12-Adjustment between Swara, Laya and Lyric

In any vocal style, inclusion of swara, laya and lyric [verse], all the three elements are essential. In their mutual proportion, there may be difference of importance, quantity and variation.


As has already been mentioned, gayaki of Ustad Amir Khan was ‘swara salient’; because in his gayaki swara was the medium of expression. Laya and lyric are the factors to adorn expressive capability of swara in his gayaki. Thus, from the point of view of importance, first the swara, second the lyric and third the layakari-in this order the three elements can be placed. Though words are few in khayal gayaki, Khan Saheb considered correct presentation of words very essential for manifestation of raga. In this context, the opinion of Khan Saheb has been written by Mr. Mohan Nadkarni as follows: -

“Amir Khan had paid much attention on application of words. Often he used to say-‘Singing the words with emotion, music becomes more expressive. The lyrical element of raga is as much important as its element of raga. If an artist has to become a good musician, it is necessary to have poetic imagination.”[1]


Khan Saheb did not include layakari, bolbat and tihayee etc, the parts based on laya, in his gayaki; because he did not want to see negligence of verse and its sense in demonstration of layakari. Considering this fact, it can be said that lyric was given more importance than the layakari in his gayaki.


Because of swara being most important, ati vilambit laya was adopted in bada khayal, so that stability and continuity of swara could not be affected by the beats of tal coming rapidly. His gayaki is so much centered on raga improvisation by movement of swaras that very often antara [the second section of composition] of bandish is left out. That is because of swara dominance, like laya, also the lyrical aspect had to compromise to some extent.


After accepting the sovereignty of swara aspect in khayal gayaki, confluence of swara, lyric and laya in Khan Saheb’s vocal style and justification of their mutual priorities can be understood. That is why Dr. Prabha Atre, a follower of swara dominant style of Kirana Gharana, applauds the confluence of swara, lyric and laya in Khan Saheb’s style in the following words: -

“Importance of lyric in word formation, pronunciation of words and attention to their emotional value, these things prove uniqueness of Khan Saheb’s style. He often used to sing his own compositions. In one word it can be described as ‘Sarvangsunder’ [beautiful in all aspects]. Lyric, Swara creation and laya, all these three parts came to the fore.”[2]

[1] Nai Dunia-29th March 1987, P.5, ‘Unhone Lokranjan Ki Sharton Se Samjhota Nahin Kiya’, Writer: Mohan Nadkarni.

[2] ‘Swarmayee-P.30, ‘Amir Khan Saheb’, Author: Dr. Prabha Atre.