Titans on stage

Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain   | Photo Credit: 24dfrZakirHussain

While Aashish Khan’s recital at the recent Swami Haridas – Tansen Sangeet Nritya Mahotsava in New Delhi could have been better, Zakir Husain’s tabla made up for it.

It was like old days. The spacious, hangar-like Shankar Lal Hall at Modern School on New Delhi’s Barakhamba Road was overflowing with people sitting and standing wherever they could find enough space to squeeze in. More than half of those who had thronged the venue were in the 15-30 years age group. They had come to see, if not listen, the international star Zakir Husain playing tabla with sarod maestro Aashish Khan on the opening day of the three-day Swami Haridas-Tansen Sangeet Nritya Mahotsava organised by Bharatiya Sangeet Sadan. There was a palpable wave of excitement accompanied by a thunderous applause the moment Zakir Husain appeared on the stage to receive a bouquet of flowers and disappeared as Aashish Khan announced that pakhawaj player Arijit Tagore would accompany him in jod and jhala while Zakir would join in when he had finished playing alap, jod and jhala.

Aashish Khan is the eldest son and disciple of the legendary sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan and also had the good fortune of learning for long years from his grandfather Allauddin Khan, the founder of the Maihar gharana. Now in his mid-seventies, he is the senior most representative of his gharana. He began his recital with the sombre and serene evening raga, Shree, which has omits gandhar and dhaivat in its ascending section while using all the notes in descending movement. Komal rishabh’s coupling with pancham defines this raga as these two along with shadaj happen to be the most important notes in its configuration. However, this raga blossoms when played reflectively, in a meend-laden style without placing much emphasis on taans.

Despite his enviable learning and vast experience, Aashish Khan seems to be having some problem with his concentration and attitude. He played a very short alap in a reflective raga like Shree and went on to explore the rhythmic aspect instead of the melodic in the jod and jhala sections where Arijit Tagore kept pace with him. As part of this exercise, he also played tar paran (playing pakhawaj parans on the wire of the sarod) and impressed with his command over the technical aspects of sarod playing. However, he sounded more like his grandfather (this writer has listened to only his extant recordings) than his father insofar as the over all effect and the tonality were concerned.

When Zakir Husain made his appearance, the crowd worked itself into a frenzy by clapping and whistling even as he was tuning his tabla. As this went on for some time, he had to stop playing and brought the young enthusiasts to their senses with a very mild rebuke. Order restored, the recital went off rather well. Aashish Khan played a vilambit Jhap taal gat and gave a much better account of himself. He moved on to Bageshree Kanhda and played a vilambit Teen taal gat that was suffused with a profusion of laya kari and ended with a brisk jhala. He rounded off with a dadra-like composition. His nephew Shiraz Ali Khan accompanied him on sarod. Zakir Husain was absolutely superb and showed how an artiste who had attained technical perfection in his early youth should perform at a mature age. Listening to his tabla was, as always, a real treat.

The evening was supposed to begin with a vocal recital by industrialist-musician Vinay Bharatram but as he was suffering from sore throat, Chandra Prakash from Kishangarh took his place to present a dhrupad-based haveli sangeet performance that gave a glimpse into how music was performed in the temples but failed to offer much aesthetic pleasure.

Like Aashish Khan, sitar maestro Shujaat Khan too is the inheritor of a great tradition being the eldest son of the great Vilayat Khan. He could not do with one tabla player and chose to have two for accompaniment. However, one could not discern any such heavy rhythmic demands in his playing that would have warranted this. One could not fail to recall that Ravi Shankar had started this questionable trend but, then, he had supreme command over taal and its complexities. Anyway, Shujaat could not give his best as he was continuously having trouble with the sound system. He played a wayward alap in the familiar Jhinjhoti and offered an unstructured melange of musical ideas before moving on to the loud jod movement. He also played three compositions in slow, medium and fast tempi Teen taal and regaled the audience. The madhyalaya gat was especially of a very old vintage and he showed his talim in full measure. Arunanshu Choudhary and Amjad Khan offered him tabla accompaniment.

Khayal maestros Rajan and Sajan Mishra chose to concentrate on the Kauns family and sang Jogkauns, Malkauns, Mohankauns and Chandrakauns. As usual, they were an example of competent singing.

The festival also featured performances by Delhi gharana vocalist Iqbal Ahmed Khan, Kathak danseuse Uma Sharma, vocalist Shubha Mudgal, Mohan Veena player Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and a tigalbandi by Bhatt, Sharma and the Manganiyars of Rajasthan.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:24:06 PM |

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