ඛ්යාල් (හින්දි: ख़्याल, උර්දු: خیال) is the modern genre of classical singing in North India. Its name comes from an Arabic word meaning "imagination". It is thought to have developed out of the qawwal singing style. It appeared more recently than dhrupad, is a more free and flexible form, and it provides greater scope for improvisation. Like all Indian classical music, ඛ්යාප් is modal, with a single melodic line and no harmonic parts. The modes are called raga, and each raga is a complicated framework of melodic rules.
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ඛ්යාල් bases itself on a repertoire of short songs (two to eight lines); a ඛ්යාප් song is called a bandish. Every singer generally renders the same bandish differently, with only the text and the raga remaining the same. ඛ්යාප් bandishes are typically composed in a variant of Urdu/Hindi, and sometimes in Persian, Marathi or Punjabi, and these compositions cover diverse topics, such as romantic or divine love, praise of kings or gods, the seasons, dawn and dusk, and the pranks of Krishna, and they can have symbolism and imagery . The bandish is divided into two parts — the sthayi (or asthayi) and the antara. The sthayi often uses notes from the lower octave and the lower half of the middle octave, while the antara ascends to the tonic of the upper octave and beyond before descending and linking back to the sthayi . The singer uses the composition as raw material for improvisation, accompanied by a harmonium or bowed string instrument such as the sarangi or violin playing off the singer's melody line, a set of two hand drums (the tabla), and a drone in the background. The role of the accompanist playing the melody-producing instrument is to provide continuity when the singer pauses for breath, using small variations of the singer's phrases or parts thereof. While there is a wide variety of rhythmic patterns that could be used by the percussionist, ඛ්යාප් performances typically use Ektaal, Jhoomra, Jhaptaal, Tilwada, Teentaal, Rupak, and Adachautaal .
A typical ඛ්යාල් performance uses two songs — the බඩා ඛ්යාල් or great ඛ්යාල්, in slow tempo (විලම්භ ලය), comprises most of the performance, while the chhota ඛ්යාල් (small ඛ්යාල්), in fast tempo (දෘත ලය), is used as a finale and is usually in the same raga but a different තාල . The songs are sometimes preceded by improvised ආලප් to sketch the basic raga structure without drum accompaniment; alap is given much less room in ඛ්යාල් than in dhrupad.
As the songs are short, and performances long (half an hour or more), the lyrics lose some of their importance. Improvisation is added to the songs in a number of ways: for example improvising new melodies to the words, using the syllables of the songs to improvise material (bol-baant, bol-taans), singing the names of the scale degrees — sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni (sargam) — or simply interspersing phrases sung on vowels, usually the vowel A, ආකාර් තාන්. තාන්s are one of the major distinguishing features of the ඛ්යාල් . Now and then, the singer returns to the song, especially its first line, as a point of reference. Besides the vilambit (slow) and drut (fast) tempos, a performance may include ati-vilambit (ultra-slow), madhya (medium speed) and ati-drut (super-fast) tempos. Song forms such as taranas, thumris or tappas are sometimes used to round off a ඛ්යාල් performance.
Khayal was popularized by Niyamat Khan (a.k.a. Sadarang) and his nephew Firoz Khan (a.k.a. Adarang), both musicians in the court of Muhammad Shah Rangile (1719–1748). It seems likely that ඛ්යාල් already existed at the time, although perhaps not in the present form . The compositions of Sadarang and Adarang employ the theme of Hindi love-poetry. The ඛ්යාල් of this period also acquired the dignity of Dhrupad and the manner of the veena in its glide or meend, plus a number of musical alankars that were introduced into the body of the composition [තහවුරු කරන්න]. The gharana system arose out of stylistic rendering of the ඛ්යාල් by various subsequent generations of musicians. The gharanas have distinct styles of presenting the ඛ්යාල් — how much to emphasize and how to enunciate the words of the composition, when to sing the sthayi and antara, whether to sing an unmetered alap in the beginning, what kinds of improvisations to use, how much importance to give to the rhythmic aspect, and so on.
With India united into a country from various scattered princely states, with royal courts and the zamindari system abolished, and with modern communications and recording technology, stylistic borders have become blurred and many singers today have studied with teachers from more than one gharana. This used to be uncommon, and a few decades ago teachers used to forbid students to even hear other gharana singers perform, not allowing them to buy records or listen to the radio [තහවුරු කරන්න]. Today, as always, a singer is expected to develop an individual style, albeit one that is demonstrably linked to tradition.
- Menon, Raghava R. (1995). The Penguin Dictionary of Indian Classical Music. Penguin Books (India) Ltd. පිටු 95. ISBN 0-14-051324-8.
- Bagchee, Sandeep (1998). Nād: Understanding Rāga Music. BPI (India) PVT Ltd. පිටු 121–125. ISBN 81-86982-07-8.
- Wade, Bonnie (September 1973). "Chĩz in Khyāl: The Traditional Composition in the Improvised Performance". Ethnomusicology. Society for Ethnomusicology. 17 (3): 446. Retrieved 2009-09-30.