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Learning from legends

At his shows, Sangari’s objective is to play ‘pure music’. PHOTOS: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

Growing up in Delhi, Dhruv Sangari was exposed to various forms of music, thanks to his home environment.

He started learning the basics of Hindustani music at seven, and slowly started following the works of the classical maestros, besides the mystical and spiritual Sufi and Bhakti poets.

The journey led him to discover the genius of Pakistani qawwali maestro Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who he eventually met and learnt from in the mid 1990s.

Over the past few years, he has been performing numerous tributes to his idol, and will also perform one today.

“Meeting him was a dream come true,” he says. “Before he passed away in August 1997, he often came to India, where he would do shows and work in Indian film music. I would go wherever he went, from Mumbai to Gwalior to Delhi, and he patiently gave me a few tips.”

Sangari had just completed his schooling when Khan passed away. “It came as a sudden shock. He had a unique voice, and an amazing choice of poetry. After his demise, I took guidance from his brother Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, till he passed away in 2003.”

For Sangari, it’s been a long learning tour. He first started learning classical vocals from Shahana Banerjee, and tabla from B.S. Ramanna. Soon, he took qawwali lessons from Ustad Meraj Ahmed Nizami of the famed Delhi Qawwal Bachche gharana. Training under Ustad Iqbal Khan and Ustad Ghulam Sadiq Khan widened his horizons.”

Not an easy task

“It wasn’t an easy task,” he says. “For such spiritual and mystical music, two things are important. One is the right singing language and diction, and the other, the knowledge of poetry.”

In his childhood, he could speak Punjabi and Hindi, and he was also exposed to Urdu. “The challenge was to learn Persian and Arabic, in which a lot of Sufi poetry is written. So I worked on that aspect, and started following a range of poets like Amir Khusro, Meerabai, Baba Bulleh Shah, Hazrat Shah Hussain, Hafez, Rumi, Mirza Ghalib and Sant Tulsidas, besides some modern poets.”

The singing style took tremendous practice. “When you listen to Sufi greats like Nusrat- saab, the Sabri Brothers, Pathaney Khan and Abida Parveen, or to classical masters like Kumar Gandharva, Kishori Amonkar and Mallikarjun Mansur, you understand how much depth their singing has, and how much one has to work to reach anywhere near their level. I also visited many shrines and temples, and followed different styles. I am nowhere yet, but they have all influenced me in their own way.”

Sangari started playing professionally in 2001. A few years later, he formed his ensemble, Rooh. “There have been some regular members, playing tabla, dholak and mandolin, besides those who sing chorus. At times we have a Persian daf drum or an Indian bansuri. I try to keep seven or eight musicians.”

What does he feel about the commercialisation of Sufi and Indian devotional music, especially in Hindi films? “A lot of popular music has been influenced by the older forms, which had a specific purpose. If used in a proper manner, they can help spread the message. However, when used in cheap and vulgar ways, they will come under fire from purists.”

Thus, at his shows, Sangari’s objective is to play ‘pure music’. “I restrict the commercial numbers. But I always keep in mind the nature of the audience. I wouldn’t play anything which is insensitive or inappropriate.”Coming from the Nusrat and Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan schools, he obviously seems clear and grounded in his thoughts.

The author is a freelance music writer

Tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan by Dhruv Sangari & Rooh at Blue Frog from 8.15 p.m. onwards tonight

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 9:14:16 AM |

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