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The Muslim involvement and khayal

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Author: Anjan Ganguly, Editor, Geetabitan.com

A column, titled The Muslim involvement and khayal, written by Anjan Ganguly on 28.08.2015.

Published on 28th August, 2015.

Culture of Persian literature had been prolific around Delhi and other parts of India. At the beginning of thirteenth century poets especially writing in Persian language had been enjoying the favour of Muslim emperors like the Khiljis'. Amir Khusrou, a disciple of Nijamuddin Auliya was among the people experimenting mainly on poetry. He is regarded as the key person responsible for importing Persian elements of music and successfully implanting them into the Hindustani Classical music for the first time. The result was exhilarating. Qawwali, Ghazal, Tarana all are said to be invented by Amir Khusrou, who was Sufi by belief. But his greatest gift to Hindustani classical music is 'KHAYAL'.

Invention of instruments like sitar and tabla goes to his credit. This time onwards a few streams of music started flowing in parallel. Not only Dhrupads were countered by Khayals, instrumental music started flourishing for the first time.

The last sultan of the Sharqi dynasty of Jaunpur, Hussain Shah, in the fifteenth century was believed to have promoted Qawwali and Khayal in his ruling period. He had invented some ragas like Jaunpuri, Sindhu-bhairavi, a few versions of Todi etc. He was able to popularize the style of khayal in his reign which again lost its ground at the period of Mughal emperor Akbar. In his court the great Mughal emperor had nurtured a council of nine highly qualified individuals. Mian Taansen was among them. He is held responsible to revert the course of Hindustani music to Dhrupad once again. Hindustani music was close to an inevitable end in the ruling period of another Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He was very much against the culture of fine arts of any kind as he considered them to be against Islam. Research and culture for music had experienced a severe jolt as it was forbidden in his doctrine.

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Other sources claim 'Sadarang', court musician of another Mughal emperor Muhammed Shah in the eighteenth century and his disciple 'Adarang' to be the actual inventor of 'KHAYAL'.

But the fact that the inclusion of Khayal into Hindustani classical music had been beneficial in terms of popularisation of classical music is beyond any scope of controversy.

The meaning of the word khayal indicates to improvisation. The singers are free to expand the song at their will only keeping the raag and the lyric, generally called 'bandish' unaltered. Bandishes or the lyrics of these songs generally have two segments, namely 'Sthayee' and 'Antara'. The first half being confined to the lower half of the octave and the second half extends upto the upper part. Rest of the songs are left with the singers to be expanded with their knowledge of the melodic format.

The song starts in a pensive mood and slow tempo, gradually progressing towards a very fast and extravagant finale.

The popular style of representation necessarily incorporates tabla and harmonium as accompanying instruments. Accompanists too are allowed to present their technical ability and perfection while the singers take intermission for a catch-breath. Each of the performers are tempted to distinctively show the importance and position of 'sam' or the first beat of the rhythmic cycle.

The lyrics of these songs concentrate into the various stories of lord Krishna. Sometimes they bear expression of a certain season like the rainy season or Vasant (the spring). They even elaborate the summery of various raag or the melodic formats. Although, the significance of these lyrics is severely compromised due to display of extensive technical manoeuvres that the singers can hardly refrain from. The aesthetics were very often seen to stagger behind a spectacle of terrene reality. Audience of Khayal is eventually deprived of poetic essence of the lyrics, although, they are glad to experience the complex representation of musical repertoire.

Modern theories of Hindustani classical music system explain 'Tthat' or the raag families as the fundamental basis. There are ten such 'Tthat'. Each 'Tthat' has a number of raag listed under it, each of which having some basic characteristics of the 'Tthat'.

The legends of the music system are imparted to disciples by the gurus and the hierarchy is carried forward in generations called Gharanas. Performing in musical concerts and soirées were allowed to the disciples, but passing the knowledge to a stranger was taken as serious exception.

Many Gharanas exist in India scattered all over the country. Patiala Gharana, Kirana Gharana, Gwalior Gharana, Bishnupur Gharana are names of a few. It is believed that almost all the gharanas to have evolved from the same source, the famous Seni Gharana or the descendants of Mian Taansen.

Despite having a number of notation systems handy these days it is never easy to write down a score with all major and minor notes clearly displayed for even a small part of a tune. Its legato based tunes make it equally difficult to be followed or symphonized independently with the fixed-note instruments. Some think it unjust to incorporate harmonium in the system.

Due to extensive popularity of Khayal, the culture of Dhrupads was in decline. Hindustani classical music began its journey all anew with Khayal in its centre.



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