Sonic Saturday

Listen: Habibuddin Khan of the Ajrada gharana displays his mastery (and wit) with the tabla

Like the Delhi gharana featured last week, this school follows the bund baaj, or closed style.

Last week, this column featured tabla maestros of the Delhi gharana, a school that adopts the bund or band baaj – the closed or less resonant style. This baaj incorporates less resonant strokes and focuses on the kinaar or chaanti (the outer rim of the treble drum skin-head). It is therefore also referred to as kinaar ka baaj or chaanti ka baaj.

The other gharana that follows this baaj is named after Ajrada (also called Ajrara), a village in the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. The Ajrada gharana is believed to have been started in the late 18th century by two brothers, Kallu Khan and Miru Khan, disciples of Sitaab Khan of the Delhi gharana. It incorporates bols or mnemonic syllables from the Delhi style, but Ajrada compositions often exploit the triplet rhythm. The Ajrada style also emphasises the jhul or swaying pattern of the bols, produced by changing the pressure of the wrist on the baayaan or bass drum.

The Ajrada repertoire primarily focuses on compositional forms like qaida, rela and rav, all of which are extendable forms following a theme and variations pattern. Habibuddin Khan, the best-known exponent of this gharana, was respected for his immense virtuosity and his dexterity with strokes played on the baayaan. His demonstrations of Ajrada compositions can be heard in these excerpts from recorded live concerts:

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Having also learnt from maestros belonging to other gharanas, Habibuddin Khan was proud of the wealth of knowledge that he possessed and made no bones about the inadequacies that he felt existed among many other tabla players. This is evident from the acerbic comments that pepper his performance in the following excerpt:

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