Comic Verse About Indian Music, part 2

“Oral Tradition: Some Hidden Aspects — or, The Ustad’s Advice.”

When I was in my early days,
I fell in love with raags,
Though my mother said the singers
Sounded more like frogs.

I learned to sing the alap,
I learned to sing the cheez,
My taan became proficient,
But still it failed to please.

I asked an ancient ustad,
how to make a lovely note.
“My son,” he said, “it just requires
a clearing of the throat.”

“You start down in the glottis,
and gargle up some phlegm,
then bring it through your larynx
for a truly great ACC-HEM!”

“My son,” he then continued,
“Your music won’t be great, ’till
You can made a wad of mucus,
Stained red from years of betel.”

I listened to the records
Of the pandits and ustads;
’twas true, I found: the greatest singers
Made the biggest wads.

When Bade Ghulam Ali
Throws all his weight around,
His taans, alaps, and gamaks
Produce a stirring sound.

But he’s got something else, my friends,
Which modern singers lack:
A wonderfully resonating way
of going “Aaaaaaak!”

I heard the maestro Faiyaaz Khan,
who sang in days of yore:
He’d scrape his learned larynx,
and bring up more…and more.

Paluskar’s hack was beautiful,
And likewise Amir Khan…
But now this great tradition,
it seems cannot go on.

The modern crowd of singers
Will stay forever small,
For though they may sing sweetly,
They cannot cough at all.

An Obscure Genre: Comic Verse About Indian Classical Music, part 1.

“Intonational Variation in Oral Tradition — or, Tutti Shruti”

In bygone days in India, the emperor Akbar
Had in his court a singer who was known both near and far.

He had a wondrous repertoire, there was no doubt of that —
But every note in every raga came out slightly flat.

Because his voice was out of tune, they called him Besur Khan,
He founded a tradition, so his gayaki lives on.

For he had some disciples, and they disciples too —
And all of them sing ragas in a loud, discordant moo.

And if you ask them nowadays, “why do you sing so flat?”
They’ll say, “it’s our gharana.”
That’s all there is to that.