Monday, January 31, 2011

Tribute! Ut. Salamat Ali Khan & Ut. Nazakat Ali Khan, Voices From Heaven!

"Sometimes I wonder about the times when Tansen was alive and he sung in the court of Akbar. I envy the people who got to listen to him. Now that the time has passed and I know that I can’t listen to Tansen, ever. Then I listen to the duo Ustad Salamat Ali Khan & Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan, and I don’t miss Tansen. One of my favorite quotes by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan is when in a mehfil he said, “Naasamjh to Rafi ko bhi Tansen keh deta hai, mujhe bhi keh dega.”

Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, the most prominent figure of the Shaam Chaurasi Gharana, situated in Pakistan. The singing tradition goes back to the times when the ruler was Hazrat Daata Shajlaal Shah, who was a contemporary to Akbar. The family has always had a tradidion of singing in duos which is evident by the family tree of Shaam Chaurasi Gharana published in various archives. Ustad Salamat Ali Khan & Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan were put into the formal training at very tender ages of 7 and 5 respectively. And it is of no surprise that Ustad Salamat Ali Khan gave his first public performance when he was around the age of 7-8. The duo made their debut at the greatest festival of Hindustani Music, that is, the Harballabh Mela in 1941. In his autobiography, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan says, “We were so small, we had to be lifted onto the stage.” But of course, after the performance a learned audience of Harballabh Mela and the great masters of music sitting right in front of the duo were left stirred when they performed Raag Miyan Ki Todi. During this period, the brothers began to give regular broadcasts from All India Radio, Lahore and two gramophone records of the young Salamat Ali Khan were published. In 1943, the duo received their first official state invitation from the Maharaja of Champanagar, a small princely state in Bihar. Their stay in Champanagar lasted a few months and was followed by performances at the Allahabad and Gwalior music conferences.

Bhopali (Vilambit) &  Bhopali (Tarana)
Nat Naraini (Vilambit) & Nat Naraini (Drut)

After the creation of Pakistan, the family settled in Multan and lived in relative obscurity for the next couple of years, which brings me to the next point. The two masters were also adept at the Hindustani Light Classical forms of music such as Thumri, Dadra and especially Kaafi. It is not usually seen that a performed of such hardcore Indian Vocals is also an expert of such light forms of music. But, they both were tremendously skilled at performing the Thumris and Dadras, in their own style. Basically, Thumri and Dadra are the vocal styles of Eastern States of India, mainly Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. But later on these were made popular by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in the Pubjab region and then by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan & Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan. These two had a very different style of rendering the light forms. They were the maestros of a form called Kaafi, which involves lyrics from Sufi Saints. As they settled in Multan, the had an influence of the local singing and called it Multani Kaafi. No one ever sang Multani Kaafi better than them. Ishq Anookhari Peer, Sau Sau Sool Andar De, one of the broadcasts on PTV of Pakistan.

Ustad Salamat Ali Khan
sings Multani Kafi ( Nikhar PTV Live) Sanwal mor muharan
Sarangi: Ustad Nazim Ali Khan -  Tabla: Ustad Miyan Shaukat Hussain Khan Sahib
Audience: Ashfaq Ahmed, Ghulam Ali, Tari Khan, Rajab Ali, Pervez Mehdi, Masood Rana, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Saiyyan Choudry, Bilquees Khanum, Rubina Badar, Asha Posle, Nisar Bazmi and Others

Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan, without whom Ustad Salamat Ali Khan was incomplete. Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan was an expert in backing the thunderous and often overpowering performances of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. But Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan never did try to fight for identity. But nevertheless, due to rifts between the two brothers they, for a few years, stopped performing together. But, indeed they got back, soon after which Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan died. Ustad Salamat Ali Khan now performed with the son of Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan in various overseas concerts, leaving the world audience spellbound by thunderous performances of his favorite raagas like Miyan Ki Malhar, Darbari, Gujari Todi and so on. Ustad Salamat Ali Khan has also got the credit for creating various raagas of his own such as Madh Kauns, Shamwati, Thames, Nandeshwari, Milan Gandhar, Kanwal Bhairav and more. He composed several bandishes under the pen name ‘Manarang’.

Raag Madhkauns - Ut. Salamat Ali Khan & Ut. Nazakat Ali Khan
Raag Madhkauns was created by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan Sahib ( source '' ). It is the mixture of the Raag Malkauns with the Raag Jog. it has two diffirent Gandhars (one can listen), whereas Malkauns bears only one, that is 'g'. So its neither the Malkauns nor the Madh-u-kauns, Madhukauns excludes Dhaivat, includes shudh Pancham and uses shudh Madhyam (in comparison to Madhkauns).

