The Vilayatkhani Style or Vilayatkhani baj is a lucid and methodical amalgamation of the lmdadkhani and Enayetkhani baj, added to which, are the new dimensions introduced by Ustad Vilayat Khan. This Gharana has all the unique facets of the great lmdad Khan Saheb, the melodious and introspective Vision of the saintIy Ustad Enayet Khan and of course the great contribution of innovative dimensions of Ustad Vilayat Khan. No discussion on lmdadkhani or Vilayatkhani baj would be complete without dwelling Upon the remarkable contributions made by great Ustads and masters of this gharana viz Ustad Sahabdad Khan (lmdad Khan’s father), Ustad lmdad khan, Ustad Enayet Khan his brother Ustad Wahid Khan and the illustrious Ustad Vilayat Khan Imdad Khan Saheb followed in the footsteps of Ustad Sahabdad. “Riyaz” (practice)was the hallmark of Ustad Imdad Khan. Several interesting and impressive anecdotes about his meticulous riyaz are too well known to be recounted. It is also said that he had perfected a few choice raga-s like Yaman and Puriya. So much that it is said that When Ustad lmdad Khan Was participating in the music function, usually nobody else played these raga-s.
The stage of evolutionary development that the Sitar had reached during this period projected a style that was very right hand oriented Though the left hand had certainIy started Playing a greater role than hitherto, the Performance had not yet reached a stage of 1 note - 1 mizrab - rather there were many strokes of mizrab used for executing a single note. The style of Ustad lmdad Khan reflects a highly perfected right hand playing intricate Bol-s executed with sparkling and fantastic clarity and with what speed!! Whilst the alap was impressive it was relatively Simple and Khayal type of murki-s were evidently absent and instead drupad type of meends are noticed. the Gat-s Were based on masjtkhani style and the Gat content covered gat-todas introduced on tabla bol patterns. Tan-s, SPecially in the drut-gat of razakhani Style were executed with pre-dominant use of the right hand i.e. Dirdir type of bol-s executed with the right hand playing 2-3 or even 6 mizrab or strokes for each note. Lot of Bol-s or mizrabs were used in the composition of the drut gat-s as well. The emphasis was clearly on perfected and polished execution at a phenomenal speed which leaves the listener wonder-struck. So, to summarize the prominent features of the styles of Ustad Sahabdad Khan and lmdad Khan, the right hand was very prominent and its control and power was used in the perfect execution of the Vilambit gat, gat toda, drut gat, tan, jhala and double jhala. Alap was relatively simple and devoid of Khayal ang Murki-S relying more on drupad ang Meend-s. This is noticed more clearly on listening to the Surbahar records of U. lmdad Khan. It is no wonder that Ustad lmdad Khan played Surbahar so well for it is believed that Ustad Sahabdad Khan, his father invented this great instrument.
When we attempt to understand Ustad Inayat Khan Style, one is immediately struck by the introspective and devotional undercurrent. To the existing lmdad Khan baj, he added a contemplative quality of his own personality and this made his music richer, deeper and sobmre. In addition, Enayat Khan made significant contribution in the area of manner i.e., “Tarika” or actual technique. In the alap, we discern pleasing and deftly executed Khayal type murki-s. On Surbahar we notice elongated meends covering the entire octave. On the Sitar, 3 to 4 note meends are introduced. In the gat-s, we notice swiftly executed Sapat tan-s, using the principle of 1 note - 1 bol. Ustad Enayat Khan introduced tihai-s on sitar. He introduced and refined tarab-s on Sitar. He introduced several innovative patterns of Bol-s. The jhala portion once again is sombre, meditative and as some great musicians said takes one to the stage of “Samadhi”. His record of the raga Bhairav is a vivid example. In Ustad Enayat Khan we have a judicious combination of techniques of polished crystal clear execution along with highly spiritual and saintly undercurrents.
Ustad Wahid Khan the great Surbahar and Sitar player - brother of Ustad Enayat Khan had developed and perfected the technique of Surbahar Playing and had inherited great treasure of Khandani talim(traditional training) His technique of Sitar Playing as We notice from his records was simple and charming it clearly reflects the rigorous riyaz that must have gone into making him the versatile musician that he was.
