Gharana names normally are place names: the names of the places were the founders lived or came from. The Rampur-Sahaswan khayal gharana, as it is quite apparent, gets its name from two places. First, Rampur (in Uttar Pradesh) which was a major centre of North-Indian classical music from the reign of its fifth nawab, Nawab Yusuf Ali (1840-1868). This line of nawabs was of Afghan origin. The second, Sahaswan is a village in the Badayun district of the same state in which most of the gharana’s famous musicians, were born. It is near Rampur.

All the musicians of the Sahaswan khandan, that is family or dynasty, are said to have descended from two brothers, Karim Bux and Rahim Bux. These two exponents are said to have belonged to the dhrupad tradition. Ustad Mushtaq Hussain’s father was the son of the first, while Ustad Inayat Hussain’s father was the third son of the second. Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan’s grandfather, Ustad Haider Khan was the son of Rahim Bux’s first son, Ali Bux. The story of the Rampur Sahaswan khayal gharana begins with Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan (1849-1919). He was the son of Ustad Mehboob Khan, a khayal singer and Veena player of the Rampur court. He taught younger sons Ali Hussain and Mohammed Hussain the veena and they were employed in the Rampur court in that capacity. Mehboob Khan is said to have performed khayals in a simple style with an emphasis on tappa-style taans, which can be taken to be an indication of his affiliation to the Gwalior khayal gharana which introduced this kind of taan and also the tappa genre itself. He was also a beenkar or veena player. His first off-spring was a daughter who was married to the earlier-mentioned Ustad Haider Khan. Inayat Hussain is said to have shown unusual singing talent in his childhood and so his father after some basic training took him to one of the chief court musicians of the Rampur court for further training . So as Inayat Hussain, the founder of the gharana, hailed from Sahaswan and was trained and lived in Rampur, gharana came to be called Rampur Sahaswan.

This was at the time of Nawab Yusuf Ali and the chief court musicians were sursringar maestro Ustad Bahadur Hussain (expired 1870) of the Rababi gharana believed to have originated from the youngest son of Mian Tansen and Ustad Amir Khan of the Beenkar gharana believed to have descended from Tansen’s daughter. Though a dhrupad exponent and a sursringer player, Bahadur Hussain taught exquiste taranas to khayal singers and tarana-based compositions to sitar and sarod players.

Inayat Hussain was put under the charge of Bahadur Hussain from his childhood . According to his third son-in-law, the late Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan (1912-1993) who was Rashid Khan’s maternal grand-uncle and guru, Inayat Hussain was initially taught only paltas (ascending and descending permutations and combinations of notes) in the ragas Gour Sarang and Bhairav. This was apparently done to build his vocal prowess and grasp of the tonal compass. For the scales of the two ragas together cover 10 notes of the 12-note chromatic scale. This went on for a very long time. When asked by interested ustads what kind of progress young Inayat was making, Bahadur Hussain used to say that the boy was very young and was not being taught any compositions or ragas proper, he was only practicing paltas to build up his voice. Once he developed sufficient control over the notes he would be taught ragas and songs proper and the means of elborating these, he used to say. But the interested ustads wanted to hear the boy singing and could not be put off for long. Succumbing to the pressure one day, Bahadur Hussain invited some of these ustads to come and hear the boy after a week or so. The moment the prospective listeners left, the ustad called Inayat Hussain and taught him some compositions in Yaman and Bihag and showed him how he was to alter the paltas of Gour Sarang to suit these ragas and the notes and phrases that were to be emphasised in the new ragas. When the boy sang khayals in these ragas on the designated evening, the assembled ustads were simply astounded by his skill and artistry. They congratulated Bahadur Hussain for his amazing teaching methods and left awe-struck.

Ustad Inayat Hussain was taught traditional khayals and the exquisite taranas created by Bahadur Hussain in all major ragas and also many rare ones. He not only became one the greatest khayal singers of the Rampur court but one of the all-time greats of Indian classical music. He composed many classic khayals in major ragas which are sung by exponents of many gharanas today. Many of these like 'tadapata raina din' in Maru Bihag, 'jhanana jhanana' in Chhaya Nat and 'papi dadurba bulai' in Gour Malhar are regularly sung by exponents with little or no connection with Rampur Sahaswan whatsoever.

