The sacred sound

TUNE THAT LINGERS Pandit Krishna Ram Chaudhary   | Photo Credit: Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

The impassioned musicality and the incisive tunefulness of Pandit Krishna Ram Chaudhary’s shehnai instantly caught my attention when I first heard him during ‘Sur Benaras’, the centenary celebration of Ustad Bismillah Khan, organised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) at Nagri Pracharini Mandal auditorium in Varanasi.

His melodious aalap in Bihag and the bewitching bandish “Lat uljhi suljha ja re Balam….” followed by the lilting dadra “Dagar bich kaise chaloon mag roke kanhaiya bepeer…” still lingers in my ears. He certainly deserved a solo performance that evening but in that unavoidable duet also he made his distinct mark. Fascinated by the piercing ‘sur’ of his shehnai and the unassuming demeanour of this musician, one followed him backstage and interviewed him .

The coveted Padma Shri award to Pandit Krishna Ram Chaudhary endorses his stature in the field of music once again. The dedicated musician who is far from the rat race of self aggrandisement truly deserves it.

Excerpts from an interview:

It seems music runs in your veins. Please tell us about your family background.

I was born and brought up in a musical family of Benaras. My father Buddha Lal Chaudhary was the disciple of Bade Ramdasji. He was a well known shehnai exponent of Benaras. He not only played but also made shehnai. I was hardly five-year-old when he made a very small instrument for me, even smaller than sundari, and started teaching me how to play it. He also taught me how to play the flute.

I still remember how he used to make the reed for shehnai, especially for his own instrument. We used to travel to a small village in Bihar named Dumraon where this shehnai leaf grew in abundance in and around water ponds. He would cut the soft leaves, measure them to suit his requirement, chisel them on steel needles then dry them in the sun and would work on them until the ‘pattur’ sounded in perfect tunefulness.

He even taught shehnai and this art of making it to his younger brother Ram Lal. I learnt sometimes from my uncle Ram Lal too, but he was so good at playing shehnai that he went to Mumbai to join the Prithvi Theatre as a music director.

Tell us about your music training?

My father and guru first taught me vocal music starting with Bhairav in the morning and Yaman in the evening. He would give me ‘sargam’, ‘paltas’ in both these ragas and made me practice to perfection. Then he would ask me to play the same exercises on my instrument. I would practice on my own in the morning from 6 a.m. to 12 noon and he would teach me in the evenings.

I was attracted to the shehnai of Ustad Bismillah Khan from my very childhood. I was 11 years old when my father noticed my inclination towards Khan saheb. He was so perceptive that he taught me a bandish in raga Todi, that was played by the Ustad in his latest LP released by the HMV company.

We lived in Kabeer-Chaura, which is known to be the mohalla of musicians till date. My grandfather was a disciple of Pandit Shiv-Sahay. He was a ‘Ramayani’ who used to sing the Ramayan in classical ragas. He also taught me singing for some time. Being raised up in Kabeer-Chaura, I was surrounded by music all the time. I was nearly 12 or 13 year old when my uncle made a name for himself after playing for the film ‘Nagin’ that became the talk of the town. I practised not only his tunes but also the tunes Ustad Bismillah Khan played for films. People would invite me to play durinf Puja, marriage and other ceremonies.

This was the time when I developed maturity and started seeing new paths in the practised tunes... “bajaane mein soojh aane laga”! Then Pandit Mahadev Prasad Mishra took me under his tutelage and my mind and imagination took wings... “dimaag khul gaya”! I was 16-year-old when I topped the All India Radio (AIR) competition in shehnai and received the gold medal by the then President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. This achievement gave me a special grade to play from AIR stations all over India. Gradually, I was promoted to A grade and by God’s grace I am a ‘top’ grade artiste of AIR and Doordarshan today.

You have received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award as well. Do you aspire for anything more?

I never aspired for any awards. My music is my puja. Whatever has come to me is due to God’s grace and the blessings of my gurus and elders.

Deeply touched

Pandit Vishva Mohan Bhatt was here in the Capital to inaugurated the Virasat Series of concerts organized by the SPIC MACAY at the IIT Delhi on 24th January, just a day before the Padma Awards were announced.

When asked how it feels to be adorned with Padma Bhushan after the world renowned Grammy Award, he humbly responded “main isko sar aankhon par leta hoon” (I feel deeply touched and honoured). When you are loved and admired in you your own home it makes all the difference. Coming from your own people, your own government, it feels like a pat at your back. It inspires you to work harder.” he adds “ you may say that the Grammy is recognised across the world, but then the fragrance of your own country is something else!”

On the occasion, he mesmerised the young audience of the IIT with his Mohan Veena recital accompanied on tabla by Shubh Maharaj, the brilliant disciple and grandson of Pandit Kishan Maharaj. He interacted with them with his usual warmth and obliged them by fulfilling their numerous ‘Farmaish’ also. Although he didn’t want to repeat the same numbers again, but he had to play the Grammy number. Vaishnav Jan toh, Vande Mataram to Raghupati Raghav…”. Nobody knew at that time that he is going to receive the coveted Padma Bhushan award the very next day.

Too little, too late

A gifted son of the legendary Ustad Inayat Khan and grandson of Ustad Imdad Khan, the founder of the inimitable Imdadkhani Baaj; the renowned surbahar and sitar player Ustad Imrat Khan is an accomplished musician. He is younger brother of Ustad Vilayat Khan. Who can forget the magical jugalbandi of both the brothers - the torchbearers of Imdadkhani Gharana; Ustad Imrat Khan on the surbahar and Ustad Vilayat Khan on sitar -on the performance stage in the early decades of 1950s.

Ustad Imrat Khan later gave solo performances in 1960s when he would play the detailed Aalap of the raga on surbahar in the profound Dhrupad Ang and continued the Jod-Jhala and Gat compositions on sitar. Groomed under his maternal grandfather, the renowned vocalist Bande Hasan Khan, he had total command over the Gaayaki Ang, reminiscent of a bygone era. Trained in sitar under his uncle Ustad Waheed Khan and elder brother Ustad Vilayat Khan, he developed effortless ease on both the instruments.

Ustad Imrat Khan has recorded extensively on both his instruments. He spent his years abroad teaching Indian classical music at the Washington University in Saint Louis. Along with his numerous disciples he has groomed his sons also as noted musicians. Nishat Khan is a noted sitarist, Irshad Khan is well-versed in both sitar as well as surbahar. Wajahad Khan is an accomplished sarod player, while Shafaatullah is a noted exponent of the tabla.

Ustad Imrat Khan, the senior most representative of the illustrious Imdadkhani Gharana, received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award way back in 1988. It is an irony that he is being offered a Padma Shri now, when he deserve a Padma Vibhushan, being the treasure of our classical music heritage.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 21, 2021 1:52:04 AM |

Next Story