7- Tan-Form and Characteristics

Dr. Ibrahim Ali


In the vocal style of Ustad Amir Khan, the tans, at their climax, had effect of stimulating the emotions. The part of excitement and stimulation could be felt in his tans, instead of in other parts of his gayaki. In the ati vilambit khayal, his tranquil improvisation  was the one end, whereas his speedy and bright tans were the climax of his gayaki at the other hand. In raga presentation, the tan aspect of his gayaki was effective and attractive from both points of view: swara aesthetic and layakari. “In raga presentation, the sargam, entering with the speed of alap, reached the speed of tan, and then the tan started. These tans were crystal clear, beautiful, propagating in the three octaves ,  made surprising formations giving different forms to the laya. If the audience fail to pay attention, they are likely to miss them.”[i]


The real range of his voice in the three octaves becomes clear in his tans. His straight tans could not be named saral tans [easy tans], because to combine the three octaves easily in single straight tan and to maintain his voice natural as usual, makes difficult to imitate even his straight tans. In the available audio recordings, raga shuddha kalyan presented in a stage performance, the climax of his tans could be observed. In this presentation, the lowest point [swara] of his tans is mandra rishabh and its highest point [swara] is ati tar shadja. The rapidity of tans in treble octave is common, even the speed of his tans is not affected in bass octave at all. As in his vilambit gayaki – the thick gamak and lahak of his tans, in drut khayaltan having two swaras in every beat, in drut tans – three or more swaras in every beat, thus also in the speed of tan, he made different usage according to requirement.


Swara phrases influenced by khandmeru, and complex stresses of laya variations there in, made his tans very complicated. It was beyond the capability of each and every accompanist to give exact accompaniment on sarangi or harmonium. Another reason of increasing the complexity of his tans was that, no sooner one phrase of a tan was over, the other phrase would start with which of the swaras and what form would it take? It was impossible to predetermine. This quality of his tan style can be observed in following palta in raga hansadhvani: -


p p n s r g p n r g p R S n r g n p g r s n p s


In both type of ragas, curved and straight, this complexity of tan or zigzag movement can be seen in equal proportion.


In case of tans, the style of Khan Saheb does not follow formality of any gradual movement. That is, few tans to be presented as sapaat, few alankarik, few vakra, few ragang, few firat and few on the basis of zarab – any such planned gradual method of application is not found in his tans. On the contrary, all the above mentioned movements of tans [sapaat, alankarik, vakra, ragang, firat etc] are available in mixed way in most of his tans. The tan which goes to treble octave, straight in ascending order, comes to middle octave joining complex phrases. On the other hand, the tans which appear to be going ahead in curved manner, suddenly end in the form of descending chhoot tan. Besides this blended form of tan, he used many fast descending tans, beginning from any swara of treble octave independently, and in a unique manner. In sum, his tans can be called such free flight of imagination, for which no law of physics creates any obstacle in change of direction. In spite of all these, his voice culture for swara application [in the context of crystals of tan] remains the same. He did not applied  jabde ki tan [the tan with jaw movement] or halak ki tan [the tan with throat stretching].


He effectively carried out the tradition of tan presentation as the final part of khayal gayaki. In addition to these, he used special tan application also in many bandishes of drut khayal and tarana. Unique tans are woven also in the swaras of basic composition. The best examples for it are drut khayal of raga bilaskhani todi and malkauns, and the tarana of hansadhwani.


Before the refrain of many vilambit khayals or within it, Khan Saheb used some swara phrases as zarab with tan ang. For example, see the presentation of megha and darbari in LP record No. EASD1331, EALP1253. Even during alap, in the last portion of rotation [avartan], this type of application of refrain along with phrase of tan, used to be continued.

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