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Classical singer Karam Abbas performs at the baethak.–Photo by Dawn Images

I confess I arrived slightly late at the recent baethak organised by the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) and quite regretted it. Classical vocalists Karam Abbas and Ali Waseem Abbas entertained the audience with a splendid performance of khayal gayeki (singing) in one of the most beautiful ragas including Malcaus, Raageshwari and thumri.

The Abbas brothers belong to the Gawaliar gharana and are sons of the late Ustad Ahmed Ali Khan. “I remember how my father would very affectionately teach us ragas and various renditions,” Karam Abbas told the audience. “He never forced me to take up singing and used to say that unless I consider it a passion, he will not teach me. I was 15 years old when I started singing. I used to offer Fajr namaz and then wait for my him. I owe all my talent to him.”

With an in ordinate sense of control over his chiseled voice in a deeper grain and creating a slight nasal effect, Karam Abbas was skillfully able to sustain the presenting of taan tayyari, a unique feature of the Gwaliar gharana. Ali Waseem Abbas sang beautiful khayal patterns that encased the melodious renditions, supporting his brother in an adroit manner. The brothers were accompanied by Wajid Ali (tanpura), Khursheed Ahmed (harmonium), Umar Qureishi (tabla) and Akhtar Hussain (sarangi).

Supported by the beautiful embellishment of taan tayyari, the khayal gayeki, said Karam Abbas, was introduced by Ustad Bannay Khan of Punjab who is known to have later promoted the Punjabi khayal bandish. Trained on such legacy, later, were Ustad Pyaray Khan and then his son Ustad Umeed Ali Khan, considered one of the best musicians of Punjab.

The fact that the singers explained their art form, and also spoke about their training and the legacy they belong to was an enriching experience for many in the audience. The brothers show tremendous promise and one hopes to hear more from them.

Moreover, the venue chosen for the baethak was most appropriate — the Karachi Arts Council — the hub of cultural activity and one that presents art devotedly to the art lovers bereft of their economic status. While classical will always remain an exclusive form of art, there is a dire need for it to be more accessible.

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