Monday, May 26, 2014

Hindustani Music in the Baroda State

Swara Vilas, the premier cultural institution in Baroda, celebrated its Golden Jubilee in February 2014. The Souvenir published on the occasion documented the history of Hindustani music under the erstwhile Baroda State, and thereafter under the auspices of Swara Vilas. Given below is an overview of classical music activity under the Baroda State. The picture on the left shows the souvenir being presented for release to the Swara Vilas Chairperson, Her Highness Rajmata Shubhangini Devi Gaekwad of Baroda. 


India has a long tradition of aristocratic patronage of the arts and culture.  In addition to the protection and prosperity of subjects, the Indian ideal of kingship has made rulers responsible also for their moral, spiritual and cultural uplift. This tradition could well have decayed during the colonial period, had India’s alien rulers demolished the older political structures. The British, instead, found it convenient to retain the traditional structure of Indian society, and allowed the Indian aristocracy to pursue its traditional ideals, while fulfilling their military and financial obligations to them.

After 1857, 562 ( 569, according to some accounts) princely states came directly under the suzerainty of the British Crown. Of these, a few were granted a special relationship with the Sovereign on account of their revenue potential, military prowess, and quality of governance. Baroda was amongst these states, along with Kashmir, Patiala, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Gwalior, Indore, Mysore, Travancore, and Hyderabad.  Under the new dispensation, these states enjoyed special stipends and subsidies, along with greater administrative autonomy and financial freedom. Amongst these jewels of the British crown, the princely state of Baroda, ruled by the Gaekwad dynasty, emerged at the forefront of the renaissance that swept India in the last 100 years of British rule.

Colonial supervision eliminated warfare between neighboring states, thus bringing peace to the entire sub-continent. With the special status they enjoyed under British rule, the powerful states had the resources and the freedom to become major patrons of sports, literature, architecture and the arts.  They patronized scholars, musicians, dancers, poets, and sportsmen in large numbers, set up great institutions of learning, and built beautiful cities contributing greatly to the quality of life enjoyed by their citizens.  In a very real sense, the rulers of these major states became the engineers of a modern Indian identity, and precursors to the political leadership that later led India towards independence. Amongst the princely builders of modern India, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda achieved legendary status.

Despite his multi-dimensional contribution to the life of Baroda, Maharaja Sayajirao III is most gratefully remembered for his patronage and encouragement of classical music.  The recent history of Hindustani music cannot be written without referring to musicians and scholars who flourished under his patronage. More than a century after Maharaja Sayajirao established a music school in Baroda (1886), the institution remains the principal provider of music education in the state, with the largest enrollment of students seeking a degree in music, dance, and theater.


Ustad Maula Baksh (1833-1896)
Ustad Maula Baksh was a formidable vocalist, Veena player, and scholar who played a leading role in the establishment of Baroda’s musical culture. In that era, he was a rare Hindustani musician, who had also mastered the Carnatic Veena. He reportedly learnt Hindustani music secretly from Ustad Ghaseeta Khan, a renowned though inaccessible musician of his era, by overhearing his Guru’s practice sessions. When the maestro found out, he was impressed enough with Maula Baksh to accept him as a disciple. Maula Baksh served the royal court of Mysore before he was invited by the Baroda Court. In this capacity, he was also given the responsibility for the State music school founded in 1886.  He rendered outstanding services as a musician and as an educationist, authoring several text books for music students, and devising perhaps the first comprehensive notation system for Hindustani music. He introduced several Carnatic raga-s to Hindustani music, and pioneered orchestration in Indian classical music.  Ustad Maula Baksh ran the school for 10 years, and upon his death in 1896, his son, Khansaheb Murtaza Khan was made Principal. In recognition of his contribution, the bust of Ustad Maula Baksh now adorns the entrance to the Faculty of Performing Arts of the MS University of Baroda.

Ustad Faiz Muhammad Khan (died: 1920)
Faiz Mohammad Khan was a contemporary of Ustad Maula Baksh, and enjoyed virtually parallel status as a musician at the Baroda Court. He was a distinguished vocalist of the Gwalior gharana. Documented history is unclear about his artistic antecedents. He was reportedly a younger brother of the same Ghaseet Khan, who was the Guru of Maula Baksh. According to some accounts, he was a disciple of Ustad Natthan Peer Baksh, the founder of the Gwalior gharana; but other accounts point out that he was much younger to Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan (the sons of Natthan Peer Baksh), and could have been a disciple of either of them.

