Music in every breath

Ustad Abdul Rasheed Khan. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

At 103, Ustad Abdul Rasheed Khan is still vibrant. One of the senior-most artistes of India, symbol of ‘pakki gayaki' from the Gwalior gharana, Khan is popular among his family members and disciples as Baba. And to listen to Baba at this stage of life is a miracle, not because of his monumental age but for his undistorted and profound voice and command over the notes.

Dhrupad exponent Ustad Fariduddin Dagar, younger in comparison, has lost the beauty of his voice, but Baba is still active at the Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata. Recently, he performed in Kanpur at an international convention organised by Spic Macay. Just after the two-hour recital we had a long conversation and, as it happened, he wasn't tired. “As long as my breath sings, I will sing,” he said.

He sang two unfamiliar ragas, Ahiri Khamaj and Neelkauns, less heard and technically categorised as aprachalit. He explained, “We must introduce before the new generation the basic ragas and aprachalit ragas just to preserve them.

As you know, in North India, artistes try to avoid most of the morning ragas, for they generally perform in the evenings, and due to thisthe younger generation doesn't hear the morning ragas in the voice of the renowned artistes. Whereas, in South India, they preserve all the ragas, for they perform in the morning too. This is similar to what we need to do with unfamiliar and unpopular ragas.”

True notes

The listeners were not expecting Ahiri Khamaj, or even Neelkauns, as they were familiar with several other Kauns ragas like Malkauns, Chandrakauns, Madhukauns and Jogkauns, but when the ustad introduced these ragas the listeners were able to understand and assimilate their beauty in its true nature. “It was because the notes were true,” Baba replied.

He never uses the behalawa style of the Gwalior gharana but follows the style of Behram Khan. “However, I learned directly not from Behram Khan but from Yusuf Khan Saheb, who was my father's elder brother,” he explained. “He used to teach us how to gain full command over the 12 basic notes. We had to recite and repeat them exactly how he recited them. We could not ask a single question about a single note, whether it was tivra or komal or shuddha. We just had to follow and, in the process, master them.”

As for how life is going on at this stage, he replied, “Ask this question to my breath.”

Though he has still not been conferred a Padma award, he doesn't complain. He is not against to anybody or anything. In conclusion, he said, “I want nothing except the grace of Allah. And, of course, the listeners' love.”

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 12:37:06 AM |

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