Songs of the soul

Ustad Rashid Khan’s music is a conversation with the self, into which the listener is drawn

March 09, 2017 03:10 pm | Updated 03:10 pm IST

Ustad Rashid Khan performing at The Music Academy in Chennai

Ustad Rashid Khan performing at The Music Academy in Chennai

In one of his rare concert appearances in the city, Hindustani maestro, Ustad Rashid Khan, held in thrall an eclectic audience that included noted musicologists and musicians. The programme was organised by Banyan Tree Events as part of the ‘Splendour of Masters’ series.

A meditative tryst with the vilambit in ‘Piya Morey’ introduced raag Marwa. With Rashid’s voice being a byword for resonance, the aural experience was as much about his rich, pervasive timbre as about substance. The mandra-madhya saptak interplay underscored by the raag’s characteristic omission of the shadja, was dewed with a subtly-phrased modal shift of tonic invoking Bhoopali. When the shadja did make a rare appearance, the approach was softened by intricate whorls. The first encounter with the madhya saptak dhaivat opened up emotional vistas.

More goosebump moments were in store at the dhaivat and a full-throated tara saptak rishabh. The artiste’s three-octave range went beyond mere feats of vocal agility; rather, they were natural extensions of homogeneous ideations.

As the madhya laya ‘Guru Bin’ sped up to dhrut, it swept you up into Rashid’s 650-horsepower taans that stood out, as always, for their exceptional clarity.

The glistening strands of raag Saraswati in ‘More Man Baye’ were wrapped around a dominant pancham, highlighted by deep, silken glides and weighty double gamaks. Sparkling sargams at ‘Tum Bin Soona’ wafted the bouquet of a mature vintage.

In a shadja-centric ‘Yaad Avey’ in Malkauns, you heard pauses speak and articulations suggest. Rife with surprise twists, sargams exploded in bursts of vivid colour. In the dhrut ‘Aaj Morey Ghar,’ the emphasis points were instant knock-out punches. Acceding to audience requests, the artiste wound up with the thumri ‘Yaad Piya Ki Aaye’ (Bhinna Shadaj) in which ‘Bairi Koyaliya’ etched will-o’-the-wisp imagery.

Murad Ali’s melodic sketches on the sarangi which lovingly shadowed voice, came as a treat. Vinay Mishra (harmonium) was an adventurous collaborator, navigating peaks and troughs with elan. Subhankar Banerjee’s expertise came to the fore through tabla strokes powered by a keen anticipation. Krishna Bhogane and Krishna Ballesh lent vocal support.

When does music eclipse technique? At which liminal point is cerebration subsumed by emotion? You discovered the answers to these and many other musings, as you cruised the artiste’s inclusive creative arc. Rashid’s music is, at every level, a conversation with the self, into which the listener is drawn. His song-speak invokes images of human frailties and strengths, laughter and tears, playfulness and profundity, dreams and hopes, with a fearlessness and honesty that offer no-holds-barred glimpses into the artist’s soul. It is this shared vision that urges the listener to look within ; to soar above the mundane and celebrate the sublime. And that is why the music of this artiste will always be a source of unending inspiration.

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