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Celebrating the life of one of the great Indian classical vocalists – Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan with talks, performances and dance – online UK-led event…

Celebrating the life of one of the great Indian classical vocalists – Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan with talks, performances and dance – online UK-led event…

Great vocalist of 20th century remembered…

SOME of the best known Indian classical musicians will be talking and playing music to mark the remarkable legacy of one of the greatest vocalists of contemporary times, this Friday (April 2).

More than a dozen high profile names of Indian classical music will come together for ‘The birth and life of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’ – who is referred to as the Tansen of the 20th century. Tansen means an iconic figure in music and composition.

Organised by Saudha – Society of Poetry and Indian music – the organisation is celebrating the 119th birthday anniversary of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (1902-1968) with a free special four-hour online event on Friday (for details, please see below). It will be available to view from Saudha’s Facebook and Youtube channels. The event will see musicians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Britain all contribute.

There will be demonstrations, performances and dance interpretations too by Sohini Roychowdhury Dasgupta. As part of the conversations with Saudha co-director and show compere, Ahmed Kaysher, Professor Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, co-founder of one of the longest-established UK cultural organisations, Kala Sangam, will also offer her perspective on Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s legacy.

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Brought up in a musical family in what became Pakistan, the quality and unique timbre of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s classical singing won him a huge following and to this day he is regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his age.

He was also a great innovator and many found his music accessible and approachable – without having to be experts or well-versed in the traditions of Indian classical vocals.

He took the Indian classical form of raagas and often shortened them and improvised these compositions, which are handed down through generations of musicians and not traditionally written down. These compositions are open to improvisation and interpretation but must still adhere to certain accepted principles.

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali provided two songs that feature in one of the great epics of Indian cinema, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1960) and demonstrate his versatility and skill. Much of early Indian cinema was strongly influenced by Indian classical traditions.

Ahmed Kaysher

“He is like Sebastian Bach is to western classical music. There is a spiritual and sacred quality to his work that feels similar,” Ahmed Kaysher, director and co-founder of Saudha, told

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan developed his own style that came to be known as Patiala-Kasur and developed elements of other traditions which combined to make a new style and popular form of classical singing possible – without losing or compromising some of the essences of the Indian classical tradition.

He lived in both Pakistan and India and was awarded the Padma Bhushan – one of India’s highest civilian accolades for this contribution to Indian classical music. He settled in Hyderabad, India and died there.

“His vocals have an amazing quality,” added Kaysher who co-founded Saudha. “For an agnostic man like myself they bring tears and a sense of spiritual wonder.

“It is not just about the music but about the philosophy and the approach to life and art.

“These all make him a colossal figure, but you can still just enjoy the music.”

Kaysher will discuss this titan of music’s legacy with many musicians and some will perform too – and demonstrate their relationship to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

Ghulam Ali

Among these are Ghulam Ali – known as the Ghazal King. Ghazals are a form of Urdu poetry turned into music and Ghulam Ali was one of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s disciples and first learnt his vocation through the 20th century maestro.

The 20th century maestro’s grandson Ustad Raza Ali Khan is also among those Kaysher will be introducing and talking to on Friday as well.

Raza learnt both from his grandfather and father – Ustad Manwar Ali Khan (1930-1989) and the family are based in Kolkata now.

The line-up includes Pandit Kumar Bose, a tabla maestro who is well-known for his work with Pandit Ravi Shankar; Pandit Chitravina N Ravikiran, Vidushi Kala Ramnath, Pandit Dr Rajeeb Chakraborty; Pandit Abhijit Banerjee; Pandit Shantanu Bhattacharayya; Vidushi Sanhita Nandi; Pandit Chiranjeeb Chakraborty; Pandit Sriram Parsuram; Sri Ramprapanna Bhattacharaya; Srimati Minakshi Majumdar, Srimati Koyel Bhattacharaya and Shri Subhasish Banerjee.

Ustad is a term of veneration, as are the terms Pandit, Vidushi and Srimati and are widely used with those who are much respected performers and teachers in the Indian classical arts.

Main picture – clockwise: Pandit Chatravina N Ravikaran; Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan; Ghulam Ali; Vidushi Kala Ramnath; Pandit Kumar Bose; and Vidushi Sanhita Nandi


‘The birth and life of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’ – from 3pm (British Summer Time)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture