Bali tour

Here are some photos from my recent tour of Bali.  Needless to say it was one of the best tours I have ever been on.  Although the quality of the photos could be better–they were taken on my phone!–I still hope you enjoy.

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The first few are of the house I stayed at in Ubud where a beautiful statue of Saraswati was at the entrance.

Then, a series of photos at Klotok, the beach where I body surfed several times and managed to get great waves.  I was told the statue there is of the son of Hanuman who was accidently dropped in the ocean (by Hanuman) on the way back from Lanka.  But because he could never find his father–Hanuman, who meditated constantly in the forest–he was deemed to a life of strife, where he breathed fire like that of a dragon.  I am not sure if this is a Balinese interpretation of the Ramayana stories, or taken directly from its source in India (can anyone help with this one?).  Supposedly, when he left the ocean and searched for his father, his vehicle was a sea turtle.

A friend of mine, Meghan Hynson, who studies gamelan in Bali (as well as a UCLA PhD student) took me to the home of her gender wayang teacher in Mas, Bali.  His son (whose name I forgot!) is an amazing puppeteer, musician, and mask maker whose works have been shown all over the world.  The first picture is a carving of President Obama in a Balinese-style head decor, something that I didn’t catch right away (did you?).  One of the pictures is his humble work station with only a stump and chisels.  It amazed me that he created so much with so little!

And of course, I had to include two more pictures of my commute to the ocean on my trusty scooter.

I assisted Dave Stringer at the Vibrant Living Yoga teacher training sessions, and one student of sessions drew a picture of us while we played one afternoon.  I am not sure if she was bored by the music or moved to create something spontaneously.  Either way, I had to have an archive of it.

On the way back from the coast one afternoon I was stopped by a marching gamelan for a festival.  I took one picture of a kid dressed up in his costume and he grew so excited that he called over his friends and had me take another with all of them.

One morning during our stay, Dave and I played a kirtan at dawn for another yoga retreat in Ubud.  The setting was beautiful: sunrise at Lake Batur with a view of the volcano.

The next set of photos are of Hotel Anahata, where I stayed for the final stint in Ubud.  It was a gorgeous place on a canyon that had two waterfalls at the bottom.

I didn’t realize it, but the final photo is the only one of music!  We had a great recording session during our last week in Bali.  Pictured here is Dave Stringer on harmonium and Angelo Berardi on violin.

Flamenco and tabla

This is a highlight reel of a recent concert I did with guitarist, Juan Moro, in San Diego.  The concert was small and intimate with minimal amplification at Paper Moon Guitar Studios.  I do not usually like to play tablas on a stand, but sometimes, out of necessity, I do for fusion work purposes.  Though I always play with shoes off!  Juan is an amazing guitarist I have worked with for the past fews years and a dedicated scholar in both flamenco and linguistics.  Moro is a professor of linguistics at UCSD.  Enjoy!

Chalan, Hindi/Urdu, and compositional forms.

Two things have inspired this post: 1) I have been practicing a famous chalan made popular by Thirakwa Khan Saheb and 2) I am studying lots of Hindi lately.  Paired together, I have been thinking about the nature of tabla compositions in terms of genre (if we can really call it that).  There are many different types of compositions in tabla, e.g., kaida, rela, laggi, tukra, chalan, etc., and each has its own characteristic, but a character that is sometimes very hard to define uniformly.  Some call a particular composition a kaida while other call it a chalan.  In fact, I have heard that Thirakwa Khan Saheb himself was not so strict on the names of different types of compositions.

In looking at some descriptions and definitions of tabla compositions on the Internet, it struck me that these attempts were coming close to what Amartya Sen calls the “curatorial” side of colonial scholarship on India.  This was the effort of colonial scholars in India to classify and define all aspects of Indian society in order to display them in a book, museum, or some other source with a curator.  So with this in mind, the need to classify and strictly define all types of tabla compositions could be viewed as an ideal that originates outside the realm of Indian Classical music, i.e., outside of the very mindset that harbors such a fluid art form.  Furthermore, rigid classification might actually go against the fluidity and flexibility inherent to Hindustani music.

