The most popular classical vocal form in North Indian Music is without doubt 'khayal'. Although at least five hundred years old, today's concerts in India featuring major khayal singers attract large audiences and it's leading exponents are treated with the very highest respect and reverence. A word of Persian origin, Khayal literally means 'imagination,' and demands improvisational flexibility from the singer as well as careful attention to nuances of intonation, phrasing and rhythm. The subjects of khayal texts range from praise of kings or seasons, the pranks of Lord Krishna to divine love and the sorrow of separation. The texts contain rhyme, alliteration, and play on words. However, the primary focus in a khayal performance is less on the textual or lyrical content of a song than on abstract musical values. This recording features one of the most important and influential female khayal vocalists of the modern era of Indian classical music. Begum Parveen Sultana was born in Gowgong in Assam in 1950. She was steeped in the lore and lives of the great musical masters by her father, Janal Ikramul Majib, a classical music devotee and a great admirer of the legendary vocalist Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. From an early age her father took her to music festivals, and encouraged her to follow her instincts for melody. She debuted on stage at the age of nine. In 1965 she recorded her first EP for EMI India, and in 1967, at the age of just seventeen recorded her first LP for the same label. She trained with Chinmoy Lahiri for ten years before failing health necessitated him to suggest a replacement in the form of Bombay-based Dilshad Khan. She balked at the prospect initially, only accepting him as her guru in August 1974. They married on August 26, 1975. Since then they have each pursued solo careers parallel to their duo work. Originally trained according to the Patiala Gharana, Dilshad Khan's guidance in the Kirana gharana vein has helped the real essence of other styles, through the influence of specific gharanas, to flow into her music. Her as an illustration of her versatility as an artists, she has also enjoyed great success in the Indian film industry, her singing featuring in the soundtracks of film classics such as Ashary, Kudrat and Pakeezah. She has been awarded several prestigious titles including the Gandharva Kalanidhi, Mia Tansen Award, and Sangeet Samragni Award and has been the youngest performing artist to receive the Presidential Award of 'Padmashree' in 1976. Blessed with a voice that spans three-and-a-half octaves, it's sweetness has been compared to that of the Rabab, an ancient Persian string instrument, which the young Parveen was often exposed to as a child. The performance featured in this recording took place on January 3rd, 2004 at the Saptak music festival in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Saptak has become India's most prestigious annual music festival, featuring twelve nights of the countries' most celebrated performers, warmly appreciated every evening by more than two thousand enthused listeners. Parveen Sultana has been a regular favourite with the Saptak audiences since the festival's inception some twenty five years back. The recital begins with a short alap, an un-metered elaboration on the notes and main phrases of the raga. Rageshri is a very popular late night raga with a sweet, romantic mood. The first khayal composition, 'Sagun Bicharo Ab More' is set to vilambit ektaal, a slow rhythmic cycle of twelve beats. The pulse is so slow that each beat is further subdivided into four, transforming the 12-beat cycle into 48 beats. Each beat of the rhythm is marked by a specific stroke or combination of strokes on the tabla drums; by listening to their sound a singer can keep his or her place in improvisation. The singer explores every nuance and melodic phrase of the raga, using the works of the composition as a vehicle for the notes. As the tempo increases more complex note patterns are introduced. Improvised phrases using the works of the composition (bol-taans) and the actual notes (sargams) are used to create a rich melodic texture. This is followed by fast note patterns called 'taans'. The second raga Mand is often sung to evoke the colour and richness of the Rajasthan desert. It is not associated with any particular time of day unlike most other ragas. Compositions in this raga, derived from the folk music tradition are classified as 'light classical', allowing a more liberal interpretation of the raga than in khayal for example. The word mishra (mixed) indicates that notes outside of the raga structure are intentionally added for aesthetic effect. The performance concludes with a Tarana ('Ta dani ta deem ta dere na'), a lively compositional form based upon the use of meaningless syllables in a fast rendition. Notes: John Ball.
1) Raga Ragashri (Alap)
2) Raga Ragashri (Khayal in Vilambit Ektaal (12 Beats))
3) Raga Ragashri (Khayal in Teentaal (16 Beats))
4) Raga Mishra Mand (Bandish in Jhaptaal (10 Beats))
5) Raga Mishra Mand (Tarana in Teentaal (16 Beats))