Last week, this column featured harmonium solos by two prominent musicians from the early part of the twentieth century.  But in the generation preceding theirs, it was Bhaiyya Ganpatrao, a scion of the Gwalior princely family, who was one of the most significant harmonium players to have presented detailed raag renditions on the instrument.

Ab Na Maanugi (Tori Malhar)
Bashir Khan

In the absence of any readily available recordings featuring Bhaiyya Ganpatrao, here is one that features his disciple Bashir Khan of Indore. Although the track is entitled raag Todi Malhar, he is in fact playing a composition in the evening raag Multani set to Aadaa Chautaal, a cycle of 14 matras or time units.  Bashir Khan plays a variety of taans or swift melodic passages with immense virtuosity and clarity.

Dhani (Dhani Thumri)
Shankarrao Kalpeshwari

Thumri is a vocal genre that emphasises the song-text, and to that extent cannot be expressed on instruments in the manner that it would be done when sung. Shankarrao Kapileshwari plays a thumri in raag Dhani set to the 16 matra Teentaal.  This bandish ki thumri, a variety that has the syllables of the song-text closely tied to the rhythmic canvas, has been rendered with a great deal of rhythmic phrasing and dexterous taans.

Mishra Dhun
P Madhukar

Many harmonium players came from the Maharashtra-Goa-Karnatak region, with the result that their renditions often included songs from the Marathi sangeet natak or musical theatre repertoire.  Madhukar Pednekar, more popularly known as P Madhukar, was an important figure in the history of harmonium playing. Not only was he well-known for his harmonium accompaniment and solo recitals, but he has also been acknowledged as a path-breaker in devising new techniques for the instrument.  Here, he plays a famous song from Marathi theatre set to Kaherva, a cycle of eight matras.