His Master’s Voice


At his concert on Tuesday, after the first composition, the notes flowed, and Khan drew his audience into the delightful world of poignant ragas punctuated with an assortment of lyrics from Amir Khusrau's oeuvre. Khan met the swaras gently at first. The notes wafted through the air and then melted into a hypnotic drone. It was after the courtesies in the alaap that Khan went on to sing faster gats by way of taranaas and taans. Amid numerous microphone adjustments, sips of tea and doses of supari, his voice moved comfortably in the lowest and the highest octaves. Even in the the ones that we did not know existed. As he showcased a host of sapaat (staccato) taans in Jai Jai Nizamuddin Jagtaaran, a composition in Hindavi (another language Khusrau wrote in, apart from Persian and Urdu), he surprised his own students, who found it hard to replicate it while supporting him.

Khan mostly sings the dhrupad ang in his gayaki (vocal style) — a form of rendering a raga under a rigid composition and rhythm structure — but on Tuesday, he regaled those present with thumri ang in Meharva ras boondan barse and a naqsh in raga Mishra Desh — a raga unmatched in its sweetness. Khan was supported by Shubhomoy Bhattacharya on vocals, his grandson Bilal on the tabla and his younger brother Ustad Hafeez Khan on the harmonium.

The rich texture of Khan's voice in other compositions such as Shubh ghadi, shubh din and Garjat barsat showcased his prowess in various types of Hindustani vocal classical styles.

As the audience asked for an encore, Khan began with a kalbana — a set of syllables put to tune — invented by Khusrau, that got the audience on its feet to give the maestro a standing ovation.

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