Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan made a lot of cool music (I have two of his CDs), but it's worlds away from Indian classical... Of course, to our brutish Western ears a lot of very different shit from other cultures initially sounds the same
That is not correct. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's music is not "worlds away" from Indian Classical. It is deeply, deeply intertwined with the preeminent genre of vocal Hindustani Classical music called Khyal. Not only can the roots of Khyal gayaki (singing) be traced to Qawwali (the late Nusrat's genre), Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan himself brought the concepts of modern Khyal back into Qawwali and by any reckoning turned it into a valid form of North Indian Classical. His performances are littered with exploration and development of Ragas - usually in the form of a Raag Mala: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raga_mala
- Laykari (I don't know how to translate this), Sargam (a sort of scat I suppose that uses the indian solfege: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni) and the vocal techniques and ornamentation that is characteristic of hindustani classical.
Beyond that, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan also performed pure Khyal as does the rest of his family. Here is a performance I like, it's nothing really special but both the leading musician and the accompanist (Nusrat and Tari Khan) are maestros and there are some playful antics I find enjoyable. Tari Khan is somewhat notorious for trying to break the rhythm of the performers he accompanies and Nusrat throws that right back at him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5jC5jNjTlM
. This is Khyal in a qawwali sort of style, but still unquestionably Khyal.
Here is another performance in a somewhat similar vein i.e. the "sangat" (forgive the lack of explanation, I can't think of an English term at the moment) of two great performers. Shivkumar Sharma is the foremost player of the santoor, a Kashmiri instrument that was unknown in classical before his lifetime and has no proponent today that matches his virtuosity. Zakir Hussain is probably the greatest tabla player of all time. This is a completely unrehearsed performance where the only set thing is the Raag (I think it's Raag Kirwani, unsure). The rhythm is determined by Shivkumar and Zakir must read and follow. He does far more than just that. Understanding this helps to appreciate what the audience is applauding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rG3Rpv78DA
Ali Akbar Khan has already been linked in this thread, here is a performance I enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hobK_8bIDvk
. The exposition and elaboration of the raag will be difficult to grasp but the Dadra (a kind of fixed composition in north indian classical) that he plays around the 7 min mark onwards should be enjoyable.
For examples of vocal music, here is an excellent performance by Ustad Rashid Khan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfvRoNLtiLA
Rashid Khan is my favorite proponent of vocal indian classical. He is probably the foremost performer of his generation. This is an example of Khyal in it's purest form. The Raag is Hansadhwani, a personal favorite of mine. The performance begins, as always, with an "alaap" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alap
), following which the main theme is presented and expanded upon. After this is some sargam improvisation. The antara comes very late in the performance at the 7:44 mark. Some further sargam and some tihaais (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tihai
) end the performance. Remember that this is improvisational, the only fixed things are the Raag, the rhythm (Teental: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintal
in Drut Lay or Fast Tempo and Madham/Madhyalay or Medium Tempo).
A final link, Kaushiki Chakraborty singing a Thumri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumri
) in Raag Khamaj: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpfp2MGamc8
I apologize for using some esoteric terminology. I have the barest familiarity with the language of western music. I'm sure Google can be of assistance. This is a somewhat rambling post but I would be glad to share my limited knowledge of hindustani classical if anyone has any questions.
Oh, about Ravi Shankar. He's good, he is responsible for exposing this music to a wider audience and as such is recognized for his great service. However, he is not great. I cannot seriously listen to his solo performances. His first wife on the other hand, Anapurna Devi, who plays the Surbahar is most certainly a genius. If you are interested in the Sitar, Ustad Vilayat Khan is a good start. He was a very traditional player and his recordings may help in the understanding of the rules of hindustani classical.