There is no doubt, however, that he was a highly influential member of the Gaekwad music establishment. He was assigned the task of prospecting for a young musician who could bring greater glory to the Baroda court, and selected the young Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, who reigned as the uncrowned emperor of the concert platform for almost four decades. Later, Faiz Mohammad also became Faiyyaz Khan’s father-in-law.

In addition to his Court duties, Faiz Mohammad taught at the Baroda State Music School, and groomed brilliant musicians, such as Bhaskar Rao Bakhle.

Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936)
In the first quarter of the 20th century, Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, a practicing Advocate from Bombay, took upon himself the task of organizing all available knowledge on the practice and theory of classical music. For this, he travelled across the lengths and breadths of the country unearthing old texts, and drawing on the accumulated musical wisdom of as many scholars and musicians as would cooperate. His contribution to Indian musicology is considered on par with that of Sharangadeva, who authored the landmark treatise, Sangeet Ratnakar, in the 13th century.  Bhatkhande’s scholarship and pioneering zeal appealed to Maharaja Sayajirao III, who gave him his wholehearted support.

The first All India Music Conference was organized at Baroda in 1916 under the patronage of Maharaja Sayajirao, with Bhatkhande in the chair. The conference hosted leading scholars and musicians from the Hindustani as well as Carnatic traditions. It was a landmark event in the history of Indian classical music. Learned papers were read and discussed, and several controversial issues in musicology were settled with the emergence of a consensus.

Maharaja Sayajirao III saw in Bhatkhande’s work the possibility of widespread musical literacy and institutionalized music education. Therefore, he enlisted Bhatkhande’s guidance for reorganizing the  music school.  Between 1926 and 1928, Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, the pre-eminent musician at the Baroda Court served as the Principal of the school. When Prof. Hirjibhai Doctor was appointed Principal (1928), the Bhatkhande methodology was fully integrated into the education system, thus enabling it to evolve into a Degree granting institution.

Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931)
A contemporary of Bhatkhande, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, was the other renaissance man of Hindustani music in the 20th century. A product of the influential Gwalior gharana, and a formidable scholar and musician, he decided to forego success as a performer, and devoted his life to music education.  Unlike professional musicians, Paluskar lodged himself unobtrusively in a temple during his visit to Baroda. Devotees at the temple heard him every morning when he practiced from 4.00 am to 8.00 am. Soon the royal household heard of this great musician who was visiting the city incognito. Paluskar was invited to perform at the court. Faiz Muhammad Khan, the influential vocalist at the Baroda court, performed after Paluskar, but failed to make an impression. The Gaekwad Court honored Paluskar with a generous contribution to his missionary work.  The Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, founded by Paluskar, remains to this day the leading all-India institution for music education.

Ustad Murtaza Khan (1860-??)
Ustad Murtaza Khan was a son of Ustad Maula Baksh. He grew up in Myrsore during his father’s tenure at the Mysore Court, and learnt Kannada and Telugu, besides Urdu, Persian and Arabic. When the family moved to Baroda, he learnt Marathi and Gujarati. He was a child prodigy, who acquired performing competence as a vocalist, Rudra Veena player, and a Saraswati (Carnatic) Veena player while still in his teens. By the age of 12, he was accompanying his father, and also performing independently.

On his father’s demise in 1896, he was appointed Principal of the State Music School. His post was apparently coveted by some other members of the Baroda music establishment. Professional rivalry and a minor misunderstanding with Maharaja Sayajirao led to his removal. Despite this, he remained a highly respected musician of the Baroda Court, with frequent concert appearances at the Palace.

Pandit Govind Sharma (1863-1924)
Govind Sharma was the most promising disciple of Ustad Maula Baksh. His family hailed from Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, and moved to Baroda when his grandfather entered the service of the Baroda State as a minor functionary.

He was charmed by the musical prowess of Maula Baksh and served the Ustad devotedly for many years before he was accepted as a disciple. He was a quick learner and acquired performing competence at a young age. He had a great future as a vocalist, which was cut short by excessive strain on his vocal chords, which cost him his voice. Maula Baksh resurrected his career as a musician by coaching him on the Sitar. Sharma then served the Baroda State music school as a Sitar teacher, and also authored two valuable books on music. Towards the latter part of his life, he came under the influence of Sant Vaman Buwa, relinquished the world, and travelled across the country in the service of his spiritual master.

