The Question of Aakaar and Laya in Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana Gayaki

I would like to dwell here on some aspects of our Gharana Gayaki, as I understand it. I do not wish to cross swords with either practicing musicians of our gharana or music critics in this note. These are my personal opinions and perceptions which may be liable to be questioned, but they would go unanswered by me. Personal perceptions are personal by nature and they are meant for like-minded people.

Aakaar” in Jaipur -Atrauli Gharana

It is generally held that “aakaar” in vocalising our singing is it’s hall-mark, it’s identity.One recognises this gharana by the way we employ ragaswaras. That is,the open/ Khulla enunciation of the swaras. I am of the opinion that too much is made of the Aakara enunciation of swaras in our kind of singing. Somehow, the Aakaar way of employing ragaswaras in singing is considered to be the purest form of vocalisation, as the “shuddhata ” of voice production. If we pay close attention to this kind of exaggerated Aakaar, we begin to perceive an emotionless ( with no rasa or rasaheen) Vocalisation , a bland ,listless and lifeless voice which, I am afraid, could begin to get on our nerves after awhile. I have the feeling that some musicians of our gharana seem to have carried it a little too far for anybody’s comfort – listeners as well as singers ! Imagine,if the entire singing is of this kind of Aakaar, would there be any effective music? I am tempted to say that it would be like one long, drab, boring six-lane highway for miles and miles without anything interesting on it. Your music would be an eventful drive! A music performance is an eventful happening. Music must happen and not just be lying there like the drab highway. (I love the long drives from Bagalore to Hubli-Dharwad, 450km, but sadly through highways!)

As you all know Indian classical music originates with the primordial sound which is not just “aa” but “a u m”. All yoga guru’s instruct you to utter the three entities clearly at the beginning of meditation. In music, this amounts to vocalising all vowel sounds and our gharana is not an exception to this principle. It is not that we produce a lifeless Aakaar throughout our singing.
Of course, I do accept a predominant use of modulated,effective Aakaar in our gharana Gayaki , but the vowel sounds are not totally excluded. Only we ensure all the time that there is no constriction of the voice in any manner. We may soften the enunciation of the ragaswaras but without any constriction of the vocal apparatus which would result in a false and unnatural voice. What is necessary is not to constrict the vocalisation in any manner.That to me is a Khulla/ open enunciation of ragaswaras. If, the ‘Sam ‘ of a bandish is on a vowel sound like ” ee”, “u”,what would we do? We have to use the vowel sounds. My Guru employed all the vowel sounds – eekaars, uukaars etc without hesitation.

Laya-oriented singing in Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana.

Many people have rightly considered that our gharana Gayaki is Laya-oriented and not matra-oriented singing. What does this mean? It has been said that Swara and Laya are the two faces of the same coin. In our Gayaki,these are not two separate aspects of musicality. I would go to the extent of saying that without Laya there is no ragaswara! That is,no musical note exists without Laya. Hence,there cannot be a division between ragaswara and Laya. They are not to be looked as two entities but as one manifestation. This is the principle behind our gharana being Laya- oriented ( Layayukta ragaswaras). Hence,by Layayukta singing we go along with the Laya throughout our singing. Govind Rao Tembe, an avid listener and biographer of Alladiya Khansaheb puts it, in Khansaheb’s singing there would be ” the presence of a continuos rhythmic foundation…. [ and he had ] the skill of transmitting a sense of rhythm to the audience [ and therefore ] his singing sustained an attractive flow “. Hence, Laya-oriented-ragaswaras are enunciated in our Gayaki and so it appears to the listeners that we pay greater importance to Laya.

It must be seen here that Layayukta/Laya-oriented singing in our gharana should not mean layakari singing. Layakari is just one ‘ang’ of the eight ‘ angs’ (ashta angs) in singing which is the play with Laya in different ways. It could be that there is a greater use of layakari in our Gayaki, but that is not what is meant by Layayukta/Laya-oriented singing. What we search for are the points or spaces between two matras and these points or spaces we constantly highlight. This is a different dimension than just the layakari ang. Ragaswaras in continuous consonance with Laya is the essence of our Gayaki. Ragaswaras and Laya are in a continuum in our Gayaki.