In recent times, Hindustani music concerts have seen an increasing number of instrumentalists breaking out into song during their recitals. The reasons for such an inclusion could be many, from demonstrating vocally the special melodic movement of a raag, to illustrating the manner in which they interpret vocal compositions through their instruments, or to even proving their competence as vocalists in addition to their role as instrumentalists. Unfortunately, one does not find many such short vocal renditions very pleasing, obviously because the instrumentalists, their mastery over the instruments notwithstanding, are not necessarily good vocalists.
But when a maestro like sitar wizard Vilayat Khan undertook such excursions and matched his instrumental interpretations to the vocal renditions, he brought to the performances a magical quality that his die-hard fans yearned for. In his case, the vocal input was a logical addition to display the gayaki ang or the vocal style that his sitar playing came to be associated with.
Indeed, all instrumentalists have followed and striven to represent vocal techniques through their instruments, and there have been many who have challenged the claims of a separate gayaki ang. But these debates aside, there is no doubt that Vilayat Khan’s performances laced with his vocal demonstrations were steeped in a musicality that scores of musicians can only dream of.
Many live concert recordings featuring Vilayat Khan’s singing as part of his sitar performances are available on the net, but here are some links that provide two different kinds of vocal renditions.
On the first track, the maestro sings a composition in the raag Hameer set to madhya laya or medium-paced Teentaal, a rhythmic cycle of 16 time-units or matras. He is accompanied by noted tabla player Sabir Khan of the Farrukhabad gharana.
Vilayat Khan presents a Bhatiyali dhun of Bengal on the next track. He sings not just the Bengali song but also to demonstrate special melodic movements. In fact, he explains to the audience the reason for making a choice to sing during the performance. He is accompanied by well-known tabla player Swapan Chaudhuri.
The final track features Vilayat Khan singing and presenting an instrumental interpretation of a composition created by the Sufi scholar, poet and musician Amir Khusrau.