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Sunday, February 10, 2013

An evening fit for Kings

Today I attended a sitar recital by Shujat Hussain Khan (wiki link) at NCPA. I usually like soft instrumental music, but neither the wife nor my parent s are particularly inclined towards the stuff. And I had insisted they come along. So I was worried a bit on the feedback. To make matters worse, I also had lied to them it was an 30 mins concert, whereas in reality it was 2 hrs long. To sum up, I was treading on thin ice. Dangerously thin.

South Mumbai, has a certain old world charm to it. It’s not claustrophobically cramped for space like the rest of Mumbai. NCPA is even more so relaxed, spacious, beautifully maintained almost an island of peace and culture. 

The inside of Tata theatre; Picture rights reserved

The concert started off with the usual tuning of instruments. The auditorium was almost houseful. This was my first live Hindustani music concert, and I was a bit awed by the erudite of Mumbai gracing the occasion.  

Our seats were decent, but I could detect a faint static buzz in the sound system. I hoped the same didn’t play up during the concert. Thankfully it didn’t. There were some refreshments available which were VERY reasonably priced considering we were in South Mumbai.  

For the uninitiated, including me, Mr. Shujat Hussain Khan is the son of the maverick sitar genius Late Ustad Vilayat Khan. After switching off the mobiles, the show started. We started off on Raag yamani (I hope I have got the spelling & name right). For novices like me, it could have been anything. But the music was good to hear to.

I closed my eyes and just tried to relax. Not trying to listen to the music. Just letting it engulf me.

And then I realized that the theater could have made a killing by selling cough syrup vials or throat lozenges. For it seemed a mass epidemic of irritable throats had seized NCPA. Everybody far and wide, found that moment to test their throats every now and then as if they will be asked to sing next. As the music tempo increased, so did the coughing. If the notes were soft, somebody coughed softly. I stopped counting the coughs after 4,771, after which the epidemic subsided as suddenly as it had started.

But lets come to the music. It was AWESOME. Period.  

The ustaad and his team getting standing applause; Picture rights reserved
My eyes were closed, and believe me when I tell you, I saw raindrops…falling softly, raining hard… light reflecting off the million faces of a diamond…the swish of the breeze… the tinkling bangles of the shy lover, the raging desert storm and what not. I was not imagining them. The music was making me feel them, see them. 

It was scintillating. Two hours of pure bliss. So adept was the Ustaad in his art that if you close your eyes, you would feel there are not one but two sitar players. The undercurrent of softness underlying the overt musical twists and turns can only be enjoyed LIVE.

The two hour show had sitar solo, sitar-tabla jugalbandi, vocals with sitar and some sher-o-shayari at the end. Truly an evening fit for the kings.

After the show, the wide smile of my parents and the wife told me how much they too enjoyed the show. Its sheer genius that his art can be enjoyed not only by discerning connoisseurs, but also by novices like us.

I shall always rue the fact that I never could attend that Ghazal king Jagjit Singh ji’s LIVE concert. He is dead now, God bless his soul.

But today’s evening tells me, that Hindustani Classical music is one of the most beautiful in the world and I hope that in future generations too, we are lucky enough to listen and enjoy maestros like Ustaad Khan and his ilk.