Ustad Dilshad Khan and Begum Parveen Sultana trace their musical journey.

There is a soft hum from the sruthi box as one enters the hotel room of Ustad Dilshad Khan and Begum Parveen Sultana.

“We can spare only 15 minutes for the interview as we are both tired. Also, there are other reporters waiting,” says Parveen.

Thankfully the 15 minutes soon stretched to half and hour and then an hour as the duo who has entertained rasikas with their dynamic Hindustai music both as a couple, and as individuals, talked music.

Child prodigies

Both were child prodigies, they say. “We love music, so training rigorously back when we were kids was not a task or a chore; it was a passion,” say Parveen and Dilshad Khan who go on to add: “However, children today are rarely in it for the love of music, and reality shows are partly to blame as parents and even children themselves enter the field in hopes for a shortcut to fame. Talent is irrelavant now; if you can hum a few lines passably that is enough…”

Although trained in various gharanas, their music has a style of its own.

“Every musician has to have his or her own identity. Gharana is just a school. You go to a good school, learn and then you produce your own thing. Creativity in the music world is a must. You have to show the world what you are, what you have done, what you are bringing to your work…,” says the couple who apart from blazing the Hindustani music field with their unique voices also lit a flame in the Bollywood music industry.

The duo sang ‘Shubh Gaade Aye' for the movie ‘Razia Sultana.' Parveen made ‘Humsein Tumse Pyaar Kitna' from the movie ‘Kudrat,' an evergreen classic, and has sung the background score for ‘Pakeezah,' a thumri in ‘Gadar,' and recently, a love song in Vikram Bhaat's ‘1920,' to name a few.

Asked why they did not pursue a career in playback singing and Parveen says: “We are first and foremost Indian classical musicians. There are very few good music directors these days, few songs with good melody, lyrics… The only reason why I agreed to sing for Adnan Sami's piece, ‘Vaadaa tera vaadaa' in 1920, was because it had a melody, it stuck to a particular raga.”

Fusion music

Not averse to fusion music, the duo say: “Those by Pandit Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin were divine; that is called fusion. One should have an in-depth knowledge of diverse genres of music with use of instruments, lyrical content and cultural perspectives. Nowadays, it is like a fruit salad, a bit of tabla here, a ghatam and a saxophone there. Music is now commercialised with musicians playing to the gallery.”

But with the popularity of fusion music and other genres, is there a dearth of takers for Indian classical music? “Indian classical music is the mother of world music; it is music for the soul. Ghazal was popular for some time and then it faded out. Then came Bollywood music, quawali and now, Sufi music. They all come and go; what remains is Indian classical music. But yes, the crowd is thinner but not because there is a lack of appreciation for it. Time, terror attacks… all contribute to it,” says Parveen.

Being a guru-shisya team and later a husband-wife team helped them stay in tune with each other. They were in the city for a jugalbandhi in connection with the Nishgandhi Festival. “The best thing about being a guru-shisya is that I know what my shisya is going to sing next because I taught her. So I can build the next one on my own and she will expect it. An understanding is there,” says Dilshad Khan.

They are proud parents of a daughter, Shadaab, who is also a talented singer. “She is currently doing her MBA. Education is important, it makes a man. I hope that after our lifetime, she will train our students,” says Parveen as a phone call announcing the impatience of the next reporter cuts our interview short.