Last week, this column revisited the idea of jugalbandi or duet in performances of Hindustani music. Continuing the same thread, we listen to a track that features sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan in a duet with the charismatic sitar exponent Vilayat Khan. Listeners of Hindustani music are aware of several jugalbandis between Ali Akbar Khan and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, both disciples of the revered guru Allauddin Khan.
However, the track we include today is significant as it was not often that these two greats performed together. The fact that both belong to two gharanas considered diametrically different by their fans – Ali Akbar Khan is from Maihar-Senia gharana and Vilayat Khan from the Imdad Khani Etawah gharana – and that both not only lent their own perspectives to the original styles but were also trendsetters for future generations make this a noteworthy moment.
They are accompanied on this track by Banaras gharana tabla virtuoso Samta Prasad, who was a luminary in the field of tabla.
The description that accompanies the track mentions that the recording was made from a two-day concert held in 1969 by the Ali Akbar College of Music in Kolkata.
Despite the predisposition of fans to often praise one or the other musician in jugalbandi performances, here is a recording that challenges such shortsightedness given the absolute brilliance that the performers bring to their recital and the tremendous understanding and respect they show towards each other’s music.
Here is a detailed rendition of the raag Puriya Kalyan. The aalaap or introductory movement without any percussion accompaniment develops in an unhurried leisurely manner with both performers taking turns with extended solos while also colouring each other’s solos with short complementary phrases or long notes.
They move to the jod section that has a continuous pulse but is still unaccompanied by the tabla. With gamaks or rapid oscillations around single notes, quick runs across the gamut, or meends of long glides between notes, both performers coax out the essence of the raag.
The gat or instrumental composition that follows is set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units. The opening statement from Samta Prasad leads to melodic elaboration that incorporates different metrical designs that resolve just before the beginning of the gat. The exchanges between the two performers are more frequent, are at times short statements, but gradually moving to long passages.
Towards the end, the track includes a short segment of the drut gat or the fast instrumental composition.