With the entry of Ustad Vilayat Khan at a very tender and young age of 8 or 9 years, it Was evident that the World of music in India had grown richer. If We hear his two records played With Ustad Enayat Khan on one Side and he on the Other, justifies our observation that even at such a Young age, Ustad Vilayat Khan had been fortunate in receiving very good talim (training) from his father. The fact that at about the same age, he gave a Performance in the Allahabad music conference with his father, Speaks volumes for the Young and talented Sitarist. Over the years Ustad Vilayat Khan Shifted his residence from Calcutta to Delhi, then to Nahan and then to Mumbai. When We hear his Columbia records of 1940s We still notice Ustad Vilayat Khan’s playing substantially reflecting Ustad Enayat Khan’s Style and the sitar also similar to Ustad Enayat khan. It is after this stage that we find striking changes in his style. Enriched with the vocal music talim from his maternal grandfather Ustad Bande Hasan, Ustad Vilayat khan introduced the gayaki ang (vocal patern) on Sitar which added a new dimension to the khayal ang based sitar playing. It would be useful to dwell on the theme of gayaki ang. Some critics claim that all instrumental music basically follows the tradition of Vocal music. So what is new in this Gayaki ang? Sitar is a Plucking instrument. Every stroke produces a note which has a limited Sound duration. On the other hand a bowing instrument like sarangi has a longer and sustained duration of notes which could be monitored by the player Ustad Vilayat Khan introduced a left hand technique whereby the continuity of a note for a much longer duration was achieved. He used this asset to project a lyrical and continuous flow in his music, closely following the vocal music. In addition, he introduced highly intricate and difficult khayal ang murki-s executed with religious adherence to murki-s produced by the voice. All these resulted into a style with a lilt and lyric of its own, evolving a fluid music. Many rightly exclaimed that - “His sitar virtually sings”.
And then of course, the famous tan-s of Ustad Vilayat Khan. In addition to the gat-toda, tar-paran-s and the techniques used in the earlier period, Ustad Vilayat Khan introduced many tan patterns of diverse ang-s. His vilambit and drut gat-s cover sapat tan-s, choot tan-s, gamak tan-s and tans of several other varieties. Apart from the type of tan-s, the execution of each variety of tan-s follows patterns of great vocalists of different gharanas.
No doubt, the introduction of Gayaki ang is a very important contribution of Ustad Vilayat Khan to the stylistic evolution of the sitar. This covers his individual style of alap, jod, gat-s - both vilambit and drut and jhala so beautifully perfected by his great ancestors. The right hand techniques of Ustad Imdad Khan, Ustad Enayat Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan were further researched upon by Ustad Vilayat Khan and he introduced several varities of diverse execution.
His is an illustrious family of musicians who are all followers of this enriched style. His brother Ustad lmrat Khan, his son Shujaat Khan and Ustad lmrat Khan’s sons, Nishad Khan and lrshad Khan and ustad Wahid Khan’s grandson Shaheed Parvez are all torchlight bearers of the Vilayatkhani Gharana. In addition there are several outstanding sitar players amongst the “Shagirds” (students)of the Gharana. His rendition of Thumri, Kajri, Barsati, Bhatiali, Dhun, etc., is very well known. His short pithy recitals of Tappa on sitar are a marvel, which as sitar players, all of us would acknowledge as a very difficult achievement.
As a natural corollary to the individual style that Ustad Vilayat Khan created, the sitar as an instrument has necessarily to Undergo some basic changes. Let us enumerate the physical changes that he introduced.
- His execution of intricate murki-s, gamak tan-s and five note meends required a much stronger base i.e., the tabli - the tabli had also to be strong enough to absorb the tremendous Power of right hand strokes. The thin tabli was replaced by a much thicker tabli which could sustain the heavy pressure transmitted through the bridge.
- The bridge had also to be changed with two ends in view Firstly it had to be strong and of a quality that would suit the round or heavy jowari that Ustad Vilayat Khan desired. The 2nd change in the bridge was related to the height In addition to the special shape of the tabli, the legs of the bridge were also required to be higher which would enable the strings to be placed at a greater distance from the frets. How can we produce the gamaks and meend-s without an arrangement like this?
- It would be easily understood that the forceful execution through both the left and the right hand required an extra strong mechanism which joins the ‘dand’ with the main tumba. Metal screws and special techniques were used for this purpose
- The tar-gahan or aad’ had also necessarily to be thicker. It had to suffer a much stronger pull. Ustad Vilayat Khan has modified the curvature of the targahan as well for special Sound production
- Likewise the frets had also to be thicker and their metal had to be much stronger. Brass was replaced by German Silver. The shape or the curve of the frets was also designed to enable proper, easy and accurate execution of the meends.
- Not least important are the changes that Ustad Vilayat Khan made in the arrangements and the gauge of the strings. The seven string sitar was made into 6 string sitar. One jod string was removed with the view to have less vibrant jod sound and giving a greater scope for clearer execution of the bol-s by providing a greater distance between madhyam and jod. He replaced the kharaj pancham string by a steel string which in my humble opinion is a revolutionary change having far reaching implications on the sound of the sitar. The strings are tuned at the higher pitch than the earlier sitar-s. The C sharp pitch has been selected to suit the size, the shape, the thickness of the tabli and the jowari of this newly evolved sitar. The result is so profound and striking that a mere ‘chedchad’ or strumming of such a sitar is immediately recognized as a Vilayatkhani sitar.
There are several other supplementary changes that Ustad Vilayat Khan made: such as the removal of upper tumba, a screw style device instead of the usual manka to increase or decrease the pitch.
We have analysed so far, the contributions made by Ustad Vilayat Khan both in the stylistic and physical evolution of the Sitar - no wonder that the impact the resultant Vilayatkhani Baj has created is far-reaching and spectacular.