Ustad Shujaat Khan’s refreshing notes of Gaud Malhar

3 months ago 15
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The distinguishing characteristics of a gharana emerge from the magical chemistry of many elements, especially the emotional and subliminal landscape that the musician has inherited and the intellectual assimilation of the nature of the raag. This realisation came to mind while listening to the sitar recital by Ustad Shujaat Khan, son and disciple of Ustad Vilayat Khan, the doyen of Etawa Imdadkhani gharana. Performing for ‘Transcendence,’ the HCL Mega Concert, Shujaat Khan opened with Gaud-Malhar, the melodious monsoon raag.

Ustad Shujat Khan

The surprise element for listeners was in the way the raag was presented — quite in contrast to how it is rendered conventionally. His Gaud Malhar sounded like an introspective interpretation of the raag. “People think that Gaud Malhar is just putting a teevra (sharp) gandhar in place of the komal gandhar (a flat variant) in Miyan-Malhar, but what I have heard from my buzurgs (elders) has led me to explore newer facets of it within the confines of the grammar. This is the beauty of classical music, I enjoy the creativity and spontaneity it offers,” said Shujaat.

Shujaat’s playing reminded one of how monsoon is not just about thundering clouds and lightning, but also about rim-jhim phuhaar (drizzle), which came through in his refreshing four notes ‘ga re ni sa’. Obviously such an approach to ‘raag-sangeet’ calls for a certain internalisation of the raag that is difficult to achieve.

Shujaat Khan was able to create a monsoon ambience with a beautiful alap, jod and jhala, before presenting the composition in Teentaal. After this sumptuous main course, came Tilak Kamod and Khamaj as delicious desserts with a touch of folk to the popular Sufi compositions by Hazrat Amir Khusro, ‘Khusro baazi prem ki, piya ghar aaye’ and ‘Chhap tilak,’ encouraging the brilliant youngsters, Zuheb Ahmed and Shariq Mustafa, seated on either side, to take turns on the tabla.

Tuneful notes

Shujaat’s tuneful singing interspersed with the notes of the sitar made one curious about his prowess as a vocalist. Ustad Vilayat Khan was initially a ‘ vocalist, who trained under his maternal grandfather Ustad Bande Hussain Khan and uncle Ustad Zinda Hussain Khan. “I consider it a blessing to have been guided by stalwarts such as Ustad Amir Khan and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, who were dear friends of my father. They taught me many lovely compositions,” he says. “I learnt while driving Pt. Bhimsen Joshi around during a week-long tour of London or when we travelled together on train journeys. Those moments gave me precious insights,” says Shujaat.

Referring to the concert’s title, ‘Transcendence’, Shujaat says, “I experience it when I sit with my instrument and the whole universe seems to disappear. It is about transcendence of the self, space and time, to a different zone, where you encounter the emotional and spiritual facets of music.”

The Delhi-based author writes on Hindustani music.

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