Song-texts of compositions in Hindustani music are replete with Hindu and Islamic imagery. This is not surprising, as most Hindustani musicians have been Hindus or Muslims and have chosen to give voice to their religious persuasions and spiritual calling through their compositions. But the syncretic nature of the tradition has left this treasure trove of compositions open to musicians of all religious communities to imbibe from and to interpret.
This weekend coincides with the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, an occasion referred to as Eid-e-Milad and Milad un-Nabi. We will listen to tracks that celebrate the magnanimity and benevolence of the Prophet.
The first is a naat presented by renowned ghazal and thumri-dadra exponent Begum Akhtar. The naat is poetry written specially in praise of the Prophet. The melodic line of this naatis set to Kaherva, a rhythmic cycle of eight matras or time-units and the musical presentation follows the pattern of a traditional ghazal performance.
The second track features Gauhar Jan, one of the earliest artists to be recorded on disc. She sings a hori, a song-form that is specifically sung during the festival of Holi. While horis conventionally describe the play of colours and amorous dalliance between the god Krishna and his consorts, this hori depicts the Prophet celebrating Holi in Medina.
We end with a famous khayal composition in Basant, a raag prescribed for spring, which exhorts all to celebrate spring in the Prophet’s darbar or royal court. Kirana gharana maestro Bhimsen Joshi sings this composition set to a vilambit or slow-paced 12-matra Ektaal.
He follows this with two compositions in the 16-matra Teentaal and a faster-paced Ektaal.