This recording was the first part of the performance of the mehfil held in 1969, which has been posted earlier in this blog (link). I had long thought this recording was lost, but fortunately found a copy of it in the loveable chaos of my late father’s papers and music that I was able to sort out last year.
|Ustaad Qudratullah (L) and Ustaad Ashiq Ali Khan|
Photo Credit: Asad Ali Khan
Ustaad Qudratullah Khan (1911-1984) and Ustaad Ashiq Ali Khan (1927-1974) were great-grandsons of Ustaad Shadi Khan of Fatehpur Chunya (East Punjab), who had settled in Khairpur (Sind) in 1830 at the invitation of the local ruler Mir Murad Ali Talpur. Their grandfather Ustaad Gamman Khan received his initial training from his father (Ustaad Shadi Khan) and later became a disciple of Ustaad Banne Khan, a prominent student of Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan, the legendary duo from the Gwalior gharana. Qudratullah and Ashiq Ali's father, Ustaad Mubarak Ali Khan, a notable classical vocalist of the first half of the 20th century, passed them the Gwalior lineage.
While not as well-known as the other two pairs of brothers — Nazakat Ali-Salamat Ali and Amanat Ali-Fateh Ali — that dominated the Pakistani classical music scene of the 1960s and ‘70s, Ashiq Ali and Qudratullah had no less a virtuosity and musical pedigree. Thus the Pakistani music scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s benefited from the presence of duos from Shaam Chaurasi, Patiala, and Gwalior gharanas.
None other than Munshi Raziuddin invited them to precede the main 1969 Manzoor Niazi group qawwali session. Indeed, Munshi Raziuddin was the one who introduced these singers to my father’s circle. This was typical of Munshi Raziuddin’s generosity of spirit — lesser musicians would be jealous in guarding their audiences and patrons and do not usually enable others an entry into circles that they have cultivated. If one listens carefully enough, one can hear Razi Mian and Manzoor Mian offering daads (expressions of appreciation) during the course of the performance. That is not the entire extent of Munshi Raziuddin’s appreciation. As the qawwals tuned up for the recital of Tilak Kamod at the start of their part of the session, Razi Mian directs a comment at Ashiq Ali and Qudratullah: Ustaad aysay maqaam pay chhora hay tum nay, samajh main nahin aaraha kya karoon. (“Ustaad you have left things at such an [elevated] stage that I cannot work out what to do.”)
The performance itself is rhythmic and melodious, characterized by a short alaap, and most of it in the vilambit movement. It culminates in a powerful tarana that is planted indelibly in the musical mind. The vigour of the performance belies the fact that Ustaad Qudratullah would have been in his late fifties at the time of the performance and Ustaad Ashiq Ali in his early forties. Recordings of this duo are few and far between, and I am relieved that this treasure has been preserved and available for all to share. — Asif Mamu.
Biographical material is assembled thanks to the resolute effort of my nephew, Hasnain, who prefers the appellation Bohotkhoob. Special thanks to Ustaad Ashiq Ali's grandson Asad Ali Khan for permission to use the duo's photo.