‘They lack logic’: Hindustani maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan explains why he doesn’t like new raags

'They lack logic': Hindustani maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan explains why he doesn't like new raags
Photo Credit: via YouTube
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Known for his unbelievable virtuosity, superb intonation, unpredictability, and above all, a unique tonal quality, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (1901-1968), doyen of the Patiala gharana, took the world of Hindustani music by storm in the 1940s. Though inimitable, he left behind a stylistic legacy that has impacted several vocalists of successive generations.

In the series featuring conversations with maestros of Hindustani music, here are two interviews with Bade Ghulam Ali Khan included on a single track. Despite his indifferent health during the first interview, he responds in great detail to wide-ranging questions posed by noted vocalist Naina Devi. He describes his tutelage under his uncle Kale Khan and his father Ali Baksh, and enumerates the stylistic features of the Patiala gharana. Perfect intonation, respect for the structure and the grammar of the raag, proper elaboration of the composition, clarity in taans or swift melodic passages, and preventing the raag and the khayal composition from losing their original character and transforming into a thumri, are some of the characteristics that he mentions. He demonstrates his vocal and tonal range that he had developed as per the instruction he had received and the practice regimen that he had followed.

Responding to a question about styles of thumri, he states that the Purab style was the original one and was later adopted by singers in Punjab. He emphasises that the thumri form cannot be presented well by all artistes, as it requires a different sensibility that is not easy to come by. He elaborates on this by demonstrating the Purab and Punjab styles, constantly mimicking the defects that are noticeable in some thumri singers. In this context, he refers to the exaggerated vocal articulation, the excessive theatrical element and the forceful projection, that he believes hampers the presentation of some singers in both styles.

Dismissing novelty

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan is dismissive of the introduction of new raags in the Hindustani system. He believes this lacks logic and basis, and is often done only to create novelty. In this context, he refers to raags like Kirwani and Charukeshi that were adopted from the Carnatic system. Interestingly, these two raags have been made popular over the past few decades by extremely popular and well-respected performers who have regarded Bade Ghulam Ali Khan as a pathbreaker and an idol, thus proving that changes in repertoire and presentation are inevitable in spite of opposition from older musicians. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan also explains the structural requirements of raags in the Hindustani system. Contradicting popular perception that performers do not articulate their thoughts on the structure and grammar of raags, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan presents his views candidly.

Asked for his reaction to patronage for Hindustani music at the time that this interview was taken, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan states that the number of listeners has increased but not all in the audience are informed about musical subtleties. He compliments the state for its patronage, but he is not very hopeful about the outcome of institutionalised music education. In fact, he clearly states that those who train in music institutions can only be employed as music teachers in schools but cannot perform. He rates practice higher than theory, thus revealing the dichotomy and the tension that existed between practitioners and theoreticians. Clearly, his statements are a reflection of the dismissive position held by many hereditary musicians towards institutionalised music education and knowledge based on the written word.

The 52” interview ends with demonstrations of his compositions.

The second interview features Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s thoughts on the evolution of raags. He demonstrates various folk melodies found in various parts of India and neighbouring regions that he believes later evolved into forms that are now recognised as established raags.


Bah! Humbug! Why tourists should steer clear of Goa’s overrated Carnival

Bah! Humbug! Why tourists should steer clear of Goa's overrated CarnivalPhoto Credit: YouTube
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Earlier this week, residents of Panaji, Goa’s capital, awoke to the sight of large pink masks and blue, red and green buntings being draped on the street along the Mandovi River, where a sprinkling of brown-headed gulls enjoyed the early February sun.

This weekend, Carnival ‒ the burst of celebration before Christians begin to observe the 40-day period of abstinence ‒ is being held across the state. The advance preparations for the four-day festival came as a surprise for residents, who are more used to seeing white-cloth barricades being hastily erected at one end of the street even as the parade is about to begin at the other.

From February 6-9, with the backing of the state government, the streets in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa will be awash with colour, parades and floats. King Momo – the mythical king of the Carnival – and his entourage will take over the state and there will be music, rejoicing and much revelry.

Or that’s the story we tell to bring in the tourists.

How Goa does it

In times bygone, revellers dressed up in colourful home-made costumes would go around the main Carnival areas singing and dancing. Mock fights would take place between groups of boys, employing rotten eggs and tomatoes as the weapons. “Cocotes” or bombs made with paper and filled with clay, were used during these pretend battles.

These days, the boys on foot have been replaced by groups of entertainers on floats decorated with larger-than-life papier-mache depictions of flora, fauna, events of local interest and other newsworthy items. In recent years, floats have themes portraying the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, global warming, the disappearing tigers, and local crafts.

This year, the iconic coconut palm is likely to take centre stage after the state government last month controversially decided that it wasn’t a tree after all, and didn’t deserve the conservation protections afforded to other foliage.

The long line of floats is undoubtedly the star attraction of the parade. The vehicles will carry massive speakers that will echo live and recorded music for the entertainment of the thousands who gather to watch the spectacle. Those close to the action will need to keep earplugs handy.

