Tag Archives: Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Speaking of Boro Baba (Baba Allauddin Khan)


The sum and substance of Baba Allauddin Khan’s life was music. He quested true musical knowledge, nurtured it with a devotion and determination so severe that it kept him up at all hours, practicing and perfecting his art in all its detail in ways that could certainly appear harsh to others. But the nature of saadhna – the true nature of saadhna – is quintessential, single minded pursuit of the one thing that matters more than all else.

For Boro Baba was a Saadhak – Music his Saadhana, his way to God. Growing up in Maihar, one heard this constant refrain “Ekai saadhe sab sadhe; Sab saadhe sab jaaye” (Aim for one and you’ll find plenty, Aim for all …come away empty). Boro Baba’s life exemplified his belief in single minded purpose. The unsought bonuses of this pursuit followed, and were welcomed with love and care. His home was constantly filled with students, his lands tilled and yielding rich crops, his grandchildren playing and learning and his sons and his wife and daughter and daughters in law, there to do his bidding, safe in the sanctuary of our beloved Madina Bhavan, Maihar. But the constant thread that held this growing material tapestry was Music and Saadhna!

If one was wise enough or fool enough to choose this way, then this was the only way forward and the price was to forget all else, including self. To be a saadhak of sacred Music was to him, something that demanded sublimation of all else. He did not want anyone to know the hunger, the pain or the humiliation he had, in his pursuit of Music. Every one of his students had a bed, a place to bathe, and meals with a little sweet afterwards. He could be so moved by a beggar’s plight that he would give away the lungi he wore to a point that Boro Ma had to tear up her sarees so that her husband could be clad. The Maihar Band was built of orphans,of the poorest of the poor, children bereft of parents by war, and the handicapped because Boro Baba gave what he had and in doing so, helped build a life.

If Boro Baba had one fault, it was this – he saw himself in his students and treated them with the same self imposed severity. Why? Because, like someone who had discovered that fire can burn one, he chose to be protective, perhaps overly and terrifyingly protective of his charges. But this very same entity that could fly into a rage over work or principle could be a gentle, childlike being at meal times or when he sat in the courtyard on his charpoy being silly with the rest of us, pulling pranks and wooing and teasing Boro Ma (great grandmother) with his violin.

As a child, music played a special but non-integral part in his family of well heeled landowning farmers. It was an inheritance he created for himself through a vigorous and authentic encounter with incessant impediments, dealing with them with the tenacity of an embryo clinging to life in the face of certain death.

He re-emerged as he was meant to be – the ultimate Guru who chose to treat his cup of Gurumukhi Vidya as the sacred chalice from which his students would drink unreservedly. He chose thus to distance himself from the stingy ill will he had himself faced. Never would another musical seeker know what he had.

The Grand Old Man of Indian Music, as Baba Allauddin Khan came to be known, lived to be 110 years old. He was born in 1862 in the village of Shibpur – Tripura, now in Bangladesh. His father Sadhu Khan and older brother Fakir Aftabuddin Khan became the involuntary catalysts of his musical resolution that made him first seek the company of saadhu musicians at the local temple and then escape home, heading towards his destiny at the sparkling age of eight. It took almost 30 odd years of bleak circumstances and a host of celebrated teachers later that Baba Alauddin Khan was made the official disciple of the Senia Gharana under his Guru Wazir Khan, a direct descendant of Mian Tansen. Years later, Maharaja Brijnath Singh of Maihar State took permission from Wazir Khan Sahib and with his blessing appointed Baba Allauddin court musician and made him his Guru in Maihar where he eventually settled to teach. In 1926 he started his music institution by teaching war orphans and destitute children. `Madina Bhavan`, his home, became a Gurukul for music. Baba Allauddin Khan taught music in a bouquet enriched with the vocal style of Dhrupad, Dhamar, Hori, Tappa, Khayal and the stringed techniques of Senia Bin and Rabab in Sarode, Sitar, Surbahar, Violin and other stringed instruments. His mastery of 240 instruments was palpable in his teaching as he worked at creating Masers of Raga and Tala in a burgeoning, norm expanding approach to music.
Baba Allauddin Khan was Guru to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (son), Smt. Annapurna Devi (daughter) Pandit Timir Baran, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Maharaja of Maihar Brijnath Singh, Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Music Directors Sachin Dev Burman and Roshan, Smt. Sharan Rani, Jyotin Bhattacharya, Indranil Bhattacharya, Sisirkana Dhar Chowdhary, Vasant Rai, Ustad Bahadur Khan (nephew), Raj Dulari Khan (second wife of Ali Akbar Khan) and his grand children- Aashish Khan, Shubho Shankar (son of Ravi Shankar and Smt. Annapurna Devi), Dhyanesh Khan, Ameena Perera, Pranesh Khan, Amaresh Khan, and Rajesh Khan .

