Tarana: Amir Khusro and Ustad Amir Khan

I am looking forward to studying vocal music as part of my training in sangat for my upcoming AIIS grant in New Delhi.  In preparation, I have been listening to tons of Hindustani vocalists, though, I keep coming back to Ustad Amir Khan and his performances of the tarana–something I had previously little knowledge of before.

Tarana, literally means ‘song’ in Persian, but was born from the creativity of the legendary poet saint, Amir Khusro (1253-1325 CE) of Delhi.  With the influence of nigrit song forms in sanskrit of the time,  which used nonsense syllables during improvisations, Amir Khusro introduced the use of Persian and Arabic phonemes intertwined with Hindi/Urdu words and phrases to create a new art form called the tarana.  Sometimes the performers actually used sitar or mrindang syllables reciting entire gats, tihais, and chakradhars.

Saldly, the tarana of Amir Khusro’s time quickly become obsolete simply because there were no subsequent performers that could sincerely uphold the tarana’s integrity.  That was until the revival led by Ustad Amir Khan.  His renditions and interpretations of tarana were incredibly moving, and consequently reintroduced the genre back into the canon of Hindustani vocal forms.

Below are three renditions of the tarana form.  The first is of course, Ustad Amir Khan.  The second though, is a Tarana of Kishori Amonkar in Rag Haunsadhwani.  The final example is of an orchestral performance of Ravi Shankar Ji’s at the Kremlin.  Each example displays a distinct characteristic of the Tarana that I hope you will enjoy!

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