Bhaskar Buwa Bakhle (1869-1922)
Bhaskara Rao Bakhle was born to very poor parents in Kathore village of the Baroda State.  His talent was noticed by an influential citizen, Gajanan Bhatavdekar, during a school function. Bhatavdekar sent the prodigy to Ustad Maula Baksh to be trained at the State music school.  Around that time, the Kirloskar Drama Company was looking for a singer-actor to play female roles, and appointed Bhaskar Rao to the vacancy. When the drama company was visiting Indore, the famous Beenkar, Bande Ali Khan adopted him, and began to train him. Around the time the drama company left Indore, Bakhle’s male voice was emerging, jeopardizing his usefulness.  With no further interest in theater, and passionately committed to a career as a classical vocalist, he returned to Baroda in search of a direction. At this stage, Mr. Telang, another senior official of the State, placed him under the tutelage of Ustad Faiz Muhammad Khan, another leading Court musician. After several years of Gwalior gharana training, Faiz Muhammad sent Bhaskar Rao to study with the Agra Gharana stalwart, Ustad Natthan Khan (1840-1901), then at the Mysore Court. Thereafter, Bakhle became a disciple of Ustad Alladiya Khan (1855-1946), the fountainhead of the Jaipur Atrauli Gharana. With training under three stalwarts of the era, Bhaskar Buwa Bakhle emerged as one of the most formidable vocalists of his times. Although never in the service of the Baroda state, he was a product of the rich musical culture that Baroda had established under the patronage of the Gaekwad rulers.

Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan (1872-1937)
At the age of 19, Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan left his home in Kairana, a village in Sahranpur District of UP, along with his brother, Abdul Haque, in search of a career. Baroda, a famed centre of music, was an obvious destination. After failing to get an audience at the Gaekwad Court, the brothers managed to gatecrash into a Court appearance of the famous Dhrupadiyas from Jaipur, Ustad Allabande and Ustad Zakiruddin Dagar. Perchance, the itinerant brothers were also allowed to perform at the soiree. Ustad Maula Baksh, the senior Court Musician was impressed, and advised the Maharaja to appoint them in the service of the State. Abdul Kareem Khan served the Baroda Court for three years, during which period he successfully wooed Tarabai Mane, the daughter of a nobleman at the Baroda Court. Their romance was evidently the trigger for his departure from Baroda. But, their union produced eminently durable results. Their three children – Hirabai Barodekar, Saraswatibai Rane, and Suresh Babu Mane –  all emerged as formidable torchbearers of the Kairana Gharana.

Ustad Tasadduq Hussain Khan (1879-??)
Tasadduq Hussain was the son and disciple of Ustad Kallan Khan of the Agra lineage. He was also a scholar of Urdu and Persian languages and known for his command over Raga grammar. He was appointed by the Baroda State as a music teacher at one of the State-run high schools, which he served for 22 years. He made a contribution to the storehouse of Agra gharana compositions under the pen-name “Vinod Piya”. In his memoirs, the Agra gharana stalwart, Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan named Tasadduq Hussain amongst his several Gurus.

Ustad Faiyyaz Khan (1886-1950)
In the early years of the 20th century, Maharaja Sayajirao III, asked Ustad Faiz Muhammad, a senior Court Musician, to search the country for a promising musician who could add to the stature of the Baroda Court for years to come. In his pan-India search, Faiz Muhammad visited Agra where he encountered Faiyyaz Khan, a scion of the Rangeele gharana from his father’s side, and the Agra gharana from his mother’s side.  By this time, the young genius had already been honored by the rulers of Mysore and Hyderabad. On Faiz Mohammad’s commendation, Maharaja Sayajirao invited Faiyyaz Khan to perform at the Holi festival at the Baroda Court. At the age of 32, Ustad Faiyyaz Khan was appointed to the Baroda Court. Over the next four decades, with Baroda as his base, the Ustad built up a towering all-India presence as the undisputed emperor of the concert platform.  VN Bhatkhande, the father of Indian musicology, regarded him as the most authentic contemporary exponent of traditional music. The title of “Aftab-e-mausiqui” conferred on him by the Mysore Court got permanently attached to his name. And, to this day, he is always spoken of as “Ustad Faiyyaz Khan of Baroda”.

In addition to his stature as a musician, Ustad Faiyyaz Khan distinguished himself as a Guru, grooming a small army of great teachers – SN Ratanjankar (1900-1974), Dilipchandra Vedi (1901-1992), Dhruvatara Joshi (1914-1992), Latafat Hussain Khan (1921-1986), Ghulam Quadir Khan (1917-2002), Sharafat Hussain Khan (1930-1985), and Ata Hussain Khan (1903-1980).  The great Ustad is also credited with having guided the flowering of the exceptional musicianship of his Harmonium accompanist, Ustad Ghulam Rasool Khan.

