Music

Soul in concert

Alam Khan

Alam Khan   | Photo Credit: 10dfrAlamKhan

Alam Khan’s concert touched the spirit, even as it reached technical heights.

At 31, Alam Khan is standing on the threshold of greatness. Youngest son of the legendary sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, he is a formidable musical talent to reckon with. Though born and brought up in the United States to an American mother, he has not only imbibed the inimitable touch of his father but also the traditional Indian value of vinay (humility). At a time when artistes are loathe to wait to be recognised by the music fraternity at large as accomplished masters of their art and are liberally using the pre-fix of Pandit or Ustad, he simply remains Alam Khan. Honours will come to him on their own. He does not have to seek them.

Last Sunday, Havell’s presented Alam in a concert at the India Habitat Centre where music lovers gathered in large numbers showing utter disdain of Delhi’s infamous cold. And it was worth the effort as the young sarod maestro impressed one and all with his evolved musical sensibility, a great feel for the notes and a musical attitude steeped in chaste classicism. Like his father who always looked inwards and never towards the audiences, he too becomes absorbed soon after taking to the stage and tuning his sarod. Alam Khan opened his recital with a hybrid raga Bageshree Kanhda which, as the name suggests, is a combination of Bageshree and Kanhda. However, in contrast to many other jod ragas where one constituent raga is used in poorvanga and the other in uttaranga, both Bageshree and Kanhda are mixed with each other as water with milk, not as water with oil.

Alam Khan began with a soulful alap and handled it with commendable poise and grace. His meends were delectable and reminded one of his late father, who was once described by Yehudi Menuhin as “the greatest instrumentalist of the 20th century”. At the very outset, he established the broad contours of the raga, deftly skirting the neighbourhood of Shahana. Initially, the sound system gave him some trouble but he did not allow himself to get unsettled by it and soon came into full flow. As one experienced at his last concert two years ago, he packed a great deal of emotional intensity into his performance without sounding maudlin and caressed the notes with, as it were, some kind of reverence. What impressed most was the tonal quality of his sarod and the clarity of his notes with each one of them gleaming like a pearl.

After delving into the depth of the raga in the alap section, he effortless moved on to the jod and then jhala, mesmerising the audience with his layakari, intelligent use of tihais and other flourishes. After a most satisfying alap-jod-jhala presentation, he played a vilambit and a drut gat in Teen tala and proved that he was really the torchbearer of the Maihar gharana’s Senia-Beenkar tradition. His taans were fast, supple and at times electrifying, although he did not take recourse to unnecessarily showing off speed as is the wont these days.

In the typical Maihar style, he also resorted to the sawal-jawab sequences with tabla player Vinod Lele who acquitted himself well. However, one can’t help pointing out that by now, the sawal-jawab sequences have become avoidable clichés as in any case the percussion accompanist gets much more space to display his art than what he would have been allowed in the bygone era.

Alam ended his recital with a lilting Mishra Mand which was accompanied by a beautiful ragamala in Sitarkhani taal, a pleasant variant of the more common Teen tala. He played a short alap in Mishra Mand and then started a gat, displaying a seriousness of approach as well as aesthetic sophistication. His is the music of roohdaari. One is confident that he will go a long way.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 11:14:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/soul-in-concert/article5558149.ece

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