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Defending tradition

KULDEEP KUMAR
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INTERVIEW It is important to become a star these days, laments sitarist Mahmud Mirza. KULDEEP KUMAR

Mahmud Mirza
Mahmud Mirza

A fter listening to the sitar recitals by Mahmud Mirza, and one actually meets him for a chat, it becomes clear that here is a musician who can be known from his music. Born in Delhi, Mirza was initiated at the tender age of six in the art of sitar playing by his maternal uncle, Hyder Hussain Khan, a doyen of the Jaipur Senia gharana. By the age of 11, he was performing in public and at 13, he became the youngest musician ever to join the staff of the All India Radio.

After the sudden death of his maternal uncle, Jeevan Lal Mattoo, a disciple of the Kirana maestro Abdul Wahid Khan, took Mirza under his tutelage and trained him into the Kirana tradition .

“Now music has actually entered the corporate sector and consequently a star system has found roots where art plays a subservient role to consumerism. Today, it is not so important to become a good artiste as it is to become a star. Only star performers can find big corporate sponsors. Therefore, a good artiste who is not a star finds himself out of the concert scene,” Mirza laments.

Though Mirza agrees that even in the past there were stars such as Faiyaz Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Omkar Nath Thakur and Amir Khan but “they were great musicians, not stars. They were enriching the system (of music), loving it, caring for it and taking it forward by their contributions. They knew their place in the system. But the modern artiste, or rather the star, tries to go a step further into a realm where he is glorified, not the system. This is the difference between the great musicians of the bygone era and the present-day stars,” he adds.


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