This year, in a bid to improve the quality of the parade, the state government has providedfinancial assistance of Rs 1 lakh to “selected floats” as part of a collaborative project with organisations from the UK and South Africa.

The Goa government has also added a dress code to “curb obscenity” at the parade, but the exact restrictions remain unclear. Does this mean that King Momo (or Queen Momo, as in Margao) and his bevy of ladies will not show a shoulder or a hint of a leg? Or perhaps the dancers in their Kunbi saris will wear longer blouses to hide their bellies?

The government’s moral scruples are likely to be the cause for disappointment for the thousands of tourists from all over the country who throng the streets. For many, this is as close as they will get to the samba drums of Brazil, where the festival is celebrated on a much larger scale. But dress code or not, anyone expecting to see dancers in feathers and little else is living in a fantasy world: the Goa Carnival has always been far more demure.

Some visitors familiar with other Carnival parades around the world come dressed for the occasion with masks and hats, costumes and high heels. They stand out among the “I love Goa” T-shirts and young Indian women in tiny shorts with hands full of wedding henna and red, just-married bangles. Vendors will attempt to make a quick buck selling them masks and noisemakers.

Preparing for chaos

Long-time Carnival watchers know that despite the careful preparations of the authorities, the event will probably follow the traditional routine. For instance, even though white-cloth barricades have been constructed to regulate the flow of people, the enterprising audience can be expected to climb over the piles of uncleared garbage and squeeze through the gaps. They will find a tear in the cloth and make it larger. No matter how tightly the fabric is tied, it is no match for the strength of a thousand grasping hands.

For many local residents, the barricade and the crowds are an effective deterrent. It’s much more relaxing to watch the parade on live television, with close-ups of the action and tea and friends for company.

By early in the evening, chaos will reign. Motorcycles and cars will clog every surface available, including pavements and zones that have been cordoned off. Eventually, the police will give up and the traffic will sputter and freeze like a mythical beast with a life of its own.

By sundown, as the parade has ended and the tourists are wandering off, residents will heave a sigh of relief. The familiar mound of trash near Panjim’s new Patto Bridge will have doubled in size. There will be plastic bags and bottles on the river bank and in the water.

The gulls will not come back at night. And, if they’re wise, neither will the tourists.


Google Now Lets You Install Apps Directly From Search Results

Google Now Lets You Install Apps Directly From Search Results

Google last year started prompting users to install an app on mobile if it had relevant content to the user’s search query. Now, the company has taken a step ahead and is allowing users to install the apps directly from the search results without opening the Google Play store.

Android Police reports that the feature is not available to everyone and can be expected to roll out slowly. It does not yet appear to be available in India, and we were directed to Google Play on hitting the Install button.

Previously, Google’s mobile search results on Android prompted users to install an app if it had relevant content to the user’s search query.

(Also see: Google Now Lets You Stream Android Apps From Mobile Search Results)

The report adds that on tapping the Install button with the new feature enabled, users will get the permission popup message, which users usually received during app installs from the Google Play. On giving permission to install the app, a new Google Play-style overlay would appear, with user acceptance of the app’s permissions and the final, install button. It adds that the feature is currently only visible on the Google app and is not found on Chrome.

While Google last year introduced app indexing for iOS apps which showed iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users content from within mobile apps straight from Google Search, it is not clear if Google will be able to roll out similar install functionality for users via Apple’s App Store.


Flipkart Invests in Parenting Social Network Tinystep

Flipkart Invests in Parenting Social Network TinystepTinystep, a parenting social network, Tuesday said it has raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Flipkart.

The Bengaluru-based startup plans to use the funds to develop the product, enhance user experience and strengthen its team, Tinystep said in a statement.

The funding will also be utilised to further accelerate the company’s growth and user engagement, it added.

Tinystep is a mobile app that helps parents connect with each other to communicate, guide and collaborate with each other on parenting with features like Q&A Forum, individual and group chats.

“Silicon Valley has given us Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more awesome social products, Tinystep can be a tiny gift from India. Flipkart is helping us with the required guidance to continue our excelling growth,” Tinystep founder Suhail Abidi said.

The 20-member team of Tinystep comprises mostly of engineers from colleges like Stanford and IITs.

The app has many features lined up to for a baby’s milestones, baby’s first steps, first tooth, memories etc, meetups to encourage parents to organise meet ups directly through the app, and others.

“This concept has great potential in the existing market, and it is the much needed tech product in the parenting domain,” Flipkart Head Corporate Development Nishant Verman said.

The child care industry holds massive potential and Tinystep being a community driven product is definitely going in the right direction towards dominating it, he added.

One of India’s largest online marketplaces, Flipkart has so far raised over $3 billion (roughly Rs. 20,288 crores) from institutional investors.

It has, in turn, also backed a number of startups in the mobile technology space in the past few months.

It has invested in media technology startup ZAPR, mobile gaming company Mech Mocha Game Studios and MadRat Games, and mobile technology startup Cube26.’