But the Inayat Hussain style was not only made up of the material and training he received from Ustad Bahadur Hussain. It acquired a further dimension when Inayat Hussain married the second daughter of Ustad Haddu Khan of the Gwalior khayal gharana. This gharana, out of which practically all khayal gharanas are believed to have evolved, has produced some of the greatest khayals singers of the nation, Haddu Khan being one of the best of these. The story goes that Haddu Khan’s sons Rahamat Khan and Chhote Muhammed Khan were looking for a suitable groom for their sister. Inayat Hussain was then on a tour of Gwalior and had performed in several important mehfils. Impressed by the artistic prowess, fame and tall, strapping physique of Inayat Hussain and his noble, courtly manners, they invited him to meet their father.

At the meeting, Haddu Khan himself was equally impressed. After some time, the ustad asked Inayat Hussain to sing. After politely refusing a couple times, saying that he was not good enough a singer to perform before a personage of the stature of the great Ustad Haddu Khan, Inayat Hussain started his performance. The complex style, astounding vocal prowess and three-octave taankari bowled Haddu Khan over and he immediately proposed that Inayat Hussain should marry his daughter. A son and daughter resulted from this marriage but both of them died young. However, the marriage resulted in Inayat Hussain receiving training from Haddu Khan. This led to the the stretching of the horizons of the original Inayat Hussain style and the additon of the wealth traditional Gwalior gharana techniques, formats and compostions to his repertoire.

Inayat Hussain trained his son Sabir Hussain and a lot of stalwart pupils in his day. These included Khadim Hussain, Chharju Khan, Nazir Khan, Bashir Khan, Ramkrishna Bua, Shivsevak Mishra of Varanasi, Hafiz Khan of Gurdwani gharana of Mysore and,of course, his son-in-law Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan (1874-1964). It is through the styles of his sons-in-law that contemporary experts have formed their idea of the Rampur Sahaswan style and it is through their pupils and their sons-in-law that the gharana stays aloft today. Like the sons-in-law, Inayat Hussain’s three daughters, naturally played a big role in keeping the gharana alive. The third daughter Sabri Begum was married to Waris Hussain Khan and gave birth to leading senior contemporary exponent Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan and daughter Shakhri Begum. Shakhri Begum, married to Hamid Raza Khan, gave birth to Ustad Rashid Khan, the younger but equally famous contemporary exponent. Ghulam Mustafa was trained by his father, who in turn had been trained by Inayat Hussain himself, Nissar Hussain’s father Fida Hussain (1883-1948) and Nissar Hussain himself. Nissar Hussain, who received his training from his grandfather Ustar Haidar Hussain Khan also trained up his son and successor Sarafraz Hussain (who expired in 1999), son-in-law Ghulam Akbar and son-in-law Hafiz Ahmed Khan. Rashid Khan also received all his training from Nissar Hussain partly at Budaun and partly at Sangeet Research Academy, Calcutta right from his childhood.

The Gharana Style

As already mentioned, contemporary experts and have formed their idea of the Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana style, or gayaki as it is called, mainly from the performances of Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan and Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan. People who had first-hand or even second-hand experience of the Inayat Hussain’s style of singing apparently did not put their experience or views on record. However, out of a general analysis of these views the following may be said to be the general characteristics of the Rampur Sahaswan style: --

(1) The visible impact of the instrumental style of the Veena and Sursringar in the form of character of the meend and sooth used by the singers.
(2) Use of the lyrics of the song in all stages of the vilambit khayal in preference to aakar. The words of the song, moreover are presented in the natural order and over-emphasis on any single word is generally avoided.
(3) The use of bahalwa as the main means of slow elaboration in the vilambit khayal. This is a device is prescribed by the Gwalior gharana and comprises slow-motion taan-like figures with long meends adding life to the movement. Stalwarts like Mushtaq Hussain went on to this type of movements after singing the basic composition and then on to rhythmic movements and medium-paced taankari. There was no slow melodic elaboration or vistar in the vilambit khayals as used by modern exponents.
(4) The use of intricate bol-taans, satta taans, and chhoot taans. The faster movements cover three octaves and the last type of taans often skip an entire octave while going up or coming down.
(5) The specialisation in singing taranas. The preservation of the Inayat Hussain repertoire of taranas learnt from Bahadur Hussain and the expansion of the range through contributions by leading exponents has given the gharana a virtual treasury of taranas. Most exponents sing taranas in their own special manner at recitals. Nissar Hussain was an aknowledged expert in this field . In the final portion of his taranas their was bolkari in the manner of the thok jhala of the veena and the sursringar with the twangy, jangling sound of the old instruments being realistically imitated by nasal intonation.
(6) Leading exponents have specialised in singing the Islamic religious song forms known as Soz and Marsia. These are generally performed as part of religious observances during Muharram when other forms of music are prohibited. But gharana exponents have also performed them in private mehfils before appreciative audinences.
Of course, all singers of the gharana have not, or do not display all the general characteristics noted above in all individual performances. Some have included apparently contradictory material as well. For instance some experts have noted that Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan at times developed his vilambit khayal with note-by-note elaboration of the raga. But others have said that he started his recitals with an aakar-based aochar and did not sing any slow melodic elboration at all, going on to the bahalwas in the strict Gwalior-Rampur Sahaswan manner after singing the first part of the composition. Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan was very particular about unfolding the vilambit khayal with proper use of the lyrics in the Gwalior manner. The tempo preferred by both these stalwarts was the slow-medium one and not the very slow or ati vilambit used by modern exponents. The profuse use of taankari and the astounding variety of taans were salient features of the styles of both.

