Last year, this column featured compositions from the Hindustani stream pertaining to Ganesh or Ganpati, the elephant-headed Hindu deity.

The first Saarvajanik Ganeshotsav or public festivity held to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi that falls in the month of Bhaadrapada in the Hindu calendar, was organised in Poona in 1893.  Lokmanya Tilak introduced an educational angle to the festivities in 1894. The Saarvajanik Ganeshostav has had firm roots in Bombay since 1895 and has been held in chawls and residential colonies.

Unlike the music that is heard nowadays in pandals erected with much fanfare at virtually every crossroads, Saarvajanik Ganeshotsavs in the past included musico-religious discourses called kirtans, religious songs called bhajans, and ballads called powadas.  Even lectures were included as part of the programme.

Hindustani music concerts were very much a part of Saarvajanik Ganeshotsavs in years gone by.  Well-known vocalists like Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale (1869-1922), Krishnarao Phulambrikar alias Master Krishnarao (1898-1974),  Vinayakrao Patwardhan and Narayanrao Vyas were invited to perform on these occasions.

Unfortunately, Bakhale's recordings are not easily available. But from all accounts, he was a performer of the highest order and a repository of traditional compositions that he had acquired from three guru – Faiz Muhammad Khan of the Gwalior tradition, Natthan Khan Agrewale, and Alladiya Khan, the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli gayaki or vocal style.  A disciple of Bakhale, Master Krishnarao imbibed the repertoire and stylistic techniques of these three gayakis.  Like his guru, he was also associated with Marathi musical theatre.  Later, he went on to compose music for films.

Master Krishnarao's style was marked by liberal use of bol baant or rhythmic play with the words of the song-text at times bordering on a recitative utterance; gamaks or oscillations on swaras or notes; and use of tihais or patterns that are mathematically designed so that the last syllable ends on the sam/sum or the first matra of the following cycle.  Often, melodic phrases appeared in spurts with no mechanical sequential development, in the process beginning to build a tension but not always evoking a sense of resolution towards the end.

The four tracks included here demonstrate these stylistic features.

 Raag Komal Rishabh Asavari

Master Krishnarao sings the morning raag Komal Rishabh Asavari on the first track.  The composition is set to vilambit or slow Jhumra, a cycle of 14 matras or time units.

Raag Jait Kalyan

The next track includes two compositions in the evening raag Jait Kalyan.  The first is in vilambit Jhumra and the second in Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras.  The nature of the tonal intervals used in the raag invite the performer to explore long meends or glides that connect swaras.

Raag Nayaki Kanada

As in the case with the Jait Kalyan presentation, Master Krishnarao launches into bol baant quite early into his exposition of raag Nayaki Kanada.  The composition is once again set to Jhumra.

Raag Hindol Bahar

Master Krishnarao was known for his expertise at handling certain jod or compound raags. The final track features raag Hindol Bahar, a combination of the morning raag Hindol and raag Bahar, a melody conventionally heard during the spring season. The two compositions are set to Rupak, a cycle of seven matras, and Teentaal.