When we utilize language as a signifier of what these compositions mean, I think we can come to a better place in understanding tabla compositions without rigidly classifying them.  For example: kaida in Hindi/Urdu literally means “rule.”  And in this way, a kaida is a compositional form in tabla that establishes rules of how to develop a composition.  Laggi, another type of composition in tabla, comes from the word lagatar, meaning continuously.  Thus, laggi compositions describe a set of bols (patterns of tabla sounds) that are played in a continuous fashion.  This is different from rela however.  Of the few stories on how the word and compositional type, rela, came about, one popular idea comes from the notion that it originated from relgari, the Hindi/Urdu word for train.  There is another idea though, that rela came from the Urdu expression, rela aya, which signifies a gushing of water, like when a damn breaks and water gushes from the source.  The latter, to me, linguistically speaking, helps clarify what rela describes better than any other description.  And really, I think that the names of these compositional forms, are just that: descriptions of the sounds and compositions of tabla.  In the spirit of Hindustani classical music I do not think these forms are intended to be so rigid that require exact definitions.

Having said all that, I return to my initial inquiry, chalan.  Coming from the word chalna, meaning to move, chalan in Hindi/Urdu means movement.  In this description then, a chalan is different from a kaida insofar that it does not establish a rule for development, it is rather, a movement.  In light of what I wrote above, it seems that chalan is just a way to linguistically describe the sequence of tabla sounds, and not a compositional genre that needs definition and rigid parameters to understand.

Finally, here is the beautiful chalan that inspired this post (performed here by Anindo Ji and his son Anubrata). The chalan actually starts at around minute 2:20, but is recited by Anindo Ji at 2:30.

Ustad Asad Ali Khan

Ustad Asad Ali Khan was one the great Rudra Veena players of our time, so his recent death is a huge loss to the world of Hindustani Classical music.  While his forefathers were court musicians in Jaipur, Rampur, and other North Indian Courts, he himself was a 7th generation musician.  He was never married, but adopted a son, Zaki Haidar, who was also a disciple of his.  Another disciple of his was Bikramjeet Das of Kolkata.

There are not many Rudra Veena players in India left, at least not as there where in times previous, and as I reflect on Ustad ji’s life and music, I am reminded once again of the depth and scope inherent in Indian Music. And although Rudra Veena’s popularity in general may be declining, to witness the accomplishments of today’s living masters of other instruments (sitar, santoor, tabla, vocals, etc.) is extraordinary.  I say this, because instead of focusing on what is changing in Indian Classical Music (i.e., what is lost), it is sometimes more beneficial to look at what is gained from previous efforts.  And what better way to look at Ustad ji’s life than through the lens of how his accomplishments helped shape the music of today’s performers.

As I head off for a practice session myself on this eve of Guru Purnima, through reflecting on Ustad ji’s life, I give pranaam to all the great musicians who have worked so hard to develop this wonderful and boundless music.

Raga Bhopali and Zohrabai Agrewali

I received an email today about a new website called, Ragas4u (  At first glance it looks like a fantastic site filled with many resources for both the layman and the advanced.  I went to the Raga Bhopali section and decided to give some of the exercises a go–it had me there for almost an hour practicing and listening to all the examples and then exploring other youtube posts on Bhopali.  This is led me to the recording of Zohrabai Agrewali on youtube singing Bhopali.  I have heard her name before as an important figure in Hindustani classical music, but I never had the chance to hear anything.  I also read the small article on Wikipedia and am now really intrigued about her life.  She died young at 45 years of age (1868-1913) and was apart of an older generation of court patronage while representing the decreasing  lives of courtesan singers in North India.  In the 19th century and before, courtesans were one of the main culture bearers of Hindustani music, and to listen to these recordings is like a flash, or a shimmer, of a completely different era of India’s classical music.

I also found a small tribute to her on ITC’s site here: Here, there are even more clips of her singing.

“Born in 1868, Zohra Bai of the Agra Gharana, or Zohra Bai Agrewali as she came to be known as, was easily the best female singer at the turn of the 19th century. She had her talim from Ustad Sher Khan, nephew of Ghagge Khuda Baksh who imported Khayal from Gwalior. She had her subsequent talim from Ustad Kallan Khan and Mehboob Khan (Daras Piya), the great composer of Khayals and even Thumris, a fact, which is not very well known even to members of Agra Gharana.