Hazrat Enayet Khan (1882-1927)
Hazrat Enayet Khan was a grandson of Ustad Maula Baksh. The “Hazrat” honorific owes to his emergence as an influential Sufi mystic on the international scene, along with his stature as a scholar and performer of Indian classical music. He acquired great proficiency in Gujarati, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, and Marathi in his early years, and became fluent in English, French and Spanish in his later years. With his multi-lingual facility, Enayet Khan emerged effortlessly as India’s first cultural ambassador to the West, a good 50 years before the Dagar Brothers, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan placed Hindustani music on the world’s classical music map.

Enayet Khan was a child prodigy, who excelled in academic and musical pursuits from an early age. He was trained as a vocalist and a Veena player at the Baroda State Music School, and also showed interest in Western classical music. Impressed by his talent, the Baroda State awarded him a scholarship to go to Europe to study Western Music. Gifted with amazing grasping power, Enayet Khan also became an adept at Carnatic music. Using the Maula Baksh system of notation, he authored several very valuable texts on music for students and professional musicians.

In 1900, he started travelling all over India and the neighboring countries with his uncle, Ustad Murtaza Khan, performing at several courts, and winning acclaim as a performer of Hindustani as well as Carnatic music. In 1908-09, he recorded 22 discs of classical music for the Victor Recording Company, which provide testimony to his formidable musicianship. He left India in 1910 to spend most of his remaining years in the West, as a missionary of Indian music and Sufi doctrine of salvation. In his worldview, the two were inextricably linked. The pursuit of classical music was, to him, a systematic cultivation of the human personality and a path to salvation. During his years in the West, he performed and lectured widely on Indian classical music, and authored several influential books, which are still held in high esteem for their eloquent exposition of Oriental wisdom.

Hazrat Enayet Khan returned to India in 1926, and died on Indian soil a year later. To this day, his descendants remain active as promoters of his mission committed to the relationship between the classical arts and mysticism.

Bal Gandharva (1888-1967)
Narayan Shripad Rajhans, better known as Bal Gandharva, was one of the greatest Marathi singers and stage actors in the early years of the last century. Maharaja Sayajirao was one of his principal patrons since 1913, and had granted his company an annual retainer. Under the arrangement, Bal Gandharva’s company was required to present a new play every year at the Baroda Court. The drama company openly acknowledged the patronage of the Baroda State in its advertisements. With the support of Maharaja Sayajirao, Bal Gandharva spearheaded the Golden Age of Marathi theater.

Prof. Hirjibhai Doctor (1894-??)
Hirjibhai Doctor, a scion of a Parsee family of physicians, was an unlikely eminence to emerge on the musical scene of early 20th century Baroda. His ancestors had been personal physicians to four generations of Gaekwad rulers – Maharaja Ganpatrao, Mahraja Khanderao, Maharaja Malhar Rao, and finally, Maharaja Sayajirao III. Hirjibhai, however, showed no interest in medicine. He excelled as a sportsman, pursued music with a passion, and qualified himself with degrees in the Humanities and Science.

Starting early, he received eight years of training in the violin, and became an adept performer who caught the discerning eye of Maharaja Sayajirao III. He then became a disciple of Ustad Jamaluddin Beenkar, and spent many years studying the Dilruba and the Vichitra Veena with the Ustad. Simultaneously, he became an avid follower of the emerging father of modern musicology, Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, developed a close association with the scholar, and became an expert musicologist. In 1928, Maharaja Sayajirao III appointed Hirjibhai as Director of Amusements and Principal of the Baroda State Music School.

As Director of Amusements, Hirjibhai supervised the activities of all performing musicians in the patronage of the princely state, organized the Baroda State orchestra, and supervised the entertainment of guests at State banquets and other ceremonial events. Alongside these duties, he maintained his presence on the concert platform, performing regularly on the radio, and at court appearances. His contribution to Baroda’s musical culture was, however, most significant for his work as Principal of the music school, which was not doing too well when he took charge.

Hirjibhai overhauled the entire educational system at the music school, introduced a balance between theoretical and practical orientations in the grooming of students utilizing the encyclopedic work of Bhatkhande as its foundation. Within a few years, the school had become equipped to grant degrees in classical music. His work received meritorious recognition from Maharaja Sayajirao, and continued to receive support from his successor, Maharaja Pratapsingh Rao. While Principal of the music school, Hirjibhai acquired national stature as an educationist and scholar, respected for his lectures and publications on Hindustani music. By the time the princely state was merged with the Indian Union, the school had a healthy registration of students and was fully equipped to become a department of the newly formed Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Hirjibhai continued as the Principal of the institution under the University until his retirement.

