Friday, August 19, 2011

Hanging on in Talwandi: Mohammad Afzal Khan and Mohammad Hafiz Khan (reupped)

Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism

The Talwandi gharana (family/household/school) centered in the musically fertile Kasur area of Pakistani Punjab is often mentioned as a ‘cousin’ of the Darbhanga gharana which the Washerman’s Dog highlighted last night in the post on Ram Chatur Mallik.  Both are considered to be essentially dhrupad gharanas though their repertoires include khyal as well.   

Tonight the Dog highlights the singing of Malikzada Mohammad Afzal Khan  and Malikzada Mohammad Hafiz Khan, which quite frankly is some of the most exciting  and exhilarating I’ve ever heard.  The Talwandi gharana, is almost entirely performed in Pakistan and like the more famous Dagar gharana of Rajasthan, the tradition is ‘owned’ and nurtured by a single family.  While dhrupad as an art form has its origins deep in the Hindu worship tradition, it has over the centuries been performed by Muslim singers, including, in the contemporary context, the Dagar and Khan (Talwandi) families.

Dhrupad was and is conceived as a sacred music, often used for ritual as well as concert performances, but with different sectarian emphases-Hindu, Muslim or Sikh-depending on local circumstances.

In Mathura, north Bihar and West Bengal, the known dhrupad traditions all flourished in association with Hinduism of different varieties; dhrupad was employed for both court music-making and for temple ritual, but it was adopted to whatever Hindu cult was locally prevailing. Thus dhrupad texts from Mathura typically celebrate Radha and Krisna, those from Bihar the Shakti goddess Kali. [Also] the Mathura tradition was essentially a temple tradition [but] Muslim singers from the Agra gharana may have also contributed to this ritual use of dhrupad.

A similar situation seemed to have existed in the Punjab. Before Partition, dhrupad was a popular art form for which members of the Talwandi gharana were particularly noted. It is said they were employed by Sikh religious leaders to compose music in the dhrupad style for use in the temples of Amritsar and elsewhere; they also taught Sikh and Hindu pupils sometimes adopting Sikh or Hindu titles and dress. Thus music of ultimately Hindu origins was adapted by Muslims for use in Sikh ritual. Today, however, members of the Talwandi gharana project an exclusively Islamic identity, singing dhrupads largely on Islamic themes, and claiming an Islamic origin  and role for the whole genre. This can be understood as a response to the religious climate in which they find themselves.
(Dhrupad: tradition and performance in Indian music, Volume 1 By Ritwik Sanyal, Richard Widdess, pg 33)

At the time of Partition the Talwandi gharana was headed by the great dhrupad singer Mohar-e-Mauseeqi Malikzada Mian Mehar Ali Khan. He was born in 1913 trained by his uncle and father in law, Mian Maula Bakhsh and migrated with him to the rich town of Lyallpur in his youth on the invitation of a wealthy Sikh patron. This was a smooth transition after the loss of princely patronage. Till the time of Partition the family performed in traditional settings before highly select audiences cultivating interest in the rich genres of alap and dhrupad
The departure at the time of Partition to India of Sardar Harcharan Singh left the family of these great dhrupad singers to the vagaries of chance, and after the exhaustion of funds and savings had to turn to the official media with whom they had some success in the early fifties due to the personal interest of the Radio Pakistan Director General Z.A.Bukhari. After Bukhari, the family was left without any support from the media and was mainly supported by the younger son's (Malikzada Muhammad Hafeez Khan) employment with government and the private sector in non-musical capacities. The family however continued its daily practice of music and also taught pupils and performed whenever possible.
This resulted in the brothers Malikzada Muhammad Afzal Khan and Malikzada Muhammad Hafeez Khan springing into prominence. Their resurgence also coincides with the resurgence of interest in dhurpad the oldest extant genre of music in our tradition on the Indo-Pak sub continent. The duo has travelled and performed abroad, has evoked considerable research interest and despite all possible opposition from the official media and its attempts at artificial reinterpretation of cultural heritage to suit vested interests, continues to flourish and transmit its rich knowledge of music to pupils in the family and outside the family. It also has attracted foreigners who are in training in Lahore where the family’s main proponent Malikzada Muhammad Hafeez Khan resides. The example adequately indicates that such strong forces cannot be diverted and manipulated easily. It also indicates that despite all the criticism levelled against the modern media (even by the orthodox musicians) it is a liberating force which has provided some support to even very esoteric art forms by the general liberation that it has injected in the patronage and propagation structures.
(Music in Pakistan - The Story of Five Decades by Khalid Manzoor Basra)

                  Track Listing:
01   Adana Bahar
02   Hussaini
03   Mian ki Malhar
04   Multani
Listen here.


Miguel said...

This for sure is a great one!


and there was another one way back I did not say thanks...

you're posting too fast... ;)

just jokin'


ajnabi said...

you are too kind!
It is getting a bit that way. Just keep enjoying. I'll have to slow down soon!

Barron said...

Hey Nate,
Having trouble with the re-up on this?

Nathan Rabe said...

Baron, i've checked it it is ok. I've made the link red. maybe that will help. let me know.

Barron said...

It worked today. Thanks, mate!