It takes two men to make one brother. ~Israel Zangwill
In 1945 two young boys took to the stage at a classical music festival in Lahore and sang Raga Darbari in front of a huge audience of other musicians and knowledgeable music lovers. One of the boys was barely 10 years old but the duo made an impression and were invited to perform 4 years later at another major conclave in Calcutta. This time, to use the contemporary vernacular, they set the house on fire with their vocal pyrotechnics.
The two young men were brothers. They were from Patiala in the Punjab, capital of one the most glorious and important Sikh royal households. Their grandfather and father had been under the patronage of the royal family for a century and were the founders of the Patiala gharana of Hindustani vocal (khayal) art. One was named Amanat Ali and the other Fateh Ali.
|Fateh Ali Khan (left) and Amanat Ali Khan|
In later years, the brothers moved to Pakistan and took up the mantle of their forebears. In due course they were granted the titles of Ustad and live today in memory as one of the most significant proponents of classical Indian singing.
|Ustad Amanat Ali Khan|
Amanat Ali was the older brother and had the higher pitched voice. While he explored the upper registers his younger brother, Fateh Ali “engaged in intricacies of the countless behlawas and complex taans, in a much lower and gravelly voice.” As you’d expect and as the opening quote of this post suggests, they worked as a single unit producing intricate music that tingles the spine no matter how many times one listens.
Amanat Ali Khan found a certain fame and popular acclaim as a master interpreter of ghazals but died at the agonizingly early age of 42. Fateh Ali Khan sank into a deep and dark hole when his brother and other half died. He didn’t perform for a long time and took up a management job at Radio Pakistan. Like a racehorse in its prime being tied to a tonga.
|Ustad Fateh Ali Khan|
Bade Fateh Ali Khan (bade, meaning elder/bigger) returned to performing with some difficulty finding it impossible to stop the tears from flowing whenever he glanced to where his brother should have been, by his side. But in his later years he formed a partnership with his younger brother Hamid Ali Khan and sometimes with his nephew Asad Amanat Ali Khan and has gained a whole new global audience. He continues to live in Lahore and is seen as the last great torch bearer of the Patiala gharana.
01 Garajat Ghanghor (Raag Megh)
02 Meinha Ray (Raag Des)
03 Tumhin Sung Lago (Raag Kedara)
04 Koyalya Bolay (Raag Malkauns)
05 Kuch Ajab Khel (Raag Darbari)