Known equally for Khayal as well as lighter varieties of classical music, she learnt Thumri and Ghazals from Ahmad Khan of Dacca. Her many records going back to the first twenty years of the last century have not yet dated, unlike records of some of her contemporaries. It is said that Faiyaz Khan the greatest Ustad of the Agra Gharana, and possibly of this time in India, was also influenced by Zohra Bai`s style of singing. The famed Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana also held her in very high esteem.

Zohra Bai died in 1913.”


Pandit Mahapurush Mishra

What an artist!  I have been enjoying listening to Mahapurush Mishra Ji’s youtube clips recently and wanted to know more about his life.  Here is a short biography of him that I found on the internet.  I wish there was more on his life somewhere though–I want to order Aban Mistry’s book, Tabla and Pakhawaj soon so I can supplement some of these online biographies with the knowledge she gathered for that book.

“Pandit Mahapurush Mishra (1932-1987) was a disciple of Pandit Anokhelal Mishra, a revered master of Tabla. Mahapurush was a famous Tabla accompanist to many topmost musicians and a professor at the Ali Akbar College of Music in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He spent most of his time during the late 1960s in USA teaching, recording, and appearing widely in numerous classical music concerts. There are far too few of his Tabla solos in circulation. However, this solo album of Pandit Mahapurush Mishra, a very rare-of-its-kind, is an invariably spectacular display of his virtuosity and musicality, which he is renowned for.

Longtime Tabla master, sideman to the stars, and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s main accompanist throughout the better part of three decades until his death, Pandit Mahapurush Mishra has also appeared on the Beatles b-side of Lady Madonna, George Harrison’s The Inner Light (recorded in Bombay in January 1968 with the vocal tracks added in London the next month) as well as on Harrison’s Wonderwall soundtrack.”  (

Thoughts on the history of Indian Music

I have been applying for some grants recently–the AIIS senior performing arts grant in particular–and I have been thinking about how to formulate a Full Bright grant proposal as well, but for a completely different project.  For the AIIS grant, I am proposing to learn only sangat (music accompaniment) on the tabla for nine months in New Delhi.  For the Full Bright however, I am thinking about pursing something that extends my master’s research in Hyderabad and research the history of North Indian Hindustani Music in Hyderabad through interviews and historical ethnographies of families and disciples of those that were apart of Hyderabad’s past.  The eventual goal is to apply this knowledge to both a future Ph.D. and articles that I wish to publish in various journals.  To the best of my knowledge, nothing has ever been researched/published in the this subject more than a few notes in a larger study here and there.  I know that James Kippen has done some extensive interviewing in Hyderabad recently, and I would hope that I could be in contact with him if I have the chance to conduct research there.

In a recent conversation, I heard an interesting point about the scope of doing historical research on music in India: new research is limited to either biographies and/or written documents (i.e., letters) of the musicians and their families and collegues.  The point was raised in comparison to how western music history is based almost solely on documents and the written word from a far greater pool of sources (i.e., historians, novels, letters, political accounts, etc.).  This idea coincides with one of my favorite books by Regula Qureshi, Master Musicians Speak, where she asserts that the most important aspect of Indian Music scholarship at this point should lie in letting the Masters of this art be heard.

“In order to include these processes within a global horizon of musical thinking, the still Western-dominated idea of music history as a linear textual chain of antecedents needs to be opened up to the possibility of a history of music as embedded within a family group and repertoire being stored not in a library with a text, but in a brain with a context; being learned not from books, but from orally transmitted words that are being generated not declaratively but interactively.  In other words, it is a history that is based on ethnography, in the vein of initiatives to bring ethnomusicology and musicology, or anthropology and history, into dialogue.” (Qureshi 2007:3)

Using this as a model, I am formulating my Full Bright proposal to conduct research in Hyderabad of musicians and their families that were (and maybe still are) associated with the presence of Hindustani music there.  The idea is to collect as many interviews as possible, visit particular venues and neighborhoods that supported this music, and eventually write a critical history on Hindustani music in Hyderabad guided primarily on the voices of musicians and their ancestors.

Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan – a contextual biography

There are currently two short biographies of Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan online ( and that I drew from for this biography.  My other sources for this paper were interviews I was able to do in the summer of 2008 in Hyderabad, India, with his son, Shabir Nisar.  

PART I – Contexts

In 1916, the year Ustad, Shaik Dawood Khan was born, India was in the midst of assisting the British in fighting the First World War.  Two years earlier, in August of 1914, Britain declared war on Germany and began sending Indian troops, over a million of them, to Europe and the Middle East to help their cause.  India’s economy suffered tremendously and, as in many times of war, inflation occurred.  Dawood Khan was born into an India ruled by the British and struggling for its Independence.  In 1915, the freedom fighter Tilak re-entered Indian politics in the Congress party, and India persisted in its road to become independent from British Rule.

During the decades leading up to his birth, an explosion occurred in the number of Indian political organizations called Sabhas.  Caste relations were being re-negotiated and there was “…widespread movement[s] towards modern organizational forms”  (Metcalf and Metcalf 138).  Many castes and sub-castes were making a move to reclaim a particular position in society for economic and political reasons, which did not exist before and were now taking on new forms.  This was due in a large part to a census the British ordered where many groups desired to be recognized as “higher castes.”

During the late nineteenth century, there were also many movements in the arts that related to emerging classes and political struggles over representation.  Two musicologists in particular were at the forefront of musical revolution involving Hindustani music in particular:  Bhatkande, and Palushkar (Bhakle 2007).  Hindustani music was undergoing a transformation from court music to “North Indian classical music.”  Since there were no more courts following the fall of the Mughals in 1857, hereditary Hindustani musicians were required to find new avenues for seeking patronage to support their music.  Some continued to flourish in the court of the Nizam in Hyderabad, but most had to be adaptive in their strategies to survive.  There was a new interest in theatre arts (including music), especially Marahastra, West India.

It was through these performances that Dawood Khan was first exposed to music as a child.  Although he did come from a musical family, his parents were extremely fond of music and took him to the theatre often.  Dawood Khan was born in the state of Maharastra on December 16, 1916.  His life as a non-hereditary musician was a product of a new India, one that was rapidly changing from exclusive, self-contained groups, to a nation desiring to establish its independence and an identity separate from colonial rule.  If Dawood Khan had been born during another period in Indian history, his mastery of the tabla and life as a musician would not have been possible.   His life’s work is a direct reflection of the political conditions of his time as well as his intense dedication to riyaaz (practice).

It is well known that the musicologists mentioned above, Palushkar and Bhatkande, had certain agendas in creating new arenas (i.e., music schools, something unheard of before their time) for Hindustani music while, consciously or not, taking power away from its current culture bearers:  hereditary musicians of Muslim families.  As Bhakle posits in her book though, hereditary musicians were extremely aware of these moves and were keen to adopt strategies that would allow them to continue as culture bearers.  Even though music schools began to spring up everywhere in India in the late nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries, the fact of the matter was that the true performers of the day were still shaped and “created” by hereditary masters of Muslim descent.  There was a period, which Dawood Khan comes out of, when these hereditary musicians began teaching students outside of their family.  This is in conjunction with many other changes India was going through at the time, e.g., issues of caste, independence, world affairs, education, and religion alike.

PART II – Instruction

            If the relationship with a teacher and student is sincere and following the tradition of Hindustani music, they share level of interaction that is not unlike—and in many cases resembles exactly—that of a father and son.  Consequently, it is very rare for any student of Hindustani music to have multiple gurus, which is one thing that makes Dawood Khan Sahib so unique:  he had five different gurus throughout his life.

His first guru, Ustad Khasim Khan, was a zamindar (landowner) in the city Dawwod Khan was from, Sholapur, and held weekly musical gatherings at his home.  It was here that Dawood Khan developed an interest in studying tabla and at the age of 12 began tutelage under Khasim Khan.  During this period Dawood Khan received intense training from his guru, eventually preparing him to accompany many other artists (vocalists and instrumentalists).  A technique that has been lost with the new generation of tabla players was Khasim Khan’s innovation to manipulate the bayan (left-hand drum of the tabla) with his thumb.  This is a technique (among many compositions) that Dawood Khan acquired during his initial training and utilized in many compositions.

