‘Epitome of every culture has been vocal music’

Hidayat Hussain Khan

Hidayat Hussain Khan  

Off-stage conversations are important for a good performance, says sitar maestro Hidayat Hussain Khan

Known globally for the gayaki-ang of his sitar playing, maestro Hidayat Hussain Khan, who belongs to the seventh generation of the Imdadkhani gharana, performed in the city last week. In an interview with The Hindu, post concert, Mr. Khan said, “On the surface, [the] epitome of every culture has always been vocal music. Everyone is trying to emulate what the voice does. The limitations of one’s personal capabilities or the instrument they are playing limits them from reaching [perfection],” said Mr. Khan.

The sitar maestro, who lives in New Jersey and Mumbai, started his evening performance at lifestyle and cultural store, Baro, with an evening raga Charukeshi, which was followed by Hazrat Aamir Khusrau’s, ‘Ae Ri Sakhi More’, in raga Khamaaj. Mr. Khan’s speciality, the gayaki-ang, refers to a rendition where the voice blends with the instrument.

As a performer, Mr. Khan has had the good fortune of inheriting a musical legacy from both sides of his family. His father, Ustad Vilayaat Khan had the same legacy, he said. “His mother’s side were all vocalists and father’s side all instrumentalists. He got training in both. He was a very accomplished singer. There are recordings of him where he did vocal concerts.”

Mr. Khan believes that what his father did by introducing the gayaki-ang on sitar made it a complete instrument. “Being a follower of gayaki-ang, it’s very easy collaborating with Western musicians or with musicians of other art forms,” he said.

Mr. Khan is the youngest of four children. On his relationship with his father, he uses four words: “interesting, complicated, fun and serious.”

“While he was teaching me, the formality and protocol would come in. But when the music situation was gone, it was a completely personal relationship with him, just like a father-son,” he said.

Having collaborated with musicians like Ndugu Chancler, Ronnie Woods, Alicia Keys, Usher, Zakir Hussain, Pete Townshend, Jay Z and Darryl Jones, on various occasions, Mr. Khan believes that off-stage conversations with musicians is important for a good performance. In the absence of this, he believes, there is a disconnect in collaborations where two people come with their own ideologies and do their own thing on stage. “For collaborations the most important thing is that you listen to what the other person is saying. And then you take the conversation forward or you reply based on the context of [the chat],” said Mr. Khan.

The maestro said he never expects musicians of classical traditions to get recognised by people while walking down a street or at airports. “If I want recognition of that level then I should be a popular musician. Only then can I expect 10,000 people at every concert. My music is niche,” said Mr. Khan, but added quickly that he is happy at this stage in his career. “Recognition is important but an understanding of correct recognition is even more important. If you have real expectations you won’t be disappointed,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 7:40:13 PM |

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