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Stalwart Vocalists

Partho Datta

By Ashok Da. Ranade
Promilla and Company in association with Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi and Chicago,, 2010, pp. 388, Rs. 750.00

Edited by Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan
Collins, Delhi, 2010, pp.192, Rs. 350 (with a CD)

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 12 December 2010

Ashok Ranades essays on famous Hindustani vocalists has long been overdue and it has finally arrived in a handsome volume which collects pieces from On Music and Musicians of Hindoostan (1988)long out of printand from his scattered writings in Marathi. This kind of book is rare. Excellent and engaging biographical accounts exist (B.R. Deodhar, Susheela Mishra, Lakshminarayan Garg) but there are few in-depth music analyses of maestros from the past (or for that matter of contemporary musicians) and the exceptions can be counted on the fingers of one handChetan Karnani, V.H. Deshpande, Kumar Mukherjee. Ashok Ranade is ideally suited to guide us through the golden period (first half of the twentieth century) of Hindustani vocalismhe is Indias foremost musicologist, music-scholar and critic, composer and teacher as well as a vocalist who trained under famous maestros. Since 2006 he has been bringing out his collected writings systematically which include a music dictionary, essays on music theory, and a much needed book on popular music focussing on the Hindi film song. And now he has given us this latest collection. Taken together this quartet is a record of Ashok Ranades life-long immersion in Hindustani music, to his commitment and his enthusiasm. It is also a comprehensive and very reliable history of Hindustani music for all who care to learn more on this enigmatic subject. One could not place oneself in better hands and new readers will be grateful for his rehnumayi. It is impossible to summarize the individual essays which address complex issues on vocalism and about individual music style but it is indeed possible to write about the general concerns of the book. There are nineteen long essays on vocalists. The youngest Manik Verma was born in 1926 (she passed away in 1997) which means that vocalists who were born after that date have not been considered (Bhimsen Joshi who was born in 1922 is included but there is no essay on Kishori Amonkar for instance). There are only three women in the list (Kesarbai Kerkar, Hirabai Barodekar, Manik Verma)Roshanara Begum and Gangubai Hangal make an appearance (but only in the appendix). The focus is on the genre of khyal which has been the principal expository form for raga music in twentieth century north India. Dhrupad and Thumri (one thinks of greats like Siddheshwari and Begum Akhtar) are therefore not considered. The focus on vocalism also needs to be underlined. Not all ...

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