Saturday, September 16, 2000

The home of sarod
By N.D. Sharma

THE credit for introducing sarod in India, and the world, goes to an Afghan immigrant who settled in Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. He played the rabab, a string instrument popular in Afghanistan and Persia.

A horse trader by profession, Mohammed Hashmi Khan Bangash developed a deep interest in music. His dexterity in rabab coupled with his interest in the Indian classical tradition led him to encourage his son Ghulam Bandagi Khan Bangash to modify the rabab into an instrument which could infuse the two traditions. Ghulam Bandagi Khan did this by introducing a metal fingerboard and a string to the rabab. Ghulam Bandagi Khan’s son Ghulam Ali Bangash perfected the instrument and polished the practice of playing ragas on the sarod which in Persian means melody.


The Sarod GharThe rabab of Ghulam Bandagi Khan Bangash, and the sarods used by his descendants, right up to Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, are now on display at Sarod Ghar, (in Gwalior), a unique museum of musical instruments. Devoted to promoting Indian classical music, heritage and culture, it has been set up by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan in memory of his illustrious father Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, whose name had become synonymous with the sarod.

It was during his tours abroad, particularly in Germany, that Ustad Amjad Ali Khan got the idea of converting his 300-year-old ancestral house into a museum of musical instruments in memory of his father because it is not uncommon in other countries to immortalise the memory of celebrities in this way. This house was given away by the then ruling family of Gwalior to Ustad Nanhe Khan, great grandfather of Amjad Ali Khan. The house has a colourful history with four generations of sarod players having been born here. The building has been remodelled based on traditional building techniques of Gwalior using the local stone craftsmanship.

The Sarod Ghar is being managed by the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Trust which was founded by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with financial assistance from the government. The Trust has for several years been organising two important musical events in Gwalior: the Hafiz Ali Khan Awards ceremony, and the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan sangeet samaroh.

The rabab and sarod belonging to the forefathers of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan on display at the museumThe museum houses a collection of instruments belonging to great and illustrious musicians of the past, on which they pursued their sangeet sadhana. Their immortality is thus enshrined in this institution. The first exhibited were the instruments belonging to Amjad Ali Khan’s forefathers’. The rabab of Ghulam Bandagi Khan Bangash, the sarods of Ustad Nanhe Khan, Asghar Ali Khan and Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan are part of the collection.

Musicians and well-wishers from all over the country have come forward to contribute the instruments belonging to a number of great masters and gurus of the past. The collection now includes the sur mandal of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan; the violin of Ustad Allauddin Khan; the tablas of Ustad Ahmed Jaan Thirakwa, Pandit Kanthe Maharaj and Ustad Kader Bux and the tanpura of Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit.

The Sarod Ghar also houses an impressive collection of photographs and documents. Work on compiling a database on classical music in the form of books, articles, audio and audio-visual recordings is in progress, mainly with the following objectives: to document the evolution of classical music and instruments; to illustrate the rich heritage of Gwalior in the field of classical music; to promote the relevance of the guru-shishya parampara in classical music education; and to provide a forum and platform for musicians and scholars to express their art and views before a discerning audience.

The museum conducts regular audio programmes and live performances for the public. The central courtyard is designed as an open-air auditorium for live performances.

The museum will collect and make available to the public a database on classical music in the form of books, articles, papers, audio-visual recordings and photographs.

The ambience of Sarod Ghar is best illustrated by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan in these words: "In this building, wherever you look, there is taal (rhythm)...there is sur (sound)...there is sangeet (music)."