13-View about Other Modes of Singing

In concerts of classical music, Khan Saheb focused only on khayal gayaki. Generally the vocalists, after presentation of one or two ragas, present thumri, dadra, bhajan etc to change the taste of audience and ordinary listener too may be satisfied. The specialty of Khan Saheb’s program was that from the beginning to the end the mode of khayal and tarana continued by means of different ragas. Despite the tradition, he did not consider it necessary to end the program with raga bhairvi. He wanted to see khayal as popular; he did not accept to deviate from his objective in order to become popular himself.


Parallel to khayal gayaki, thumri also acquired an honourable place among the classical vocalists [especially of Kirana Gharana] in the twentieth century. As Khan Saheb did not sing thumri, it did not mean that he considered it to be of low-grade, but he considered that all kind of sentimental expression was possible in khayal gayaki by means of swara. As far as relevance of thumri is concerned, he thought it fit to be associated with dance. Khayal gayaki proved most suitable for his tranquil nature. He recollected in an interview with Akashwani about the first music concert at Mirzapur: - “I had not been much fond of thumri. It does not mean that I consider thumri to be of low grade. I had never such view. Thumri also has its own place; but my inclination was not towards it. That is why I did not sing thumri till today.” It is to be noted that Khan Saheb also could sing thumri well. It is known only to those who had opportunity to listen thumris from him in informal home sittings. Among musicians, Ms. Nirmala Arun and Dr. Prabha Atre confirm it. An interview of Ms. Nirmala Arun, famous for thumri singing, with Vividh Bharati was broadcast on Sunday, 28th March 1988, in the program ‘Sangeet Sarita’. In this program she was asked “whether the voice of a vocalist becomes attuned to a particular gayaki and does it become difficult for him to sing any other style?” In reply to this question, she gave the example of Ustad Amir Khan and said: - “From very beginning, a learner should be taught in such a way that he could sing all types of gayakis. I often requested Amir Khan Saheb to sing thumri. But mostly he sang khayal. But I know that he could sing thumri also very well.”


In the professionally released audio recordings of Khan Saheb, the only thumri available is that which was sung by him for the Bangla movie ‘Kshudhit Pashan’. This thumri is set in raga khamaj; whose wordings are: ‘piya ke avan ki main sunat khabariya’. Mixing of ragas of different moods or shudh or vikrat form of swaras has not been adopted in it for peculiarity of expression, as is generally done in singing of a thumri. Audio recordings of thumris in raga mishra pilu, jhinjhoti, tilak kamod, gara and some ghazals, presented in domestic mehfils, are preserved with Goswami Gokulotsavji Maharaj. Khan Saheb some times sang ghazals also in private sittings. His favorite poet was Mirza Ghalib. He had also sung a ghazal of Ghalib for a documentary film.


His inclination to confine himself only to khayal in public performances was manifestation of his thinking and ambition. What may be expectations of the audience is a different matter. On this attitude of Khan Saheb, opinion of Pt. Ravi Shankar is worth quoting: -

“Amir Khan Saheb can not be considered to be very popular for a common listener. The reason for this Is that Amir Khan Saheb kept himself away from certain deeds like Abdul Vahid Khan; for example he never sang thumri in programs. If he had sung some thumris in the concluding part of his programs, e would have become more popular. But he never did so. Whether it was correct or not, I don’t want to comment about it. It is a controversial issue. He did whatever he considered best. . . . I don’t think that by singing thumri one becomes contemptible. . . . What he did was according to his thinking and principles. May be, it was correct for his art. Every individual is the best judge for himself. Hence, it is not justified to evaluate him on the basis of what he did not do. Whatever he did in his music, in my opinion it was the climax of development of music.”[1]


[1] ‘Rag Anurag’-P.88-89 [translated from original Bangla], Author: Pt. Ravi Shankar.