In 1955, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and later Pandit Ravi Shankar introduced and popularized the Maihar Senia Gharana across the world attracting hordes of students to become part of this grand legacy. Their music flowed across concert halls and movie scores, theatres and institutions. The tradition thus set up is now known as The Baba Allauddin Khan Maihar Senia Gharana and its prowess and influence remains a beacon for all serious students of music.

Boro Baba never sat still for a minute. He would draw and paint and make paper cut outs to decorate his home. His travails had made him a good cook and he would often offer advice to his children on how to make a particular dish and he personally went to the market to buy the right ingredients; (his market visits were a time we welcomed because it spelled not having to tiptoe around the house). He remained a vegetarian all his life and would eat fish but no meat at all. He was an avid gardener and would work in the garden while his students, especially Dadu (Ali Akbar Khan) practiced to keep an eye on them and shout corrections if a note or beat went awry or even a pause ensued. He micro managed his farm and was especially concerned about the well being of calves and their mother cows. I remember huge cauldrons of grain being cooked on our earthen stoves for special meals for the birthing cows.

Boro Baba and his brother Ayet Ali Khan also set up a small business for the repair of music instruments. In fact, this business also had the voluntary services of Dida (Zubeda Khan) who had, under the tutelage of her formidable but equally lovable father in law become an expert at making the plectrums the for Sarod. In the process of repairing instruments, Dadu also created new instruments such as the Chandra Sarang, Sarang, Nal Tarang and Sitar-banjo) and fashioned the Sarod to its present day perfection.

Between all of this activity, Boro Baba would pray five times a day and walk up the hill to the temple of Ma Sharada. And he would pen down his notes and compose … New Ragas like Madan Manjari (named after his wife), Prabhakali, Swarasati, Shobhavati, Madhavasri, Hem Bhairav, Madhavgiri, Bhagvati, Hemant, Hem Behag and Manjh Khamaj. He created the first Indian orchestra, known as a Maihar Band or Maihar Vadya Vrinda and devoted good time to his every activity, always in synch with the melodic rhythm he had carefully nurtured within.

And it is to this spirit of utter and blissful equilibrium that one offers one’s love and pranam on his birth anniversary.

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Shiraz Ali Khan

Steadfast in his resolve to follow in the footsteps of his great grandfather Acharya Baba Allauddin Khan, his grandfather Ali Akbar Khan, and father Dhyanesh Khan, Shiraz is determined to break his way through the music circuit as a promising sarode exponent. As a budding talent of the present generation, Shiraz is making a sincere attempt to carry on the lineage of the exalted Maihar Gharana.


What Colour Is Your Raindrop by Tajdar Junaid


Let’s just begin by saying that you have probably never heard of anything like Tajdar Junaid’s music. This doesn’t mean that it is too left off the centre and needs exceptional patience and concentration to understand. On the contrary; his music is uplifting, inspirational, melodic and calming and something you can listen to in the background while you go about your life. His songs are like the background score to a day lived fully and in contemplation of the past, present and the future. You cannot help but smile at the soothing and nostalgic tone of his songs.

