Déjà vu in Jalandhar: Ustad Nishat Khan on his Harivallabh debut in 1974 : The Tribune India

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Déjà vu in Jalandhar: Ustad Nishat Khan on his Harivallabh debut in 1974

Déjà vu in Jalandhar: Ustad Nishat Khan on his Harivallabh debut in 1974

Aparna Banerji

It was five decades ago that Ustad Nishat Khan debuted on the Harivallabh stage with his father, the sitar and surbahar legend Ustad Imrat Khan. Their gharana, Imdadkhani, has been serving classical music for seven generations. Nishat Khan’s London debut (also with his father) at Queen Elizabeth Hall earned him “daad” from Pt Ravi Shankar himself, who sat in the first row. Amidst the 30-second bytes vying for social media attention, Khan’s musical philosophy still advocates slowness and restraint as he harbours a subtle disdain for live streaming and advertising oneself on social media. “Music is meant to be savoured by those who show up,” he says.

The Imdadkhani legacy

“We hail from Etawah. The gharana is named after my great grandfather, Ustad Imdad Khan sahib. My father was my guru and teacher. I grew up listening to him and uncle (Ustad Vilayat Khan). My dadi shared nuggets of wisdom from time to time. Our generation worked very hard. We understand the importance of a master. That’s how we learn the technicalities. Every raga has a reason. You can’t learn this on YouTube. Music wasn’t just flowing on my paternal side. My father’s maternal grandfather was Ustad Bande Hassan Khan sahib from Nahan (now in Himachal Pradesh), a renowned vocalist. My father did immense research on dhrupad and khayal. I picked all these and play in my own style, mixing the three angs — tantrakari, gayaki and dhrupad.”

Harivallabh memories

“I first played at Harivallabh in 1974. There used to be a huge pandal right next to Devi Talab; mattresses were spread on the floor. Zakir (Hussain) bhai played with me. We were both very young… it was a wonderful concert. Back then, the festival spanned four days and nights and was attended by music greats. People sang and played in intense cold. We would drive through Punjab’s winter landscape. A fan used to bring murgi ka achaar (chicken pickle). Their kids met me this time too. Jalandhar had this entire cultural thing going. It makes me very nostalgic. It kindles stories and associations.”

Ensemble Gilles Binchois

“‘Meeting of Angels’, my collaboration with Gregorian chant choir Ensemble Gilles Binchois, definitely involved spirituality — that was the only reason I did the project. You feel that energy, vibration and space. I played with the silences. My sentiment needed to come across.”

Cities impact music

“Where you live has a huge influence on you as a musician. In Bengal, where I grew up, I played sitar for my friends all the time. Kolkata was vibrant with music conferences those days. People listened to greats such as Amir Khan sahib, Ali Akbar Khan sahib, Bismillah Khan sahib and Amjad Ali Khan sahib. I was also fortunate to have spent time in Bombay and Delhi. In Delhi, my friends — Shafaat Ahmed Khan, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, Madhup Mudgal — and I would talk of music, eat and walk in Old Delhi… I was a huge movie buff and would visit theatres every second day. I could see an Amitabh Bachchan film 11 times.”

Social media and artistes

“The issue with live streaming is that there’s no vibration. People must show up in person to listen to concert music. Someone else handles my social media accounts. I have a glamorous life, but it’s private. I don’t feel the urgency to put my Starbucks visit or music out on it. For those doing it, I’d advise caution. That 30-second attention-span syndrome is in fashion. But in classical music, it’s often inadequate and dangerous.”

#England #London

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