It is important to note that Khasim Khan never thought of himself as a professional musician and was not a part of any family of musicians.  He always considered himself an amateur who gained some notoriety by accompanying a few famous musicians.  From the discussion above, we can see how ideas of music and the transfer of musical knowledge were changing.  Initially, Dawood Khan’s training came from outside the hereditary culture bearers of this tradition, and the gatherings he attended were a product of a changing environment from the courts to middle-class homes and small concerts organized for a larger public.  Although this is after the time of Palushkar and Bhatkande, it is an indirect reflection of those efforts:  Hindustani music was becoming (or perhaps already was at this point) an enterprise that was taking place in multiple venues and was enjoyed, studied, and taught to many people.  It was no longer an exclusive art form.

Dawood Khan’s next guru was Ustad Alladiya Khan (supposedly seventh generation musician, also known as Allaudin Khan), of Hyderabad.  Alladiya Khan was son-in-law and disciple of Hussain Baksh (also from Hyderabad), who was in turn, son-in-law of the founder of the Faroukabad Gharana (Ustad Haaji Vilayat Ali, ca. 1840 C.E.).  The Nizam kingdom of Hyderabad is an important aspect of why Hyderabad flourished as a tabla culture.  It is well known that the Nizams loved music and especially tabla, as they would welcome any musician into their court.  There is one story told in Aban Mistry’s book of a female pakawaj (cousin and predecessor to the tabla) player who resided in the harem of the Nizam’s kingdom of Hyderabad in the early twentieth and late nineteenth centuries.  Unfortunately, the woman remains unnamed but is thought to have been the daughter of the famous pakawaj player Nana Panse.  This story, as it is retold by Mistry, establishes Hyderabad and the courts of Nizam as major centers for tabla and pakawaj, to such an extent that there were even female masters of the instrument.  (For a detailed description of the history and lineage of tabla in Hyderabad, see my previous post call “Tabla in Hyderabad.”)

As Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan gained more and more notoriety for his tabla playing in Sholapor  (a small city in the neighboring state, Maharashtra), he began being called to Hyderabad radio.  Consequently, in 1937, because of the frequency of his appearances on the then privately owned radio station (months after his arrival the radio station was taken over by the Nizam and was subjected to state rule), he shifted his residence to Hyderabad and became a disciple of Alladiya Khan.  Now in Hyderabad, Dawood Khan continued to flourish in all aspects of tabla:  learning, performing, and teaching—he was even teacher to one of the Nizam princes.

This is an interesting shift in the tabla player’s patronage that began to occur in Ustad Dawood Khan’s generation.  Emphasis on patronage by princely courts was slowly eradicated because of the fall of Mughal courts beginning in 1857, forcing all musicians to find new sources of income.  The reason why a Hindustani musical culture thrived in Hyderabad was not only because of the Nizam’s love for the music itself, but also because his was one of the only courts in India with that much political staying power.  Ustad Dawood Khan then (among others), represented a new generation of tabla players that entered a musical world devoid of its previous patterns of patronage.

Dawood Khan’s son, Shabir Nisar, suggests that this was also the generation that represented the pinnacle of tabla performance ending in the 1970’s.  The musicians of this generation inherited from their courtly forbearers the capacity for long periods of intense practice, and they now shared their dazzling virtuosity with the general public.  Their ability to communicate at such a high artistic level undoubtedly led critics and audiences to regard them as the very summit of this tradition.  Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan was part of this new generation of tabla virtuosos and contributed greatly to the evolution of the instrument in many ways.

Ustad Dawood Khan had three other teachers, the first two were the sons of Ustad Alladiya Khan: Ustad Mohammed Khan, Ustad Chote Khan, and Ustad Mahbood Khan.  His last teacher (Ustad Mahbood Khan) was first a close friend of Dawood Khan’s whom together they would share compositions with.  He only became a disciple of his when his friend’s father wanted there to be some concrete evidence that Dawood Khan learned from him.  Shabir Nisar, Dawood Khan’s son, said that his father learned 57 rare gats (a type of composition) from Ustad Mahbood Khan.


