Khayal Gayaki – Khayal Music, Khayal Singers, Khyal Songs

Khayal ( Khyal) Music

The great Indian tradition of classical music gradually blossomed into a new flower of many hues and great fragrance known as Khayal vocal music (or Khyal music)  following the basics and path laid down by Dhrupad music. The metamorphosis was gradual. Niamat Sah “Sadarang” a Dhrupad singer and Rudra Bin player of Tansen’s daughter’s dynasty propagated Khayal music as a composer. A Court singer in the Court of Emperor Mohammad Shah, he taught Dhrupad and Bin to his sons and kinsmen. The Khayal Gayaki were taught only to outside pupils. Actually Niamat Shah had fallen out with the Emperor on a trivial issue and hid left the court.

He struggled and composed Khayal Gayaki  to give the Emperor a surprise some day. Sometime later the Emperor chanced to listen to Khayal song sung by Niamat Shah’s pupils. At once Niamat Shah was sent for and reappointed as royal Musician with greater honour and status. It is quite interesting that the “Khayal” which literally means an idea was the result of a game of hide and seek between a great music composer and a Mughal Emperor. History approved of this experi­ment and Khayal Vocal Singing became the embodiment of many moods, philosophies, vibrant with variety, beauty and opened new vistas of musical imagination and advancement. With over 200 years behind it, the Khayal Singing style still holds sway amongst music lovers all over the country.

Leaving out the aspect of experimentation, the Khayal Music style had its unmistakable roots in the Dhrupad. It borrowed extensively from the four Dhrupad Vanis, from instruments, folk music, dance music and has now come to occupy a central position in the musical scenario.

The Khayal singing maestros, depending on their voice and temperament chose to develop mainly on two lines—the Alapi style and the Laya oriented style. The human voice has a bewildering variety of tonal qualities. Through intense practice, the voice develops a “sonorous” ring known as Jawari (common to instruments) which makes the voice pleasant to the human ear. Simultaneously different composition patterns and method of Raga Vistar were evolved by different gharanas. Some gharanas use the “akar” form of vistar; some use the words of the Khayal. Some start with the khayal music in full with no “aocher” or Alap and then go on with the exposition of the Raga. Some start with the first line of the Khayal and spell out the remaining lines gradually while proceeding with the vistar. Every gharana has to settle on the sequence or stages through which the singer must pass. The bandish first, then badhat and swar vistar then layakari with the tala, then bol tanas, then the faster movements and tanas in the Drut Khayal. Both the Vilambit and Drut Khayals have a method of “badhat”, a distinct pattern of bol and fast tanas, distinct rhythmic movements and combinations etc.

The point to be noted is that not all Khayal singers—whatever be their reputation and standing are “complete” Khayal singers. In musical parlance we do hear comments that the gayaki of artist X is “sampurna” and that of artist Y is exquisite, contemplative but “khandit” or limited hinting that many facets have been left out from the singing of Khayal. It is not intended to bring down any artists of yesteryears or the present. Depending on voice and “talim” a Khayal singer has to build up his gayaki. No singer can ever achieve every nuance of Khayal singing. The point however is that the more completes and systematic singer can be easily identified. Another important fact is that like scholar and researchers the Gharana maestros tend to specialize in some ragas of their choice. It is not that their repertoire is incomplete but by impulse they tend to gravitate towards certain groups of ragas.

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