Suresh Vyas: Continuing the Living Tradition of the Maihar style of Classical Indian Music

Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan

Suresh's style of music is of the Maihar-Senia gharana, which was established by Ustad Allauddin Khan.

Ustad Allauddin Khan Saheb (popularly known as Baba) was an extraordinary performer, composer and teacher. He is best known globally as the guru of India's finest Hindustani classical music instrumentalists — Pt.Ravi Shankar (Sitar), Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (Sarod), Ma Annapurna Devi (Surbahar), Pt. Pannalal Ghosh (Flute) and Pt. VG Jog (Violin). Evidently, he was a versatile musician and a prolific teacher.

Baba was invited to be the court musician and guru of the Maharaja of Maihar. This is where Baba taught and evolved his own style which came to be known as the Maihar style, which had its roots in the Senia style. This style is now known as the music of the Maihar-Senia gharana.

The Maihar-Senia gharana improvised the "Beenkar'' and "Rababiya'' style of the Dhrupad system, which was followed by the original Senia gharana. The gharana's renditions today blend various Gayaki styles with Layakari and Tantrakari. This fuses the smooth and continuous renditions of the the vocal styles with the rhythmic styles that are more dominant in instrumental music, with the characteristics of the string instruments like the sarod and sitar.

Instruments such as the Rudra-veena, Sursingar and Surbahar have the ability to emulate the Drupad vocal style. However, they have limitations; they were not suited for other genres of music. So instrumentalists would have to switch to other instruments to play Khayal or Thumri ang. Typically, Sursingar was followed by Sarod and Surbahar by Sitar.

Ustad Allauddin Khan improvised the sitar and the sarod and infused them with the been-baj of the Rudra-veena, the Surbahar and the Sursingar. This lent these instruments the ability to deliver the long and elaborate alap built on intricate meend work. This piece of engineering paved the way for the systematic development of a raag through its Alaap, Jod, Jhala and Gatkari. This presentation has been unique to the Maihar-Senia gharana instrumentalists.

This instrumental engineering combined with a rich understanding of classical music and a rigorous discipline for remaining committed to pure classical music is the greatest contribution of the Maihar-Senia gharana as chiselled by Allauddin Khan Saheb.