Ustad Gulam Rasool Khan (1897-??)
Ustad Gulam Rasool Khan was amongst the most widely acclaimed Harmonium accompanists of the 20th century. He acquired this status because he was also a trained vocalist of the Agra gharana lineage. He received his training from his father Ustad Kale Khan, and had earlier served the Lunawada state. When Ustad Faiyyaz Khan was appointed as Court musician in Baroda, he persuaded Maharaja Sayajirao III to appoint Gulam Rasool (his maternal uncle) to the state payroll as a teacher at the State Music School. Gulam Rasool’s musicianship flowered as a permanent accompanist to his brilliant nephew.

Gulam Rasool’s son, Shamim Ahmed, studied vocal music with his father, and took his Diploma in Sitar from the Baroda Music College in 1955. In the same year, Shamim Ahmed topped the All India Radio national talent search competition as a Sitarist and became a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. In later years, Ustad Shamim Ahmed emerged as a front-ranking Sitarist of the Maihar gharana, taught at Pandit Ravi Shankar’s Kinnara School of Music in the US, and achieved national and international stature.

Pandit Shrikrishna  (Annasaheb) Ratanjankar (1900-1974)
Annasaheb Ratanjankar was a close associate of Pandit VN Bhatkhande, and first came to Baroda in connection with the First All India Music Conference organized by Bhatkhande under the patronage of Maharaja Sayajirao III. His performance at the conference was greatly appreciated. On Bhatkhande’s suggestion, Maharaja Sayajirao appointed Annasaheb as a teacher at the Baroda State Music School, which he served for five years. During this period, he also became a disciple of Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, and flowered as a composer and performer. He later emerged as a pioneering educationist in his role as Principal of the Marris College of Music at Lucknow, now known as the Bhatkhande Music University.

Lakshmi Bai Barodekar Jadhav (1901-1965)
Lakshmibai Jadhav was an outstanding exponent of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana of Khayal vocalism. While her contemporaries in the Gharana -- Kesarbai Kerkar and Mogubai Kurdikar – had been trained by Ustad Alladiya Khan, Lakshmibai was trained by Alladiya Khan’s brother, Ustad Hyder Khan. Lakshmibai did visit a few other princely states on invitations to perform. But, she was a low-key personality who did not systematically cultivate a concert presence outside her State duties. However,   she was no less formidable than the other two as a musician. A substantial archive of her recordings broadcast on All India Radio exists as evidence of her musicianship. She served the Baroda Court well into the post-independence era, and retired in 1945.

(Based on Interview with her disciple, Dhondutai Kulkarni, May 4,2004)

Ustad Ata Hussain Khan (1903-1980)
Ata Hussain Khan was a distinguished vocalist of the Atrauli lineage, an affiliate of Ustad Faiyyaz Khan’s Agra lineage. He was the son of Mehboob Khan “Daras Piya”, one of the greatest composers of the Agra-Atrauli combine. For 25 years, he was the closest associate and regular accompanist to Ustad Faiyyaz Khan. Simultaneously, he served the Baroda State Music School as a Professor. After 1945, he moved to Caclutta under the patronage of Bengal aristocrats.

Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan (1909-??)
Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan was the son of Ustad Fida Hussain Khan of the Rampur-Sahaswan lineage (an offshoot of the Gwalior gharana), a vocalist at the Baroda court   for over 20 years.  In his early years, Nissar Hussain was trained by his grandfather, Haider Khan. Upon the demise of his father, Nissar Hussain was appointed as a Court musician at Baroda, where he served till he retired.  In his later years, he was persuaded to teach at the Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta, where he trained his grand-nephew, Rashid Khan, the contemporary maestro, along with several others. The Ustad enjoyed a long and substantial performing presence all over India, and on the radio.

Pandit Madhusudan Joshi (1918-2000)
In 1934, Pandit Madhusudan Joshi graduated as the first musician to receive a Diploma from the Baroda State Music School. Maharaja Sayajirao convened a special convocation for the grant, to which Pandit VN Bhatkhande was also invited. In 1936, the Maharaja appointed him on the faculty of the Music School, where he also became a disciple of Ustad Faiyyaz Khan.Prof. Joshi served the institution for 42 years. Amongst his distinguished students were Shrinivas Khare, Madhukar Pendse, and Shubhada Paradkar.

