Guru purnima, an inseparable part of the guru-shishya or master-disciple pedagogic tradition in Hindustani music, was celebrated on July 19 this year as a symbol of veneration for gurus who have generously shared their wisdom with disciples.

Allauddin Khan (1862-1972), illustrious sarod player, multi-instrumentalist, and founder of the Maihar-Senia gharana, was one of the most revered gurus of the 20th century. His son and disciple Ali Akbar Khan (1922-2009), considered by musicians and connoisseurs as a creative genius, also taught several disciples in India and overseas.

In the fourth part of our series of instrumental interpretations of the evening raag Yaman and its close variants, we feature a detailed exposition of raag Yaman Kalyan by Ali Akbar Khan.


The track opens with the inimitable and easily identifiable warm-rounded tone of the maestro’s sarod. The relaxed aalaap, an introductory movement without percussion accompaniment, is marked by long meends or glides connecting notes.

The metal plate on the fingerboard of the sarod particularly lends itself to this melodic treatment, though the absence of frets can prove disastrous in the hands of a novice. Khan demonstrates superb intonation as he navigates through Yaman Kalyan, bringing in the shuddha or natural madhyam or fourth note as a delicacy.

The jod establishes a constant pulse but without any percussion accompaniment. Here, the right hand strokes take a more percussive quality. Khan deviates from the conventional image of the raag to introduce phrases that incorporate unpredictable leaps between notes.

He ends the jod with bold right-hand strokes and almost seamlessly leads into a gat or instrumental composition, but unfortunately, the instrumentalists have to break to retune their instruments.

Khan reintroduces the vilambit or slow gat set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units. Often flowing into a particular cross-rhythmic pattern that is not necessarily mathematically calculated, he intuitively changes direction to embrace yet another.

The vilambit gat is followed by a drut or fast gat in Teentaal. The sthayi, or first part of the composition, is longer than usual gats. Khan playfully reiterates the sthayi, but at times he changes the pace or begins it at a different point in the rhythmic cycle. As the elaboration of the drut gat progresses, the right-hand strokes become even bolder with the sound of all strings resonating along with the main string. The performance ends with a percussive jhala.