Tajdar Junaid is a Kolkata-based musician who seems to be born to be a musician. A musical hippie at heart, he draws inspiration from film, literature, art and life for his songs and always strives to combine eastern and western musical sensibilities seamlessly in his music. An immensely talented musician, he taught himself how to play the ukulele, charango and mandolin and uses them extensively in his songs. The blend of such disparate influences with heartfelt and soulful lyrics is what makes his music so unique. You could call his music eccentric, but that would only prejudice you towards it. Listen to his music with an open mind and prepare to be blown away.

An experienced musician, he has tasted the kind of success that most musicians can only dream of. He has created music for documentaries, TV programs and theatre productions. More importantly, his music has been featured on the soundtracks of movies by legendary filmmakers like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Anurag Kashyap. His immense talent has also led him to work with acclaimed sound engineers like Paul ‘Salty’ Brincat and collaborate with composer Michael Yezersky on the soundtrack for The Waiting City. Apart from enjoying mainstream success, he has collaborated with a host of local and international artists like Karsh Kale, Fred White, Greg Johnson and Amyt Datta. It is no wonder that his music does not fall squarely into one category and manages to straddle various genres without a hitch. Although he is a multi-instrumentalist, he seems most comfortable and proficient with a guitar and uses it to great effect on his songs.

However, having played for many years with numerous bands across various genres, he decided to quit the mainstream music scene all together, disillusioned by the commercialization. He even went so far as to take a complete break from the music scene to cleanse his musical palate and find inspiration. He spent his sabbatical obsessively listening to music by artists that have inspired him, learning to play new instruments and immersing himself in various art forms to relight his passion for music. All this led to the creation of his debut solo effort – What Colour Is Your Raindrop. Tajdar wrote the songs on this album over a period of about four years and the album is an insight into his life and his story.

According to him, the album is a collection of ten stories about him and the title “What Colour Is Your Raindrop” seems to ask the listener to think about his/her story. Tajdar was particularly influenced by the music of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Albert King and Iranian cinema while he was working on the album,which allowed him to create an album that reeks of his rejuvenated passion for music. When he felt he was lacking in some way and needed help expressing what he was feeling, he collaborated with other artists in an effort to make each song as true to his feelings as possible. The album features 18 artists from around the world playing more than a dozen various instruments such as the sarangi, oboe, paino, sarod,charango, duduk and Glockenspiel.

Only a musical genius like Tajdar can allow so many different influences on his album without it becoming chaotic and the songs becoming disconnected. He has managed to reign in the different sounds on his album to create a harmonious mix of different styles and genres without losing the overall theme of the album. As a result, listening to the album is akin to taking a musical journey around the world as well as a trip down memory lane. Tajdar has managed to present various musical styles in a familiar way to his audience. This is probably why the songs on the album are already so successful with two of them being featured on the movie Sold produced by Emma Thompson – an achievement very few other artists can claim. Calming and poignant, listening to this album is like breathing in the smell of the earth after a shower.

The whole album has a very hippie feel to it and focuses more on the music rather than the lyrics to convey emotions. Also, this is probably one of the very few albums I have heard that has so many fully-instrumental tracks. The music on the album is simplistic and positive, devoid of drama, soulful and easy on the ears.

The album begins with the track ‘Though I Know’- written as a farewell song for one of Tajdar’s closest friends. This track is more folksy and pop-rock with a great twangy intro. Tajdar brings through the sadness of parting with his vocals, which contrasts well with the string instruments. With lyrics like “The wind is blowing, but it won’t carry my prayers to you”, the track could have become very melodramatic and sad. Instead, the song is slightly bittersweet and just a tad melancholic. This song features a host of plucked string instruments and is a very sing-along track.

‘Aisle’, the next track on the album, is inspired by the process of introspection and reflection and just being with one’s thoughts. It is a peaceful instrumental track switching between uplifting and brooding moods. The harmonium in the intro can be quite jarring but the track soon mellows out into a guitar and violin dominated song. As a listener, you will not miss the lyrics as the music is so emotive.