Since like most other gharanas, the Rampur Sahaswan is an off-shoot of the Gwalior gharana it is quite natural that it shares its major characteristics with it. Still differences can be in the Rampur Sahaswan emphasis on taankari in preference to bol-bant and layakari . In the older Gwalior style there is equal emphasis on all these aspects in the second half of the vilambit khayal. Ustad Nissar Hussain’s son Sarafraz Hussain reproduced his father’s vocal style almost exactly with most of the personal mannerism intact as well. In him and to an extent in Mushtaq Hussain’s son-in-law Ghulam Sadiq of the Delhi University, the style of the older exponents survived more or less in its original form. Modern exponents, starting with Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan have made certain changes in the style to make it more complete. Ghulam Mustafa introduced slow melodic elaboration or vistar and in the vilambit khayal and also sang it in the slower tempo prefered by most singers in the final quarter of the 20th century. He also initiated the use of sargams popularised by Kirana and Patiala exponents. But as the other broad characteristics and specialities of the gharana style were retained in his style, it can be said he expanded the gharana style and made it more complete.

Ustad Rashid Khan has included the slow elaboration in his vilambit khayals in the manner of his maternal uncle and also developed exceptional expertise in the use of sargams and sargam taankari. He has also included the slower tempo vilambit. He is also extremely adept in producing all the other techniques and characteristic features of the Rampur Sahaswan style. His taankari is as powerful and varigeated as any of his predecessors and, in fact, among the best in the nation at the moment. The brilliant Enayat Hussain drut and medium pace khayals ring as true in his voice as they have done down the ages. He is also a master of the tarana like his guru but sings them in his own manner, preferring the khayal style rather than the instrumental stroke-based style for which Nissar Hussain was famous. There is no imitiation of instrumental tone in them either. His vocal prowess is in the best tradition of the Rampur Sahaswan gharana. His mastery of all aspects tonal variations, dynamics and timbre adjustment leave very little to be desired in the realm of voice culture.

A notable achievement of Ustad Rashid Khan is the infusion of an emotional content into his melodic elaboration. This was generally considered to be lacking in the styles of the older exponents. The older ustads, being essentially court singers, put the emphasis on polished technique, skillful execution of difficult passages and the power to astound with their musicianship.The Nawabs and Mahrajas and their courtiers who were their prime audience found these things more interesting and did not bother about emotional appeal. For the khayal to them was classical art song and emotional appeal was not an important requisite for this type of music. But after independence and especially in the second half of the 20th century, classical music, including khayal, which like the thumri, was the most popular vocal form, was patronised by audiences coming from the middle and upper-middle class segments of the society. The modern listener thus tended to find Mushtaq Hussain or even Nissar Hussain rather dry for their taste. As a result these singers were not as popular as certain contemporaries who infused emotions into the the khayal. With the entry of Rashid Khan the tables have been turned and the spontaneous emotional appeal of his manner of singing, be it in the melodic elaboration or in the upper octave pukars, have won him enthusiastic listeners and followers the world over.

No Rampur Sahaswan singer has in fact has enjoyed such massive general popularity as he does. This has been indeed a big breakthrough for the gharana.

Apart from displaying all the attributes of the Rampur Sahaswan style as it stood at the time he was born into it (and this includes the additional attributes infused by Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan), Ustad Rashid Khan has the traditional excellence in the Marsia and the Soz. This may not be known to the general listener or the general expert since he hardly ever performs them in public performances. But the fact remains that he is one of the best singers of these religious songs ever born in the gharana.

With most khayal gharanas drying up and wilting today and more so in the genealogical sense, Ustad Rashid Khan holds out hope for khayal gharanas in general and the Rampur Sahaswan gharana in particular. For all experts are in agreement on one point : the greatest of classical music exponents are usually a chip of the old block .



  6. USTAD RASHID KHAN                       PADMASHRI AWARDEE