Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan lent melody and soul not just to classical music but film songs too
The music world lost some of its grandeur in the passing away of Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, a torchbearer of the Rampur Sahaswan gharana. He maintained the authentic flavour of his gharana with pride, conviction and commitment. In recognition of his service to the field of Hindustani music, he was honoured with three Padma awards, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Tagore Ratna.
His versatility as a performer encompassed different areas: from khayal and tarana to tappa and thumri/dadra and ghazals. His creativity as a composer and compassion as a mentor endeared him to artistes across genres — classical, semi-classical and film music.
He helped Lata Mangeshkar lend a classical touch to her vast repertoire and also mentored singers such as Asha Bhosle, Kamal Barot, Hariharan, Sonu Nigam and Shaan. Not to forget helping A.R. Rahman understand the richness of Hindustani music.
It was rare to find the classical vocalists of his generation agree not only to compose music for films but also to sing. He performed for the popular Coke Studio when Rahman wanted to present his guru along with guitar and drums. The Yaman Bandish, ‘Aao Balma…’ with the ‘Firat ki’ (complicated) taan woven into it, is still possibly the ideal composition to groom a voice.
Born in Badaun (Uttar Pradesh) on March 3, 1931, in a family of musicians in the illustrious lineage of the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana that boasts of names like Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan, Ustad Fida Hussain Khan, Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan and Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan was initiated into classical music by his father Ustad Wazir Khan.
His mother was the daughter of Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan, who was the son-in-law and disciple of Ustad Haddu Khan, the pioneer of the Gwalior gharana. Thus, being trained under his grandfather Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan and Ustad Fida Hussain Khan, he imbibed the best of both gharanas. The long hours of riyaaz (practice) during childhood enabled him to render notes from the lower octave to the highest reaches of Ati Taar Saptak, meandering through three and a half octaves with ease.
The splendour of Rampur Durbar, in fact, shines forth in the music of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana, an amalgamation of inputs from many gharanas. Since Ustad Inayat Khan learnt from Ustad Haddu Khan, significant features like the ‘tehraav’ (unhurried depth) of Gwalior seeped in automatically.
When an indisposed Khan was once asked to perform by the Nawab, he famously told him that he might be the Nawab’s ghulam (slave) but his voice was not.
Most musicians of Dilli Durbar took shelter under the Rampur Nawab after the dynasty was ruined, hence it saw the influence of musicians of Dilli and other gharanas who adorned the Delhi court. Musicians of Awadh like Kadar Piya and Sanad Piya brought the influence of Lucknow and styles like thumri, dadra and tappa. All these influences merged with the splendour of the Rampur durbar. One can clearly identify these significant features in the singing style of Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan. Alaap in Nom Tom like syllables, not just akaar, energetic singing, and a combination of melodic and rhythmic excellence defined his music.
It was no wonder that he started performing across the globe and became a graded artiste of All India Radio (AIR) from a very young age. Once, responding to this writer’s query about his rare work on ‘Jaati-Gaan’ with Acharya K.C.D. Brihaspati, mentioned in Sharangdev’s Sangeet Ratnakar, he recalled with a hearty laugh how Acharya had spotted him for the project after listening to his performance in the National Programme of Music on AIR. “When I took a sapaat taan encompassing three-and-a-half octaves and stayed for a while on the komal rishabh, before reaching shadja, he noticed that I had an inclination towards the minutest srutis (the microtones). As I would be able to demonstrate and prove his point through my singing, Acharya asked me to assist him in this project.”
Apart from classical concerts, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan was also invited to sing for Marathi and Gujarati films. Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome was perhaps the first Hindi film he sang for and then for Pt. Vijay Raghav Rao in Badnaam Basti. He composed music for more than 70 documentaries of the Films Division. Interestingly, he also played the role of Baiju Bawra in the German documentary Rainmaker, for which he composed the music and sang as well.
Garland of ragas
As a composer/singer, he made waves with the jhoola song, ‘Jhoola kin, dara ri amraiyan…’ for Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan. Who can forget the melodious Raga-Mala (garland of ragas), from Bhairav to Bhairavi, in the film, showing Rekha’s journey from innocent teenager to captivating courtesan. Starting with the morning Bhairav composition, ‘Pratham dhar dhyan Shri Ganesh…’ to the mid-morning Thodi, ‘Ab mori naiya paar karo tum…’, the noon raag Shuddha Sarang, ‘Sagun bicharo bamhana…’ to the afternoon Bhimpalasi, ‘Biraj mein dhoom machai aaj’, the evening Yaman, ‘Darshan deho Shankar Mahadev…’ to the midnight Malkauns, ‘Pakrat bahiyaan…’ and concluding with the Bhairavi bandish, ‘Bansuri baaj rahi…’.
An incorrigible romantic, his soulful ghazal compositions proved his love for Urdu poetry. He put it simply: “Pahle ghazaliyaat ko dil se mehsoos karta hoon tab jaakar compose kar paata hoon, ho sakta hai yahi vajeh ho! (I first feel the poetry from the depth of my heart, then try to compose it).
The author writes on Hindustani music.