The album then moves onto another instrumental song ‘Dastaan’. This charango is heavily featured in this song and the track is a very atmospheric song. It is one of the darker and more depressing tracks on the album and is one of the songs featured in the movie Sold. Tajdar has left a lot of pauses and blank spaces in the song to give people the time to think about their stories. One of my favourites on the album, the song becomes particularly emotional when the sarangi kicks in.

The next track ‘Mockingbird’ is in complete contrast to the previous track. The music is uplifting although the lyrics talk about being in two minds about a relationship. It features guest vocals by Greg Johnson, one of the artists that Tajdar Junaid considers an inspiration. The vocals are great, but the sarangi stands out like a sore thumb in an otherwise pop-rock track. The song could have been much better if the Hindustani classical component had been toned down a bit.

This is followed by the title track – ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop’, a nice acoustic and light track with no lyrics – just light humming by Tajdar. This song is dominated by the guitar and the djembe and is particularly laidback. This is another instrumental track designed to put the listener in a reflective mood. Unlike the previous track, the sarangi goes very well here and lends a nostalgic tone to the song. However, this track is meant to be interpreted differently by different listeners so feel free to draw your own conclusions.

‘The First Year’ is somewhat similar to ‘Dastaan’, but is more orchestral and theatrical. This track progresses beautifully and builds up slowly with the violin, viola, sarangi and cello making the song grand and atmospheric. Like ‘Dastaan’, it is another favourite and one of the more melancholic and moody songs on the album and was the last song to be recorded for the album. Another instrumental track, it toys with one’s mood bringing up angsty and darker emotions unlike most of the other uplifting tracks on the album.

‘Ekta Golpo’ is the only Bengali track on the album and as the title suggests, this song talks about a story of a king with eight horses. A fun track featuring vocals by Anusheh Anadil and Satyaki Banerjee and it has a very Baul feel to it with the Baul influence being very clear from the get-go. ´Ekta Golpo’ is a great break from the other mellower tracks and it is memorable just by being so different.

The album changes tempo with the lullaby – ‘Aamna’, a track that Tajdar says he wrote for his niece. One can only imagine how musically inclined his niece will grow up to be if this track is her regular lullaby! A soulful instrumental track composed entirely on the acoustic guitar. However, in an album with so many instrumental tracks, ‘Aamna’ does tend to disappear.

‘Prelude to Poland’ is yet another instrumental track but is far more western classical in nature than the rest of the album. Also, unlike the other tracks, the piano has been used to great effect in this song. Beginning languidly and solemnly, the track grows steadily ominous and chaotic and lifts up again ending on a quieter note.

The last track on this album is ´Yadon Ki Pari’ – a beautiful homage to his father. Tajdar’s father can be heard reciting one of his Urdu poems in the intro, which is innovative and interesting. The poetry suddenly gives way to the drums, which give the track a very rock and roll feel. With the inclusion of heavy distortions, this track changes tempo and is the most rock-influenced song on the album. It is interspersed with recordings of his father reading poetry accompanied by some melodic violins. Overall, it is a very fitting end to this album and sounds almost like a celebration on having put out such a great collection of tracks.

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Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!


Indian Blue at The BFlat Bar

Indian Blue

An auspicious month like this calls for some extraordinary classical music festivals and performances all over India. For us Bangaloreans, we had the city of joy brought down to us with the guys from Indian Blue. They’ve been touring Bangalore for the festive season and were playing their last show before heading back home.

Led by Shiraz Ali Khan, grandson of the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on Sarod, their music is a continuum of rich classical Indian melody crossing over with some groovy funk-blues for some contemporary sounding world fusion. The lineup included Dishari Chakraborty on Persian Santoor; Arindam Bhattacharya on Vocals; Ranjan De on Bangla Dhol, Tabla; Shovon Mukherjee on Bass guitar; Santonu Borah on Electric guitar and Avijit Sarkar on Drums.

