You can hear a blend of raags from Momin Khan’s sarangi strings in the melodious ‘Jab Saiyaan’ song from Gangubai Kathiawadi. Sung by Shreya Ghoshal with music by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the 23-year-old musician considers himself fortunate to have worked with Bhansali. “It’s magical to see how he brings alive the lyrics through his tunes, which are a fine blend of folk and classical,” says Momin. He is also part of the music team of Bhansali’s web series ‘Heera Mandi’, a period drama that explores the stories of courtesans. Momin is equally excited to have got an opportunity to work with the inimitable A.R. Rahman. “I cannot thank god enough for fulfilling my musical dreams.”
Momin was on the sets of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs’ when he got a call from Rahman’s studio. “It was for the film Mili. Working with Rahman saab is about learning valuable lessons in music. You understand the nuances of creativity. It’s amazing the way he visualises sound in myriad, unique ways.”
Hailing from a family of sarangi artistes (he belongs to the eighth generation), belonging to the Jaipur gharana, Momin took to playing the instrument as a child. “It was the mahaul of the haveli I grew up in. It constantly echoed with the sounds of the sarangi, tabla and sitar. So I too found my calling in music,” says Momin. As a young sarangi artiste, he was keen to popularise the instrument among the youth. He started posting videos on Instagram and Facebook.
“Encouraged by the response, almost every day I would play a piece and put it up. But my father Ustad Moinuddin Khan, who is also my guru, didn’t know about it till I got an offer to play for a video recording of an independent album. Though my father didn’t look very pleased, he allowed me to take it up on the condition that I would not give up my family tradition and regular riyaaz.”
One offer led to another and soon Momin was playing for most of the well-known names in the Indian music industry, including Arijit Singh, Sonu Nigam, Shankar Mahadevan, Salim Sulaimaan and Javed Ali. “As part of Arijit Singh’s band, I have been touring with him, performing at shows across the globe. He is warm and accomodative and that makes the musical outings with him more enjoyable,” says Momin, who is looking forward to the release of Salim-Sulaimaan’s Bhoomi, in which he has played for Sonu Nigam’s singing.
“The recognition is for the instrument. I want people to understand and appreciate its vast potential to fit itself into any musical situation. Its 43 strings can produce not just classical notes but tunes that define every mood and emotion. It is one of the authentic Indian bowed stringed instruments that can beautifully express the soul of sangeet,” says Momin, who has performed classical concerts abroad, including at the popular Darbar festival in London, and conducted workshops on sarangi in Russia.
Though the many projects he is part of have fetched him appreciation and opportunities early on in his musical journey, Momin works hard to keep his riyaaz going. “Whenever I find the time, between shoots or after wrap up, I make it a point to practise. Today, if I am able to perform according to the demands of different projects, I owe it to my father’s training. I remember the way he would guide me even on the stage whenever I have performed with him, be it at the Harvallabh festival in Jalandhar, Sankat Mochan festival in Varanasi and Vasantotsav in Pune. These are precious moments in a disciple’s life,” says Momin Khan.