Professor Allyn Miner’s Review of Ali Ayub’s Thesis
Allyn Miner is a professor emeritus in the Department of South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a sitar player and the author of Sitar and Sarod in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1997) and the Minqar-i Musiqar: Hazrat Inayat Khan’s 1912 work on Indian music theory and practice (2016). She visited the National College of Arts in Lahore in 2017 as visiting faculty. We were thus overjoyed when she kindly consented to reviewing our project with Ali Ayub.
Muhammad Ali Ayub’s thesis is the first-ever account of the classical sitar players of modern Pakistan. This eye-opening work begins with the stories of dozens of musicians who have carried family traditions over many decades despite fading public recognition. We have here a treasure trove of life stories, a fine collection of photographs, many rare, and full genealogical charts of five important stylistic sitar lineages (gharanas) based in Pakistan.
In the second part Ali Ayub gives an introduction to sitar music and considers the stylistic features of the five gharanas. Recordings by some of the great Pakistani sitarists are the basis for notations given in chart form here. Techniques, phrasings, ornaments, formats, and pacings are discussed and the defining characteristics of each gharana are summarized. An important point made is that sitar music in Pakistan survives in distinctive styles, having developed independent of trends in India and in global world music.
The thesis concludes with comments on the music of current players, some of whom perform all over the world. This excellent work is being posted by Save the Sitar in an effort to make research on classical music in Pakistan more available than it has been.
Save the Sitar is an exciting project. May it grow and gain support from a wide readership! Muneeb and Mubeen Irfan Chaudhary’s enthusiasm is infectious. The project is so worthy: interviews with nearly forgotten players and craftsmen; ideas on how to approach and hear rag music anew; appreciations of lesser known classical instruments. And most of all its outreach to young listeners. It’s time that the traditions of classical music in Pakistan be rediscovered and take a deserved place in the global reach of rag music.
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