A maestro of Taans, Layakaari, Gamaks like thunderstorms. He always rendered a Raag in its purest form with all the elements which must be present in a rendition such as a long Alaap, a Vilambit rendition at length, then a Madhyalaya or Drut Bandish, then finally a Tarana A renderer of Ati Vilambit and Vilambit Khayal like no one ever was before. He was an expert at handling the most difficult taals ever composed. He was also the few people who had the command over the 3 saptaks or octaves with ease, especially the 3 saptak ki Sapaat Taan, and some other Taans which consisted of 3 octaves in one breath. Some of the Taans were so complex and so powerful and fast that I have not heard anybody render those again with that ease and clarity, his son Shafqat Ali Khan has tried hard doing so. It is not quite feasible for other artists to do this at ease. He touched the Mandra Saptak’s Shadaj, and then in a split second the listener would find him at the Taar Saptak’s Shadaj.

It is quite evident that the incredible and powerful Gamaks were the immediate result of the rigurous training in the form of Dhrupad Gaayaki. They used to called it the Khayal Gaayaki with a Dhrupad Ang. In fact, other than their father, the two brothers received vocal training from an array of greats of Hindustani Classical Music such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Niaz Hussain Shaami, Ustad Aashiq Ali Khan, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan Qawwal ( Father of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan ).

Ustad Nazakat Ali & Ustad Salamat Ali  - Kafi - Ishq Anokhri Pir Ai

A rendering of the duo is just now another hour of Hindustani Classical Music. No, it is not. It is truly a rendering, as is stirres every atom of the body and transports one into a state of trance. It is beyond words to explain their renditions. The only way to find out is to listen to them for yourself. There are numerous recordings commercially available, and also uploaded on the internet by some collectors. I’ve been blessed to hear to a lot of the recordings which range upto 2 hours. Rendering of a Raag for two hours when at a public gathering is no fun. It is pure skill, in fact more than skill.

In a recording of Raag Nandeshwari, London 1987, he expresses his concerns about Hindustani music and it’s future and complexity. He describes an instance when he was practicing hard hitting Taans in Multan and his Maayi/Mother, out of despair, asked him to stop practicing and said, “Yeh wo gaana hai, khud hi gaaoge, khud hi sunoge”, but of course young Salamat Ali explained to his mother as how important it was to carry forward the tradition and the art and how it was so much of a noble thing to do. He said “Jo sunenge wo bhi bahut oonche log honge.” About the people who didn’t know about the art, he said, “Unko bhi Allah salamat rakhe jo nahin sunte”, and said, “Unse kya gila jo nahin jaante. Gila to unse hai jo jaante hain aur nahin aate”. He had very optimistic views about the future of this music. He said that people will show up in more numbers at the concerts and performances in near future. In an 80 minute rendering of Raag Bairagi Bhairav at Lyllpur in 1982 at the Barsi funtion of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan ( Father of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan ), he expresses deep respect for the artists Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan, which brings me to mention another of his great qualities which is the respect he gave to other contemporary artists. He usually spoke for a minute or two before each of his public performances. And the words that came out of his mouth were pure gold, as if some saint were speaking. He was.

Ustad Nazakat & Ustad Salamat Ali Khan - Raag Darbari, Jhoomra, part 1

Ustad Salamat Ali Khan & Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan is often regarded as one of the greatest singing duos ever in the history of musicians. Their name is up there with the great singer of the Patiala Gharana, Alia-Fattu, Karnail-Gernail. I have been blessed to have heard them. Couldn’t see them perform live, physically. But both of them will ever remain in my heart, singing Miyan Ki Malhar and Darbari and so on, just like they are now".

Ustad Salamat Ali Khan & Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan, Voices From Heaven!
Written for Veronique Lerebours, founder of - January 29 2011


  1. Amazing Article, There never was, and never will be anyone like Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. His singing is out of this universe.

    Music was introduced to this world for Salamat and Salamat was introduced to this world for music.

  2. Hi Kovid,

    Your knowledge in music is great !!

    Thanks for the interesting and useful info.


  3. Salamatali did not perfom with the son of Nazakatali ( his name is rafqatali) but with his own sons (sharafat, shafqat, latafat).

  4. @DrKashyap - I just saw your comment. I hear this audio or video clip a few years ago. I think I heard Ustad Salamat Ali Khan say that 'ye mere bhai ka ladka hai'. That was my basis. I might have got it wrong.

    If that is the case, I will ask the blog author to make the corrections. Thanks.

  5. "Raag Nandeshwari, London 1987" can anyone share this recording?

  6. @Veronique - More beautiful recordings are available on YouTube now, I think we should update the blog with those.