Vocalists in India often accompany themselves on harmonium, but they are not necessarily able to present harmonium solo recitals per se. Similarly, Hindustani vocalists often play the tabla while teaching students. Until a few years ago, some would even maintain the rhythm on the tabla themselves during their practice sessions. But once again, these vocalists were and are not necessarily capable of presenting tabla solo recitals.
Thus, seldom do musicians display proficiency on more than one instrument or the ability to sing and play one or more instruments with equal ease. Naturally, those who are capable of accomplishing this rare feat, are celebrated for their physical prowess. There have been instances in the distant past when musicians were proficient in more than one subject, though this may not have been widely acknowledged. We will do a short series of articles focussing on some of these musicians.
Today’s episode focuses on Allauddin Khan, the founder of what is popularly known as the Maihar-Senia gharana. A revered guru, Allauddin Khan was an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist. This is borne out through the recordings that capture his virtuosity. Interestingly, he was a left-handed instrumentalist, quite unlike most other Hindustani musicians.
The tracks included in this episode have been recorded in the 1930s and feature Allauddin Khan as a violinist. But we begin with a track that has a drut gat or fast instrumental composition played by him on the sarod, which was his main instrument for performances. The gat is in the raag Bihag and is set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units.
We follow this with a presentation of the same gat on the violin.
Allauddin Khan plays the raag Sindhura on the next track. The composition is set to a madhya laya or medium tempo Teentaal.
The next two tracks have kirtans played on the violin by Allauddin Khan. The tabla player imitates the percussion style usually heard on the khol. Both kirtans are set to the six-matra Dadra taal.
The maestro plays the raag Malgunji, mentioned as Malgumja on the disc – see The Record News: The Journal of Society of Indian Record Collectors, Volume 19, Mumbai, July 1995, page 27 – on the final track. The composition is set to Teentaal.