The Shehnai tradition in Baroda
The Baroda tradition of Shehnai began in the early 20th century when Ganpatrao Vasaikar (1862-1948) came from Maharashtra to the Baroda court. He moved to Baroda around 1870 from Vasai, near Mumbai. His father was a Shehnai player attached to a small temple. He spent his early life playing for marriages and other ceremonies, rendering music of moderate Raga-based depth. The temple authorities sensed a spark of genius in him, and sent him at their cost to Ustad Nazir Khan (details not known) for training in Raga-based music. Vasaikar was also a proficient Tabla player, who had accompanied leading vocalists of his times, including Pandit Vishnu Digambar.  Once he moved to Baroda, his musical personality flowered.

In addition to performing duties at the court and the palace, Vasaikar groomed several disciples at the State music school, principal amongst them being Ganpatrao Bidwe, Bhagwantrao Waghmare, and Govindrao Shinde. He was also drawn to the scientific approach to music propagated by Ustad Maula Baksh within the Baroda music establishment, and authored books on the art of the Shehnai. He acquired tremendous prestige at the Baroda court, as a musician and teacher, and died at the age of 99.

The Baroda tradition is a Khayal based tradition while the other major Shehnai tradition (Banares) is allied to the Thumree and the regional and folk genres of Eastern UP and Bihar. Maharaja Sayajirao wanted the Shehnai players of the state to be thoroughly trained in Raga-based music. This could well have been achieved at the Baroda court. But, in his wisdom, the Maharaja chose to have Vasaikar trained in Bombay at the state’s expense by Ustad Aman Ali Khan (1884-1953) of the Bhindi Bazaar gharana.

The Baroda Shehnai tradition flourished as long as the princely states were under British rule. However, a Shehnai player’s life was always precarious. The Shehnai was a ceremonial instrument. Shehnai players had neither enough performing to do, nor enough students to teach. The state ran an orchestra, which had no use for the Shehnai. So, Shehnai players trained themselves on at least one more instrument – usually a bow instrument -- in order to ensure their usefulness. And, Hirjibhai Doctor, the accomplished violinist and Music School Principal, took on the task of retraining them. As a result, Baroda also became a significant centre of violin musicianship.

As narrated by Shri Ramakant Sant (April 4, 2004), whose father, Gangadhar Sant, served the princely state of Baroda as a shehnai player and violinist.

The percussionists of Baroda State
Amongst the leading percussionists of the Baroda state, the names of Ustad Nasser Khan (1828-1903) and Nanasaheb Gurav Dehukar (1880-??) are mentioned with special reverence.

Ustad Nasser Khan Pakhavaji hailed from Banda in Bundelkhand district of UP. He served the last Nawab of Awadh, Nawab Wajed Ali Shah, and migrated to the Rampur court after Wajed Ali was dethroned and exiled by the British in 1857. Maharaja Khanderao Gaekwad invited him to join the service of the Baroda State, and his successor, Maharaja Sayajirao III continued to hold the Ustad in great esteem. Nasser Khan travelled extensively in India accompanying leading musicians.

Nanasaheb Gurav was a rare Pakhavaj player, who had equal command over the the Pakhavaj as well as the Tabla. His family migrated to Baroda from the village of Dehu in Pune district. Gurav’s initial training took place under his father, and his advanced training took place in the Nana Panse gharana of the Pakhavaj. Gurav acquired national stature as an accompanist to Ustad Faiyyaz Khan. This stature gave him the opportunity of accompanying most of the leading musicians of his times. In addition, he was a brilliant teacher, who groomed several percussionists at the State Music School. Both his sons later served the Faculty of Performing Arts at the University.

The Beenkars of Baroda
The Court of Maharaja Sayajirao III was host to a distinguished lineage of Beenkars, known as the Jaipur Beenkar gharana. The principal musicians of this lineage were Ustad Jamaluddin Beenkar (1859-1919), and his son, Ustad Abid Hussain Beenkar.

The Beenkars of Jaipur claim considerable antiquity as a family domiciled in Rajasthan. The recent history of the lineage is traced to one Shahaji Saheb, a late 18th century Beenkar who acquired a formidable reputation. He was appointed to the Baroda Court at a young age and was highly respected amongst the musicians of his era. He was also the personal music tutor of the then Maharani. Being amongst the leading Beenkars of his generation, he travelled often to other princely states to perform. His son, Abid Hussain Beenkar studied under him, but moved thereafter to the court of the Nawab of Janjira (Maharashtra), where he spent his remaining years.  