Shabir Nisar told me that his father, Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan, would complete two to three chillas a year.  A chilla is a period of forty days during which a musician practices ten to twelve hours a day, doing nothing else.  It is a complete immersion in one’s art, which musicians today are encouraged to do at least once.  In his fifties, the Ustad continued his commitment to practicing ten hours a night, and not sleeping until 4 a.m..  By the age of 40, his teeth were gone because he refused to get enough sleep due to his drive to practice.  In his 60’s, even though his health was declining, he would practice up to three to four hours a day.   The Ustad would always practice in front of a mirror, but only so he could see his hands.  He was very particular of both his hands and sitting position and constantly maintained to himself and his students that their hands could not be allowed above a certain height.  Ustad Dawood Khan always said that any real tabla player should not have calluses, and he would allow anybody to inspect his hands upon making this statement.

Teaching and transmission were of the utmost important issues to Ustad Dawood Khan.  Among his many senior disciples are his son, Shabir Nisar, Nandkumar Bhatlouande, Kiran Deshpande, Betrabet Prabhakar Rao, and Abhiman Kaushal.  I would like to conclude with a quote that opens up the website of the recently inaugurated “Dawood Khan Academy of Music of Hyderabad” to illustrate how important teaching was to the Ustad:

“The value of an accomplished tabla player lies in his ability to manage with and support younger and upcoming musicians.”

Indian music scholarship (Part 1)

In a description of the ways that scholars have written about India, Amartya Sen posits three distinct approaches to the “images of India’s intellectual traditions”: (1) exoticist, (2) magisterial, and (3) curatorial  (Sen 2005:140).  The exoticist approach focuses on the strange and different “wondrous aspects of India.”  The magisterial category “strongly relates to the exercise of imperial power” of the British and the Raj (India’s internal imperialist powers).  The third category (curatorial) is related to attempts that classify, note, and later exhibit Indian phenomenon.

Here, I wish to discuss the ways in which images of North India’s musical traditions have been represented and studied.  My aim is to provide an overview of the methods and approaches that characterize Hindustani/North Indian classical music scholarship.  Although my focus is primarily on the discipline of Ethnomusicology, there is no way of adequately understanding its approach without a discussion of India’s myriad musicological works.  Following Sen’s arguments above, I categorize methods of North Indian classical musical scholarship into three categories: (1) master narratives that deal primarily with theoretical and historical discourses, (2) ethnographies that counter and write against those master narratives, and (3) encyclopedic entries.

Through using a Sen type analysis and my own categorical tripartite, I wish to encourage discussions that go beyond simple, linear descriptions (even if I am proceeding from past to present), and move toward a dialectical discussion of various ideas and opinions of musicological development.  I do not mean to say that certain approaches must be viewed as “exoticist,” or “master narrative,” or even “exoticist master narratives,” but rather, I aim to look at how two analytical models (Sen’s and my own) can work in relation to one another and assist us in better understanding developments of non-linear trajectories.

Early Indian music scholarship

“In broad terms, the history of scholarship on Indian music begins with the insular elaboration by Indian writers and proceeds toward increasing Western influence, international authors, and a multitude of approaches” (Simms 2000:42).  The first scholarly writings on music were theoretical treatises that developed from  Bharata’s ancient treatise on the performing arts, the Natyashastra (second century).  Robert Simms breaks down the scholarship of Indian music into five distinct time periods: (1) 1300-1550, (2) 1550-1780, (3) 1780-1900, (4) 1900-1960, and (5) scholarship in the late twentieth century.  What concerns us here however, are the first two periods, from 1300-1780.  During this time almost all of the writings were commentaries on Sarngadeva’s thirteenth-century treatise, the Sangitaratnakara, “an approach that would occupy Hindustani scholars from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries” where the scholar Sudhakalasa in particular, was responsible for introducing iconographical personifications of ragas (Simms 2000:44).

This is an example of what I categorize as the master narratives.  The writings of this period focused on tuning theories, raga theories, and drum syllables that later became the concept of theka in North Indian classical music.  I do not mean to argue that these kinds of studies were confined to this period alone; these theoretical discourses are still in use today (see Nazir Jairazbhoy’s article, “What happened to Indian music theory?” in the Winter 2008 Ethnomusicology Journal).  What I intend to locate however, are master narratives of Indian music scholarship that began through political (and perhaps magisterial) efforts.

