As a student of music, I have been an avid listener of old audio recordings. Whether 78 rpms or live concert recordings, these resources have been most enlightening in terms of acquainting me with musical styles and repertoire or even musicians who I had never heard of earlier. Understandably, therefore, I was overjoyed when way back in the 1990s someone passed on two 78 rpm recordings ostensibly made by Alladiya Khan, the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.
Those were still days when you would store audio recordings on cassettes. The cassette began with a Bengali announcement, obviously made by a record-collector. He announced that the two 78 rpm recordings to follow were the only ones that had been recorded by Alladiya Khan, the ustad (guru) of the iconic Jaipur-Atrauli vocalist Kesarbai Kerkar. But what was to follow was nowhere near what I had heard or read of Alladiya Khan’s musical style.
The mystery continued until it was solved by Professor Sharad Mehta, a pioneer among Indian record-collectors of Hindustani music. I had the good fortune of spending time with him in Mumbai and in his hometown Nadiad. In fact, he permitted me to interview him about his interactions with reputed Hindustani musicians like the revered scholar-musician and guru of the Agra gharana Vilayat Hussain Khan, Kesarbai Kerkar, thumri exponent Siddheshwari Devi, and many others.
It was during one of these sessions that Mehta informed me that the two 78 rpm recordings of raags Bhairavi and Megh actually featured Alladino Khan of Kabul. I am not sure if the record label carried the name of the place, but subsequently, I have found the same recordings in other private collections.
Unfortunately, I do not have any information about Alladino Khan other than the fact that he presented the Patiala style. I am providing links to both the recordings. The first is in Megh, a raag prescribed for the monsoon. The second is in Bhairavi, a raag prescribed for the morning but which has conventionally become the chosen finale for concerts. Both are drut or fast-paced compositions, but the one in Megh is a khayal whereas the one in Bhairavi is a bandish ki thumri.
The elaboration in both cases uses elements like solfège or sargam and taans or swift melodic patterns running through the entire gamut sung in aakar or using the vowel “aa”. The sargam and taans have a staccato feel and the melodic accompaniment provided by the ensemble also seems to share this. But the Bhairavi recording has traces of a lyrical quality and a play with the rhythm that is evocative of dance-like steps. Perhaps, the fact that this is a bandish ki thumri has brought in this flavour.