Description of Ustad Kaukab Khan
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822 – 1887) was the eleventh king of Awadh (present Lucknow), which opposed British invasion and was fallen last, besides he was a great patron of the arts.
On the one hand he gave full play to his artistic talent, on the other hand it is reported that he was such a type of the incompetent king as completely indifferent toward reign.
He resembles Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the 8th Shogun of Muromachi Era in Japan) closely for me but his character is more impressive and his caliber is larger. The rule of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah began six years before Perry Expedition and the Kingdom of Awadh was merged into the British territory a year before Ansei Purge (1858 – 1860) when it is compared to the history of Japan.
Queen consort, Begum Hazrat Mahal, backed the insurgent troops up in support of the prince, Birjis Qadr, when mutiny against Britain broke up some time after, but they were captured short of a year. This is what renowned Sepoy Mutiny.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah seemed to have not the slightest sense of politics but his sense of the arts was such remarkable that he himself danced kathak.
He had a desire to wear femine clothes despite his imposing presence. The marvel is easily inferred from his portrait.
Such his impression projects Matsuko Deluxe on me here.
It is said that corruption of the monarchy by his misrule and misadministration, which he immersed himself in the seraglio, reached the climax.
Numerous anecdotes about him remain. While monarchy of Awadh was assailed by Britain and at the very last moment of surrender of the castle’s, officers and men saw him sitting all alone on his bed when they carried the attack to his bedroom.
“All your vassals have already escaped but why didn’t you flee?” asked a British officer. “My servant, who brings me my sandals which I put on to get off of my bed, has not come.” He responded.
Governor - General of India judged unsafe to keep him beyond eyeshot by the report of the officer, who received his courage all the more from the gap between his gossiped incompetence and actuality.
Governor - General of India forcibly exiled him to Calcutta (Kolkata of today), the capital of East India Company, allowed him a manor to let him live on a pension and supervised him all life.
In 1887, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah passed away in Calcutta.
No sooner had he been asked by an Englishman in life, “What do you think of your life like under confinement after you left your monarchy?” he had white cloth laid on the floor, designated musicians to accompany and, moreover, he started dancing kathak.
After he dance for a while and had the cloth lifted, Lord Krishna was drawn there on the floor by his dance step.
This dance item of drawing a portrait of God by footwork is still presented as a repertoire in various kinds of the dances by numerous dancers now.
I, too, have watched dancers, such as Mallika Sarabhai of Bharatanatyam and Saswati Sen of kathak, drawing Ganesh, the elephant headed god, with their dance steps in the concerts.
Incidentally, Ganesh is called Shoten and Kangiten after He was brought to Japan, and is mostly deified as a Buddhist image normally withheld from public view for some reason or other.
It is far too different from the most everyday one that is seen quite often in India.
He was such an uncommon monarch among the kings as to be well grounded in art to this degree. Dancers, musicians and artists migrated to Calcutta, in a body, attached to this absurd and poignant patron.
At the present day, which the name of Calcutta has been changed to Kolkata, still it has succeeded to its tradition as a town of music and art.
A sarodist Ustad Namatulla Khan was one of the musicians, who were active at his court. Legend has it that Ustad Namatulla Khan was the pioneer who introduced a sarod with the same metallic fingerboard as to be seen today.
He served in the Court of Nepal for thirty years after he spent eleven years at court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.
Sons of Ustad Namatulla Khan sent word that he played Vilambit Gat (Masit Khani Gat) on sarod foremost.
Ustad Namatulla Khan he had two sons, and both of them were rated-highly musicians. His eldest son, Ustad Karamatulla Khan, was bred in Nepal and he made his home in Allahabad (present Prayagraj) after frequently changing his address.
The second son, Ustad Asadulah Khan, a.k.a Ustad Kaukab Khan, achieved success in music with his elder brother.
Ustad Kaukab Khan was born in Nepal and brought up educated highly.
Ustad Kaukab Khan became famous when he was invited to Calcutta by a family member of Rabindranath Tagore.
Two of Ustad Karamatulla Khan and Ustad Asadulah Khan were accompanied to Paris and Great Britain by Pandit Motilal Nehru (the father of Jawaharlal Nehru) to perform at the international exhibition in Wembley.
When the party arrived at Paris, the sarod of Ustad Kaukab Khan’s own was broken. He converted his banjo, which was presented to him in Paris, removing all the frets from the fingerboard and fixing a metallic plate on it. He gained popularity as he played it splendidly like he played sarod.
He seemed to play his modified banjo even after he returned to India and it is no exaggeration to say that he achieved fame by the banjo rather than the sarod.
There is a literature which tells he bequeathed his records, a variety of the questions will be solved if any opportunity to listen to them but yet I have not come across anyone even though I have tried seeking.
In the compositions written by Ustad Kaukab Khan of which are going to be introduced this time, numbers of Vilambit Gat are also collected and it may lend substance to story mentioned above, that Ustad Namatulla Khan was the first sarodist who played Vilambit Gat on sarod.
In the 20th century, Ustad Allauddin Khan, too, played Vilambit Gat by choice and it still is widely performed even today.
Tradition runs that they were from Afghanistan as numerous sarodists were, but neither any record nor any archive of their ancestral family line or their school has remained.
They may have introduced themselves as Awadh school originated from historical evidence that Ustad Namatulla Khan served Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, or Lucknow school or Nepal school, properly speaking but it is mystery.
No musician of their direct descendant has not currently been found while I have researched hitherto.