My post-lockdown music will reflect memories of this period: Shujaat Khan

Shujaat Khan (Photo: facebook)

By Sukant Deepak

New Delhi– While he may be at home during this lockdown and doing the same things he used to — riyaz, exercising, spending time with family and watching Netflix, there is something amiss. “Believe me, the feeling of interacting with the music connoisseurs in a live concert is the best feeling that an artist can hope for. Not being able to do that right now makes me extremely unhappy,” says Ustad Shujaat Khan, a Grammy-nominated musician and sitar player of the Imadkhani gharana, who has to his credit more than 60 albums.

Stressing that though he is not a composer and won’t ‘create’ any music, Khan says that whatever happens in life is bound to affect music as well. So, eventually when the coronavirus scare is over, and he will get back to performing at a live concert in auditorium, the music or Raag will automatically reflect his memories of this time — a mix of both happy and unhappy stories. “The unhappy memories will include instances of how the underprivileged got affected by the lockdown, and the pleasant ones will be about people coming forward to help others.”

Khan, who was recently part of HCL Concerts Baithaks feels that such concerts through the Internet definitely lend listeners some solace and happiness in these challenging time. “It is lovely to see how corporates like HCL among others have stepped in to promote and nurture Indian Classical musicians in India and abroad. Any form of music is the exchange of energy from the people.”

It’s hard not to ask if he still feels odd when compared to his legendary father Ustad Vilayat Khan, someone a major national daily once called ‘God’. He laughs, “Well, being the son of God is not bad at all, and I have enjoyed the fact that I am his son. At the beginning of my career, of course, my work was compared with my father. However, in the last 10 to 15 years, I have been able to create my own niche and also an audience base who attend my performance because they like it and connect with it. Not because I am the son of Ustad Vilayat Khan.”

As the conversation veers towards Namita Devidayal’s book ‘The Sixth String of Vilayat Khan’, which is still selling well, Khan says that he is glad that the author has stayed away from sensationalisation, and refrained from delving into the personal lives of musicians. “There are minor inaccuracies in her book, but that happens every time unless a person narrates his or her story to the author. She has taken stories from different people and woven them together. But with this book, she has given tribute to Vilayat Khan ji which is a great thing.”

Listeners have witnessed some fantastic fusion between Katayoun Foudarzi, a poet of Iranian origin who is known for using different styles of singing and recitation, and him in ‘Ruby’ and ‘Dawning’. But didn’t he get frowned upon considering his musical pedigree that goes back seven generations? “It is not tough to get into fusion, but my suggestion is that musicians should not jump into fusion in case they have not been able to establish themselves personally first. Fusion is great and many artists have done that including Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Zakir Hussain, among others. But first, they established to the world who they are and then started fusion. And yes, someone rightly said that the people who spread rumours are talking about their inadequacy. In the music fraternity, I have received a lot of support. Sometimes, people have been happy with my performance, some have frowned too.”

When it comes to imparting training, Khan says that the ‘guru-shishya parampara’ has evolved in many cases. “Earlier, youngsters who wanted to pursue music, stayed with the artists, spending days and years with them. They would take care of the artists just like a staff member to understand the whole personality or the character of the guru. As times have changed, I have told my students that practicing the sitar for one hour in a day is enough and there is no need to stay with the guru as staff members. Despite this modification, the intensity of the musical exchange remains the same. We are still producing great musicians.”

Not in favour of the western model of professional music schools, Khan feels that the same will just lead to commercialisation. “One teacher should dedicate his or her attention to one student at a time and not ten, which is what happens in a professional school. By the way, no well-known artist in our country has emerged from a music school.”

Believing that it is important for profit-making companies to give back to society and contribute towards tradition and culture, Khan does not really have high hopes from the government. “It has never really supported classical music as such. I feel it is everyone’s responsibility to promote art and culture of a country.”

Adding that while every person who sends his/her child to an elite school, wants their ward to be doctor, engineer, businessman, among others, they do not realise that music and culture should be integrated into the learning to make the students well-rounded individuals, he says, “The western system understood this a long time ago that textbook knowledge was not enough.” (IANS)


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