In 1428 the Muslim ruler Sultan Malika Shahi, “organized a conference of musicologists to review and edit his musicological manuscript collection into a single volume, which resulted in the Sangitasiromani” (Simms 2000:45).  Efforts such as these mark the role that aristocratic patrons played throughout the emergence of India’s musicology.  That musicology was patronized through the efforts of ruling classes—despite the fact that early Muslim powers were not involved in overt political struggles with the majority Hindu population—denotes that its popularity was embedded in political efforts.  With this understanding, we can view early musicology as a process of the establishment in a magisterial type of master narrative.

Tabla in Hyderabad

I have wanted to revise and post some excerpts from my master’s research in Hyderabad  recently, so here is a part of my research that explores the history of three distinct paramparas of tabla transmission in Hyderabad. 

There are three distinct paramparas (musical lineages that have more than three generations of transmission) that have roots in Hyderabad because of the Nizam’s love for the instrument. The first stems from Niyamat Khan’s son, Musahib Khan, who left the courts of Indore for the court of the Nizam in Hyderabad around 1920 (the exact date is unknown).  Although he did not stay for long, three of his disciples (the first two of which were his own sons) Ustad Bahadar Khan, Ustad Karmu Khan, and Ustad Maulla Baksh, stayed in Hyderabad and under the Nizam’s patronage for their entire career.  Aban Mistry suggests that “after circa 1926 A.D., . . . the new Maharaja [of Indore] was fond of music but severely lacked his father’s extraordinary flair for music . . . So during his reign, many artists left Indore and went away.  As per popular belief, most of Indore’s artistes settled down south in the courts of Hyderabad” (Mistry 1999:286).  Consequently, Musahib Khan’s parampara in Hyderabad represents the Indore connections to Hyderabad.

The second parampara emerges from Ustad Munir Khan, who learned from the son of Ustad Haaji Vilayat Ali (the founder of the Faroukabad gharana), Hussain Ali Khan.  Although he was not born in Hyderabad, he settled there early in his life because his father, Karim Baksh, who was not a tabla player, found work and moved to the budding metropolis.  As a result, Ustad Munir Khan lived and taught in Hyderabad most of his life but eventually settled in Bombay.  Some of his most famous students who did not live in Hyderabad, Ustad Amir Hussain Khan of Bombay and Ustad Jan Thirakwa Khan, continued to visit and learn from him while leaving their mark and traces in the Hyderabad tabla community to the present day.

The third parampara in Hyderabad includes Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan but stems from the son-in-law (Ustad Hussain Baksh) of the founder of Faroukabad gharana.  It is important to note here that both the son and the son-in-law of Ustad Haaji Vilayat Khan are represented as two distinct paramparas of tabla in Hyderabad (they continue to be quite divided today).  Ustad Hussain Baksh was loved by the Nizam so much so that it was said that he “would place himself next to his [the Nizam’s] royal seat and play the whole night through, while the Nizam languishing in the soothing effect of his Vaadan would doze off intermittently” (Mistry 297).   Ustad Alladiya Khan, the son-in-law and senior disciple of Ustad Hussain Baksh, also earned his seat as a member of Nizam’s court musicians as well as his two sons, Ustad Mohammed Khan and Ustad Chote Khan.


I have heard Khan Saheb many times, but this small clip blows my mind… he is truly the most lyrical sitar player alive today.  I have heard few renditions of Bhairavi that are as deep as this two minute clip here.  I wish there was more of this concert posted on youtube, but this will have to do. I have had the amazingly fortunate opportunity to sit with Khan Saheb on stage a few times now, and I am constantly in awe and appreciation to know him and be in his presence.

More about the raga Bhairavi:

“Raag Bhairavi (Hindi: भैरबी) is a Hindustani Classical heptatonic (Sampurna) Raag of Bhairavi Thaat. Traditionally it is a morning raga. In modern times, at least in Khyal Gayaki, it is usually performed as the concluding (finale) piece in concerts. It is the defining raga of its own Thaat.” (

I read that Bade Ghulam Ali Khan has asserted that Bhairavi originated in the folk tunes of Iran.  I would love to know if anyone else knows more about this.