Another eminent Beenkar at the Baroda court was Ustad Ali Hussain Beenkar. He was the younger brother of Ustad Enayet Hussain, one of the founders of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana, and a disciple of Ustad Bahadur Hussain in the service of the Rampur court. No information is available on his tenure at the Baroda court besides the reports that he trained several students in Baroda in the art of the Veena.

The early years of the 20th century saw a speedy decline in the fortunes of the Dhrupad genre, with which the art of the Veena was associated. Around this time, the Beenkar families were forced to abandon the art and drift towards teaching performers on the emerging modern instruments such as the Sitar and the Sarod. As such, most Beenkar lineages, including those patronized by the Baroda and Rampur courts, are no longer represented by eminent performing musicians.

The Sitar and the modern instruments in Baroda
At the stage when the Dhrupad-Veena-Pakhawaj era was drawing to a close, the Baroda State gave great importance to the cultivation of talent in the modern instruments. Great contributions to this move were made by Ustad Allaudin Khan (a son of Ustad Maula Baksh), and Ustad Bhikhan Khan.

Ustad Maula Baksh had two sons who were competent musicians – Ustad Murtaza Khan, who served briefly as the Principal of the Music School after his father, and Ustad Alauddin Khan. Like other members of his family, Allauddin Khan too had been trained in the art of the Veena. He was of a scholarly bent of mind, and was fluent in English. At that time, the Baroda Court was impressed with the scientific approach of Western classical music, and wanted to adopt it for Hindustani music. Allauddin Khan was chosen by the court to go to England, and qualify himself in Western music and bring back its scientific discipline for introduction to Hindustani music. Alauddin Khan was eminently successful in this endeavor. He won a Gold Medal at the Royal Academy of Music. On his return, he was appointed the first Band Master of the State Band.

Even before the Maula Baksh era, the Baroda State had been host to eminent Sitar players like Ustad Ghaseet Khan, about whom not much is known. Maula Baksh himself took interest in grooming his disciple, Govind Sharma as a Sitarist after he lost his voice. A major push to post-Dhrupad instrumental music, however, started with the arrival of two brothers -- Bannu Khan and Ammu Khan -- both Sitarists of the Seniya tradition, from Jaipur. Bannu Khan’s son, Bhikhan Khan, was a prodigious vocalist and Sitarist, who had to abandon vocalism because of problems with his voice. He was appointed on the State payroll after his father’s demise.

As a State musician, Ustad Bhikhan Khan also mastered the Dilruba, the Veena, and the Jaltarang and trained several musicians to perform on them. He founded the State orchestra, composed pieces for the orchestra, and was given the mandate to perform them in the various gardens and parks that the State maintained for public enjoyment. These public performances took classical music to the general public in an enjoyable and undemanding format, and familiarized the lay public with classical melodies. These public performances created a large base of listenership for classical music in an era before the spread of the radio and gramophone records, and well before classical music performances became accessible to the general public. As a result of these efforts, Baroda remains, to this day, a city of cultivated listeners.

Bhikan Khan died in 1943. His sons, Anwar Khan and Sarwar Khan, were also accomplished Sitarists, and served on the Faculty of Performing Arts of the University till retirement.

Classical music after independence
With the merger of the princely State with the Indian Union, a large part of the music establishment of the State was either disbanded, or became a part of the Faculty of Performing Arts of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. The Gaekwad family, however, continued to retain an active interest in the cultural activities of the city after independence during the tenure of Maharaja Fatehsingh Rao and most recently, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Gaekwad as heads of the Gaekwad family. The moving spirit of this interest was Maharaja Ranjit Singh, himself an accomplished vocalist, and a painter of international repute.

Despite his multifarious interests, including political activity, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was actively involved with the activities of all the major cultural organizations of the city, and also the Department of Music in the Performing Arts Faculty. His was an unobtrusive presence at all significant musical events in the city. He was on the Board of Trustees of several institutions, such as the Maula Baksh Trust and Swara Vilas. For the first time in history, he opened up the Darbar Hall of the Lakshmi Vilas Palace for holding music concerts for the public. He created a special space for holding cultural events in the premises of the Kirti Mandir, a piece of iconic architecture and the Gaekwad family’s memorial to its departed members. Under his active support and sponsorship, Swarayan, a fledgling organization dedicated to the memory of Ustad Faiyyaz Khan held a series of workshops and educational programs in classical music.

