About the book
This book is a study of khyal, the genre of North Indian classical music which has dominated in performances by highly trained vocalists for at least the past 150 years. It is also a study of cultural history. Spanning as it does a good portion of the periods of the British raj in India, the struggle for independence, and the flourishing of India as a republic, the history of khyal and of khyal singers is a story of generous patronage by native princes, of the loss of this patronage when courts were dissolved, and of the resilience of musicians in adjusting to the vicissitudes of contemporary artistic life.
In performing khyal, the singer presents a brief composition, and then improvises from twenty to forty minutes according to certain guidelines. One chapter of this book describes the compositions, the modal and metric materials, and the improvisational guidelines utilized by the khyal singers. Descriptions are illustrated with musical examples in transcription (in Western notation and also in a modified Indian notation) and on accompanying CDs.
Because khyal was developed by musicians employed at courts scattered throughout North India, the manner of performing it varies among different groups of musicians (gharanas). Bonnie Wade considers six major group traditions—Gwalior, Agra, Sahaswan/Rampur, Alladiya Khan, Kirana, and Patiala—tracing the personal histories of singers (both members of lineages and other disciples), presenting the statements made in Indian sources about their musical styles, and considering those statements through analysis of recorded performances by leading musicians of recent decades. Since individual artistic achievement is so important among musicians in the Hindustani tradition, and in the development and performance of khyal, this perspective is also considered.
The book contains an extensive bibliography and discography, as well as illustrations of khyal in performance, genealogical charts, and maps. It is accompanied by 2 Audio CDs.