The show kicked off with an impromptu drum+bass jam on John Coltranes ‘Mr. PC’, this is where Avijit and Shovon set the precedent for the rest of the show outlining the mastery that each of the instrumentalists commands.

‘Journey’ was the first track, a nice happy instrumental track lead in the motif by the Sarod. I noticed some crisp hi-hat work and some outstanding bass runs – a feature I will emphasize for the remainder of the review. ’Anticipation’ followed on with the same energy. Some tight little synchronized sections  gave me a nice taste of things to come.  Arindam joined the band on stage to sing the next song, what I recognised as ‘Kesariya Baalam’ a Rajasthani folk song that’s been covered by scores of legends over the years.Measurably slower to suit some delicate harkats, Raag Mand is but one flavor to the Rajasthani Folk sound. Toned bass fills and tabla flourishes filled up the ether along with some delectable bass harmonics. The next track maintained the same mellow feel. Since the levels were a bit lower the tabla was noticeably loud and sharp. This was the time when conversations resumed on tables and people were murmuring amongst themselves and I got the feeling that the audience was slowly slipping away, but then, one transition and drumroll changed everything. The music peaked and crescendo-ed, the energy rose breaking into a crunchy guitar solo. Dishari showed us what a Santoor was capable of with a small interlude, playing down the energy to finish in style.

The next song was interesting; a funky guitar riff set the motif in meter with a time signature in 14/8. It took me quite a few cycles to figure that one out. Launch guitar solo, and resolve to the motif while Avijit Sarkar soloed inside and outside the time boundary with some smooth syncopation. Everyone dropped out for Ranjans Bangla Dhol solo, very Phish-like in giving space to cut loose for a solo spot, while the drum and bass hold on tight to that meter for a groove right in the pocket.

Next up was a dissonant sounding vocal track, Arindam sounded melancholic and yet contemptful with some ornate alaaps, imitated, teased and replied to on the tabla. And when the warm feeling was full of itself, the mood transitioned, heavier and louder with a rock style driving the song into a finality for the set.

Whilst the band took a break, Ranjan entertained the audience with an innovative comical score interpreting a ‘conversation between a husband and wife’ as performed by Taufiq Qureshi. The band got back on stage to resume regular programming after Ranjan’s mouth percussion act and a durga puja-esque dhol solo.

There was a request for a Bengali song and Indian Blue obliged. Simply in melody, light sugam vocals made for a nostalgic Bengali song.  Sidenote – It is worth a mention that the best original music modern for its times in the 70s was always from Calcutta. My recommendation to non-Bengalis would be to listen to the forerunner of the movement – Mohiner Ghoraguli.

The highlight of the evening would have to be their rendition of the classic Beatles track ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ with a light bossa nova beat, those humble chords, the Santoor and Sarod flavoring the melody with a teaspoon of Hindustani classicism. The song simply flowed out from an alternate universe where peace and love unites all humanity. I loved how they presented this song.

They ended the show with an original track dedicated to the gods of the monsoon, a ‘Saawan Barse’ track that had a tremendous build up with some guitar-delay effects and Ranjan on the mike, creating a sinister vocal texture, brooding like an imminent thundercloud, covering the dry earth with rain as Arindam sang with the joy that abounds in the hearts of people in relief from the sun and in gratitude to the heavens – a powerful way to end a fantastic show and leave a very happy crowd shouting for more.

My key takeaways from this gig were Avijit’s drumming style – crisp, neat and really attentive to dynamics in levels. Shovon is currently in my Top 3 bass guitarists list. Indian Blue has a sound distinct in this upcoming niche of fusion bands and with some impressive lineage on their side, coupled with their sheer talent- Indian Blue has a long way to go, please await the release of their new album in the coming months.

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Fidel Dsouza

Fidel Dsouza is a Journalist/Editor at WTS