After the demise of this dedicated artist and devotee of classical music in 2012, Rajmata Shubhangini Devi – herself brought up in the powerful musical culture of the Gwalior State -- continues the family tradition of support to the classical arts as Chairperson of the Swara Vilas Trust.

Exemplary management
In the last 100 years of Gaekwad rule, the Baroda State was perhaps the single largest employer of professional musicians. It also managed to attract and retain some of the most formidable musicians of the era. With this enviable resource, the State ensured the highest quality of music to be performed in the Courts and the Palaces, developed a quality education system for perpetuating the classical arts, and cultivated a substantial base of audiences for classical music.

It is obvious that managing the music establishment was only a small part of the overall task of managing the State. Considering this, the Gaekwad rulers obviously committed a massive amount of managerial energy to conducting such a wide scope of activity with such a large and high-quality human resource. For this, indeed, it maintained an entire department called the Kalawant Karkhana.  But, no bureaucracy could have managed artistic activity on such a large scale and with such effectiveness, without the commitment of the Gaekwad rulers to ensuring a rich cultural life for their subjects. It is fair to recognize that, in independent India, no institution – either government or private – has been able to achieve comparable results as a manager of cultural activity.

Authors: Deepak Raja and Rajesh Kelkar
Copyright: Swara Vilas, Baroda

Friday, May 9, 2014

Musicologist... by an unorthodox route


In 1967, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, made the mistake of giving me admission to the 2-year full-time MBA programme. There was no possibility of correcting that error. So, 45 years after I graduated, the institute decided to acknowledge similar mistakes by running a special feature on performing arts in the The IIMA Alumnus magazine. In the pages of this feature, I find myself in the distinguished company of people like Mallika Sarabhai. They asked me to recount my life in music. I am sharing here what I wrote.

By the time I joined IIM-A (age: 19), I had received about 12 years of training as a sitarist,  become a respectable performer, and also advanced substantially towards a respectable diploma in Hindustani music. I was at IIM because a performing career in music was an unacceptable risk, and an academic career in musicology looked unattractive.  But, music wasn’t going away anywhere.

After graduation, I continued to learn and practice the sitar, as I pursued careers in media research, business journalism, periodical publishing, and financial consultancy.  Between 1986 and 1992, I enjoyed a short stint as a performing musician, winning respect for my command over the instrument, and the soundness of my approach to music.

The performing life was heady, but not sustainable at my level of musicianship. The economics of it were absurd, and each concert demanded preparatory practice of at least six to eight hours a day for a whole month. Besides, I wasn’t anybody’s idea of a future Ravi Shankar or Vilayat Khan. So, it made sense to seek a less insecure place for myself in the music world. 

The opening came in the early 1990’s in the form of an invitation from the late Mr. N Pattabhiraman, Editor of SRUTI magazine, to contribute critical essays on Hindustani music. Thus was launched my career as a musicologist.  Around the same time, India Archive Music Ltd. (IAM), a New York based specialist producer of Hindustani music, commissioned me to write musicological commentaries on CDs produced by them. Between 1995 and 2004, I wrote commentaries of 8000-10,000 words each for over a 100 of their CDs. The commentaries helped IAM emerge as the most successful and influential producer of Hindustani music outside India.

By 2004, SRUTI had published perhaps fifteen of my critical essays, and IAM had received over a million words of commentary written by me. The SRUTI Editors, and the owners of India Archive Music encouraged me to recast the knowledge-base I had created in the form of books. The manuscript of my first book “Hindustani Music – a tradition in transition” was accepted by DK Printworld, New Delhi and published in January 2005. Then came “Khayal Vocalism – Continuity within change” in 2009, and “Hindustani Music Today” in 2012.  My fourth book “The Raga-ness of Raga-s” is scheduled for release by June-July 2014. The fifth book, written partially under a Senior Research Fellowship of the Ministry of culture, Government of India, is likely to be published by end-2015.

Not having trained as a musicologist, I could never address the academic community in a language that it respected. My stance, as a writer on music, could only be that of a serious student of music – at best a connoisseur -- sharing his understanding of the tradition with other seekers of knowledge and insight.  Despite this, it appears that the content and style of my writings have come to appeal -- in varying degrees -- to both these segments. Access to connoisseurs is the more gratifying of the two because they engage actively with the performing tradition, and are a part of the quality control mechanism that regulates the art.

By any financial yardstick, music has been a loss-making department of life. This seems a small price to pay for the credit side, which is unquantifiable… and priceless.