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Aroha The Rising Stars

Amaan Ali Khan

About this album

This recital marked the public solo debut (and first commercial recording) of Amaan Ali Bangash. It took place at the Nehru Center in Mumbai (Bombay) on 20 March 1996. Hitherto, Amaan had appeared several times on the concert stage with his father, the celebrated sarod virtuoso Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and also his talented younger brother, Ayaan Ali Bangash. Although he has been playing in public all over the world since the age of ten, in this performance, at the age of 18 (by happy coincidence the same age that his father made his own solo debut) he plays alone, with the customary accompaniment of the drone instrument tambura and the tabla drums.

Raga Puriya Kalyan

Amaan chose a popular though complex raga for his recital. As the name suggests, Raga Puriya Kalyan is a combination of two other raga. The melodic features of Raga Puriya can be difficult to delineate, and care must be taken to distinguish them from the closely related and more popular Raga Marva.

The scale has a flattened second (komal re) and sharpened fourth (tivra ma) and all other notes are natural, but the fifth is completely omitted. The third (ga) and the seventh (ni) are both prominent notes. The word Kalyan refers to a group of ragas, among which Raga Yaman is by far the commonest. The scale, which includes all seven notes, has a sharp fourth, while all other notes are natural, making it equivalent to the Lydian of F-mode of Western music. Raga Puriya Kalyan therefore contains the flat second of Raga Puriya and the fifth of raga Yaman. All other notes, as well as the prominence accorded to the third and seventh and the choice of the early evening as suitable time of performance, are features common to both Puriya and Yaman.

Such a raga demands a profound rendition, and Amaan follows the classical procedures of elaboration. He begins with alap, the slow improvised unfolding of the notes and melodic phrases of the raga. The important seventh note, ni, is emphasized at the beginning, which naturally leads the phrases into the lower register before gradually climbing to the upper tonic (sa). The next stage is a more animated improvisation, known as jor, in which the performer establishes a clear pulse.

Throughout the alap and jor, attention is given not only to the combinations of notes but equally to enhancing the expression through the graceful slides which connect them. The sarod is especially suited to this kind of detail, which is crucial in creating the right feeling and mood. The gradual build-up of speed and excitement, which characterizes performances of Indian music, leads seamlessly into a short jhala, in which fast strumming on individual notes is interspersed with strokes on the drone cikari strings.

As often happens nowadays, this solo in three sections is applauded and there is a short pause before continuing with the other major stage of the performance, in which the soloist is joined by the tabla accompanist. A short recurring melody, gat, signals the entry of the drums, and establishes the tal (rhythm cycle) and tempo. Amaan chose first a gat in medium-tempo Jhaptal, which has ten beats. They are grouped in a symmetrical pair of five beats but distinguished by the relatively unstressed first two beats of the second pair. In performances this is heard by the absence of the bass drum of the tabla pair at that point. Although the tabla is regarded in such contexts as an accompanying instrument - and for of the time it keeps the heka or basic structure of the tal- there is much more equality between soloist and accompanist these days, and both are given chances to show their skill.

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