “barkha ritu aai, boondan jhar layee, chamkat bijariya jiyara larjayee”, provides direction to raga sentiment by means of lyric. In this bandish, while presenting the words boondanjhar layeeimpression of falling rain drops is created by means of gamak; and in the words jiyara larjayeetrembling can be experienced. In the drut khayal of Khan Saheb, all those rasas [moods] are included which are possible in the music.


Ustad Amir Khan tried to keep in limit, the shringar rasa [romantic expression] in the lyric of bandish. He shunned the bandishes having exciting and obscene poetry and preferred to sing his self composed bandishes and taranas.


In vilambit khayal, Khan Saheb’s shant rasa [tranquility] finds the greatest flourish in bandishes having devotional lyric. The best examples of it are, in raga malkauns “Jinke man Ram biraje, vake safal hove sab kaj. Jo mange so det padarath, vo aiso garib navaz” and in raga shuddha kalyan “Karam karo kripalu dayalu, tum ho sab jag ke data”. He considered some of the ragas especially suitable for shringar rasa and kept the form of his gayaki comparatively playful and delightful. As in raga shahana “Sunder angana baithi nikas ke, moh lio man mero hans ke” and in raga nand kalyan “Man ber-ber chahat hai, tumhre daras ko balma” etc.


In an LP, Ustad Amir Khan has presented two compositions in raga malkauns: 1. ‘Jin ke man Ram biraje’ [vilambit], 2. ‘Aaj mere ghar aaila balma’ [drut]. In drut bandish of malkauns, application of romantic lyric and there being so called no adjustment in vilambit and drut compositions, Mr. Chetan Karnani has criticized Amir Khan Saheb on the basis of sense of rasa as follows: -

“- - - - the singers of this form show an astonishing indifference to the text. Not only is the text not enunciated correctly, but occasionally, in drut khayal, the poetic theme does not correspond to the musical theme. Even Ghulam Ali and Amir Khan were not free from this fault. Their renderings of malkauns are a clear instance of carelessness towards the content of the text. While Ghulam Ali starts with a romantic composition in slow tempo, he ends with a religious composition in a fast one. On the other hand, Amir Khan reverses the process by starting with a religious composition and ending with a romantic theme. The result would have been happier if both had suitably interchanged their compositions. As it is, both the artists make nonsense of raga-bhava by ignoring the poetic content of their music.”[3]


The drut khayal of Ustad Amir Khan “Aaj moray ghar ayeela balma, karungi Adarang son rang-raliyan” has been described as ‘romantic’ in the above criticism; in fact its romance too is devotional. It is a composition of Adarang, who was a Sufi saint. In Sufi philosophy there has been a tradition to express love for God, peer [saint] and guru [teacher], which is called ishquay-haquiqui [true love]. About philosophy of Adarang, Pt. Amarnath writes: -

“Adarang: Pen-name of Feroz Khan, khayal composer in the court of Mohammad Shah ‘Rangeele’ [who reigned during 1719-1748]. All the compositions of Adarang available today reflect Sufi thinking”[4]


There is difference of effect between vilambit khayal and drut khayal sung in the same raga. So it is not necessary to expect the same rasa from the lyric of both the bandishes. The conclusion is that however the raga being same, vilambit and drut khayals are independent on the basis of their peculiarity.


In the vocal style of Ustad Amir Khan, his view is manifested to a great extent that music is a medium of communication of expressing and experiencing sentiments. In his own words- “Gana wohi hay-jo rooh kahay aur rooh sunay.” [The singing is only that which is said by the soul and listened by the soul.]


Due to posture of Khan Saheb, unconcerned and unmoved by the surrounding and overwhelming effect of shant rasa on the mind of audience, many experts and critics have described his gayaki as Yoga, Dhyan [meditation], Samadhi and Sammohan [hypnosis] etc. The recollection of former Secretary of Culture, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Ashok Vajpayee is worth mentioning, who had actively contributed in organizing music conferences sponsored by the state government. In his lecture ‘Sunanay Se Gunanay Tak’ [From Hearing to Understanding], delivered at Kalidas Academy, Ujjain, on 23-04-1991, he said: “In concerts, even before the thousands of listeners, the vocalism of Ustad Amir Khan was like a contemplation of a Yogi. With closed eyes, he continued to sing in his own mood. In between there would be a break; while he had a glance at the audience, opening his eyes and if he had an eye to eye contact with a known person, his expression would be like this, as he is saying – ‘Oh! You are also present here’.


Generally the purpose of expressing such reactions is that the audiences of Khan Saheb want to consider his vocalism of higher level than that of entertainment. All this confirms the thinking of Amir Khan Saheb also. Hence following words of Mr. Chetan Karnani are relevant: -

“He believed that the function of classical music is not only to please and surprise, but to soothe and elevate mind. Since not many contemporary vocalists have realized this principle, Amir Khan’s contribution is greater than is generally realized.”[5]


About creation of rasa, opinion of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi is worth mentioning. It has been written by Prof. Shankar Abhyanker: -

“Amir Khan was his [Bhimsen Joshi’s] favorite vocalist. Sweetness of Amir Khan’s vocalism and its presentation is worth learning. The shant rasa [tranquility] of Amir Khan’s gayaki is heart rendering. Due to this shant rasa, his gayaki acquired a sort of depth and gravity. According to Panditji’s opinion there was an ocean like depth in his alapi.”[6]


The gayaki of Ustad Amir Khan proves that if singing is performed keeping in mind the basic concept of khayal style, this style is capable to create such shant rasa, wherein the vocalist and the audience are absorbed fully.


[1] Book ‘Gharanedar Gayaki’-P.93-94, ‘Indore and Amir Khan’, Author: V. H. Deshpande.

[2] ‘Sangeet’-May 1973, article: ‘Ustad Amir Khan Aur Unki Kala’ [Ustad Amir Khan and His Art], Writer: Prof. C.L. Das.

[3] ‘Listening to Hindustani Music’-P.59, ‘Dhrupad and Khayal’, Author: Prof. Chetan Karnani.

[4] ‘Living Idioms in Hindustani Music: A Dictionary of Terms and Terminology’-P.19, Author: Pt. Amarnath.

[5] Book ‘Listening to Hindustani Music’-P.89, ‘Ustad Amir Khan’, Author: Prof. Chetan Karnani.

[6] Book ‘Swara Bhaskar’-Chapter-‘Kalavantamadhil Athavani’, Author: Prof. Shankar Abhyanker.