The centennial man

A hundred glorious years of singing and still counting. "This August, I turned 104," says the proponent and direct descendent of Mian Tansen, Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan. In town for a classical evening courtesy Spicmacay at the Panjab University, Ustadji stands for a century of musical tradition.

"It's a miracle, Allah's will that I am here, alive and singing," Ustadji tells how he due to some rivarly, he was poisoned with mercury around 50 years ago. But he survived, and today, he has more than 2,000 compositions to his name.

"Life is an ocean, an abyss. It has no definitive beginning, no complete end...it just goes on and there is so much to learn, to do, to see." Even today, as he takes the centre stage, his heart skips a beat. He prays, for a flawless rendition, one which would make his gurus proud of him. "We had relentless gurus and critics who wouldn't spare even one mistake! I remember how my grandfather was allowed to sing in public after practising for 22 years at home. Today, all vocalists do is learn four to six khayals and sing. They are impatient and crave for instant gratification," says the centennial man, emphasising on how Khayal should have the Dhrupadang in it, how a raga is first chosen, then taken through the shabdavali, the vaad samvaad and finally the taal after which, one composes a bandish.

"My grandfather and father; Bade Yusuf Khan Saab and Chhote Yusuf Khan Saab always thought that music would come difficulty to me, but after an experience, I proved I could sing too and I never looked back," while Ustadji prefers to keep that incident a secret, he gave his heart and soul to a tradition that demands a lifetime of riyaaz and sacrifice. "That's what I tell my students too...stay grounded, never leave your riyaaz, always believe in hardwork, stay away from addictions and never nurse illusions."

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