The Kashmiri Mehfil
M.A. Sheikh reflects.
aesthete and scholar of high repute, M.A.Sheikh
has been associated with the musical circles of Lahore for almost 70
years and has seen profound changes taking place to classical music. "Yadein"
or Memories is a reflection of M.A. Sheikh's memorable moments in
classical music. The opening article in this series concerns a tour to
Srinagar in 1935 by seasoned artistes Ustad Chotay Ghulam Ali Khan and
Ustad Jamal Khan.
the summer months of 1935, the late Syed Shabbir Hussain
Shah, husband of Malika Pukhraj, organised a pleasure trip to Kashmir.
The group mainly consisted of connoisseurs and musicians and included
Khwaja Khurshid Anwar (music director), Khawaja Mohammad Masood
(associated with the Punjab Assembly), Colonel (Rtd) Dr. K.A. Rasheed
(Director of Dial Singh library), Pir Salahuddin of Bahawalpur, Sheikh
Ahmed Hussain (Gujrat), Mumtaz sahab (Islamia College Lahore) and this
scribe. Amongst the musicians were renowned vocalists Ustad Chotay
Ghulam Ali Khan, and Ustad Jamal Khan, more popularly known as Macchar
Khan, and tabla player Manzoor Hussain Khan of Qasur.
composer Khawaja Khurshid Anwar.
Ghulam Ali Khan belonged to the Qawwal Bachha gharana and had achieved
fame in the subcontinent for his khayal performances, his extraordinary
ability to execute difficult taans won him praise from listeners. Ustad
Jamal Khan, a member of the Gwalior gharana was another musical giant
and an uncle of the famous vocalist Ustad Umeed Ali Khan.
We all left
from Lahore and reached Srinagar in two days. The entire group was accommodated
in two house boats stationed at Dal Lake, Srinagar, one of which was occupied by
the two vocalists and instrumentalist. Kashmir resembled paradise on
earth, the lush green lawns of the surroundings dotted with tall pine trees and
the leaves emitting flavoured aroma was both exciting and refreshing. In this
pleasant and informal atmosphere, Ustad Chotay Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Jamal Khan
with Manzoor Hussain accompanying on the tabla would daily sit face to face each morning and
later in the evening surrounded by us and sing for two hours. Their exciting
renditions would thrill us all and attract the tourists staying in neighboring
house boats who would often gather near our house boat when the lingering
melodies and thundering musical phraseology reached their ears.
Ustad Chotay Ghulam Ali Khan.
performance, both vocalists focused on difficult taan patterns and would
try to outdo each other, each recital resembled a battle between two
gladiators fighting to win at all odds. The style of both stalwarts was
open throated, each taan was perfectly executed, there wasn’t much
exhibition of tihaees although layakari of both
was clearly evident to all. They often sang raags Bhairon, Lalit, Todi,
Alhaiya Bilawal, Jaijaiwanti, Multani, Marwa, and Puriya.
performances continued for about a fortnight and the matter came to a
head when an emissary of the Maharaja of Kashmir dropped in with a
message asking the group along with singers to present themselves at the
state guest house on the given date. Khawaja Khurshid Anwar politely
refused this proposal by explaining that the group was going to Gulmerg
according to a pre-planned schedule, and that they would comply with the
request on return. We soon set off for Gulmerg, a summer resort favored
by the officers of the British Raj, and were astonished to see the
tourists we had met in Srinagar had reached Gulmerg before us in
anticipation to hear more music. We stayed at Gulmerg for about a
fortnight before returning to Srinagar and immediately romped off home
to avoid a call from the state Durbar.
of this trip lingered on for a number of years and each time the
recollections provided immense pleasure and extra joy. One important
result of this trip was the discovery of Ustad Jamal Khan as a vocalist of great merit. From then on he became a regular visitor
to Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah's baithak which was frequented by great
artistes such as Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan, Ustad Akhtar Hussain Khan, Baba
Buday Khan Qasuri, Feroz Nizami, Ustad Tawakkal Hussain Khan and Ustad