by Mohan Nadkarni
First Published: The Sunday Chronicle, Bombay on March 20, 1949
Perhaps no luminary shone on the musical horizon with so resplendent a glory for more than a generation as the late Ustad Alladiya Khan, whose third death anniversary was observed by his disciples, friends and admirers last week.
The declining years of the last century marked intense activity in the sphere of music, and the Ustad, like his other contemporaries in the field, was a child of that period of Renaissance which gave us so much music for years to come. Hailing from North India, Alladiya Khan spent the early years of his life in Baroda and thereafter, he settled down at Kolhapur under the patronage of the ruling Maharaja.
Of all the prevalent forms of musical composition, the Khayal style of Hindustani music had reached its high water-mark during the last l5O years. It had received the special attention of the best musical talent of the time and Alladiya Khan was one of them. Steeped as he was in the tradition that had come down to him from his famed ancestors, there indeed was something in him that was to make him one of the greatest musicians of the time. [Here was a man who, by his acute talent, fecund imagination, steady industry and singular determination was destined to evolve a style of his own in music. His was at once a personality-bound style, which bore no affinity to any of the numerous contemporary gharanas. The style looked simple and clear. There nothing ellusive about it. But the uniqueness of his style was such that while it pleased his listeners, it perplexed its imitators.
What indeed, baffled his imitators was that the Ustad, could make the highest possible effect with a very simple and clear style. It was a dhrupad-based style, but the severity that associated with the ancient form was considerably mellowed down in the Ustad's conception of Khayal. At the same time, flourishes, shakes, tremelos and such other touches of grace were repugnant to him. [And what is more, without having recourse to such embellishments, he brought out the full force and charm of the raga in a striking manner and win the applause of knowledgeable rasikas. He was anything but impressionist. He did not mean to employ ``shock tactics" to impress his listeners.
The excellence of his performance also lay in the perfect concord between the melody and the rhythm. The rhythmic element was, in fact, was so powerful that even the words of the song were set to rhythm. Thus the total effect was still more musical and more abiding.
Hindustani music abounds in simple as well as complex ragas. Alladiya Khan not only specialized in handling complex ragas but also popularized them. This he did with an amazing skill. He did not bother his listeners by dwelling upon the ``dry as dust" scientific aspect of such ragas but rendered them in an easy and pleasing way. Ragas like Shukla-Bilaval, Bhankar, Lachari Todi, Khat, Lankadahan Sarang, Sawani and Nat-Bihag are some of the melodies which were his forte. Thanks largely to the Ustad and his disciples, these rare melodies have gained popularity among the audiences today.
It is also noteworthy that the thumri form of musical composition was not sung by the Ustad. The thumri, with its largely erotic subject-matter, coupled with all sorts of tonal flourishes and graces, calculated to bring out its aesthetic appeal, was not suited to his mind that was given to preserving the intrinsic purity of his art at all costs.
The Ustad's great tradition is carried even to this day by disciples like Kesarbai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Laxmibai Jadhav and Bhurji Khan, the Ustad's son, among others. The succeeding generation of protégés comprise vocalists like Mallikarjun Mansur, Padmavati Shaligram and Wamanrao Sodalikar, to name a few.