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
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
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.