Ustrad Md. Ameer Khan

 Shahjahanpur was one of the most famous of the three main centres of Sarod playing in North India in the mid nineteenth century. During this time , three contemporary sarod players, Enayat Ali , Shahjahanpur (1883 - 1915), Niamatullah Khan from Bulandsahar near Lucknow (1809 - 1902) and Gulam Ali from Gwalior , belonging to three different families in the above mentioned centres earned recognition. All were descendents of Afghan soldiers who played the Rabab (the ancestor of the modern day Sarod) while marching into war. These soldier cum musicians came with armies like the Mughal army into India and finally settled down and started practising Hindustani Raag Sangeet in North India.

Enayat Ali, was the most well known and one of the finest Sarod players belonging to the Sarod Gharana of Shahjahanpur. It is interesting to note that all the above three stalwarts of Sarod playing took extensive training at one point of time from masters of the Senia Gharana (Basat Khan, Zafar Khan and Pyar Khan) - the Gharana coming down from Mian Tansen - and thus the Sarod Gharana of Shahjahanpur later on came to be known as the Senia Shahjahanpore Gharana . One (or more) of these three musicians are credited with the idea of modifying the Afghan Rabab by adding a metal fingerboard and metallic strings and also with the addition of the Chikari (Jhala) and Tarab (sympathetic) strings. Thus the modern Sarod was born.


Gulam Ali was the grandson of another Afghan Rabab player Gulam Bandegi Khan Bangash who was commissioned as a soldier in the army of Raja Vishwanath Singh of Rewa. Bandegi Khan trained his son Haider Khan and grandson Ghulam Ali Khan in the art of Rabab playing. Ghulam Ali also received musical training from Pyar Khan and Zafar Khan who were distinguished Rabab players (the Senia Rabab, which was different from the Afghan Rabab ) and direct descendents of Tansen. Raja Vishwanath Singh gave Ghulam Ali Khan instruction in Dhrupad singing - the slow, ornate and dignified style of vocal music, that was prevalent then. Ghulam Ali later became a court musician in Gwalior , the most important musical center for North Indian music at that time.

Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan

Ghulam Ali Khan had three sons, Hossain Ali (eldest), Murad Ali and Nanne Khan (youngest) who were all Sarod players. Nanhe Khan's son was the Late Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan (1888- 1972) one of the noted Sarod players of the last generation. Hafiz Ali's son Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is one of the most accomplished Sarod players of the present day . Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan's ancestry was started by Ghulam Bandegi Khan Banghash, who settled with the Maharaja of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. Another was Nazaf Ali; his lineage settled-down in Shahjahanpur The third was the ancestor of Ustad Keramatullah Khan, the Sarod player. Keramatullah Khan and his father, Niamatullah Khan were both great Sarod players. In Shahjahanpur, the descendents of the Sarod players proliferated. In fact, there was a whole township ofSsarod or Rabab players.

Radhika Mohan's musical background

Ghulam Ali's second son, Murad Ali was childless . He moved to Shahjahanpur and adopted an orphan boy, Abdullah Khan belonging to one of the musical families of Shahjahanpur and who under his training became an outstanding Sarod player. Murad Ali took his adopted son, Abdullah and settled down at Darbhanga as the court musician of Darbhanga Raaj.

Abdullah Khan succeeded Murad Ali as the state musician of Darbhanga. He had two sons: Mohammed Ameer Khan and Wazir Khan ( not Wazir Khan of Rampur). Mohammed Ameer Khan came to Bengal and settled there. He taught quite a few persons. His first remarkable disciple was Timir Baran, who later went to Allauddin Khan. Another
disciple was Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury. Eventually, his youngest outstanding disciple was Radhika Mohan Maitra. He was commissioned by Radhika Mohan's grandfather, Lalita Mohan Maitra, who was a pakhawaj player. Lalita Mohan was a landowner, but he was also a very good pakhawaj player. Ameer Khan stayed in their household to accompany him on Sarod, and he became literally a member of the family. When Radhika Mohan Maitra was born, Ameer Khan was in the household already. He had seen Radhika Mohan Maitra grow up and at a very young age, the Ustad discovered Radhika Mohan's talents in music, took permission from his father and started teaching him.Radhika Mohan got Sarod taleem from Mohammed Ameer Khan but the period of his training was rather short, about 11 or 12 years after which Ameer Khan passed away. But within these 12 years, he had chiselled out the shape of Radhika Mohan Maitra in an unmistakable form, and Radhika Mohan Maitra later on supplemented his training with taleem from Veena player Mohammed Dabir Khan of Rampur, a direct descedant of the great Mian Tansen.

Ustad Dabir Khan
Dabir Khan was the grandson of Wazir Khan of Rampur. In this way Radhika Mohan took Senia taleem or training from Dabir Khan : ragas, raginis, methods of alap, veena ang etc. He also received training in sitar playing from Ustad Enayat Khan, father of Sitar Nawaz Ustad Vilayat Khan, of the Etawah Gharana .

Radhika Mohan's unmistakable style of playing

Sarod has in its forte one great legacy handed down by the Rabab. The Rabab used to have cat-gut strings and the fingerboard was made of wood. Therefore long glides to emulate the alap, the slow movements of vocal music, were not possible at all. Therefore the left hand had merely to select the strings and place the nails in different places to get staccato notes out. There was'nt much chance to improve the work of the left hand so all attention fell on the right hand which plucked the strings. A host of vocabulary of pluckings of different kinds, cross pluckings, complex pluckings, developed. And these together with the short ghaseet-ghaseet meends meant that it was possible to strike only one note and go over the next 5 or 6 notes of the raga. During the very little period that the vibration sustains, jumping from one note to another far away note was possible. The ghaseets have a peculiar flavor. These two constitute the basic baj, or the basic technique of the Rabab. Human ingenuity fashioned many beautiful things with these two techniques. The Sarod has got these as its fundamental basis. In course of time these techniques were improved upon. The Sarod can play long glides for the veena-based alaps, but its own territory is Rabab playing technique. This Rabab style playing and whatever could be done with it was Radhika Mohan's forte. He was an extremely witty person and this wit also played in his music, particularly in his jors and tans. The selection of 'da diri da ra' and their complex patterns, the change of directions of the tans would always be unexpected, giving the listener a series of pleasant surprises. This was the forte of his playing, and was in fact the type of playing which distinguished him from other Sarod players who had their own good points, their own excellences. But this was one field where Radhika Mohan Maitra was unmistakably himself, and anybody who had heard him could recognize him after a typical three or four seconds of hearing this part of his playing. "This is Radhika Mohan Maitra and nobody else!

Sangeetacharya Radhika Mohan Mitra

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