Saiyyan Bina Ghar Soona

Shafqat Ali KhanIts a small room, no bigger than my living room. A low stage is set along one side. Cushions are laid out on the carpeted floor and chairs are arrayed along the wall. There are no mikes, no amplification of any sort. What a way to hear music! From the lowest whisper of the singer to the highest note, no sooner than the music is created, it finds a place in the listener’s soul. Aaaah the pleasure of it! It took a long time for me to descend from the euphoric highs that the concert left me in.

And to think that I learnt of this concert quite coincidentally on the net! Held at the The Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel, it is about 225 kms from where I live. My husband may not have the burning passion that I have for music but he enjoys it well enough and is always happy to drive me to whichever place I demand that he take me. I have once made him drive me 300+ kms each way for a concert, all in one day, and he made nary an objection! I am grateful to him for that, for this is quite beyond my own stamina.

And this was how I came to hear Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan’s wonderful concert last Saturday. What a singer! I wonder, if you have 500 years of musicians as ancestors, does you DNA get altered? Do you transcend from being a mere mortal into a superhuman being whose vocal chords can perform acrobatics of the perfect 10 variety?  Belonging to the Sham Chaurasi gharana, his ancestors Mian Chand Khan and Mian Suraj Khan have sung in the court of Mughal emperor Akbar as contemporaries of the great Mian Tansen.  Shafqat Ali Khan’s father Salamat Ali Khan and uncle Nazakat Ali Khan were greatly respected Maestros from the recent past and his grandfather Vilayat Ali Khan was a great Dhrupad singer from before. A thought: is the whole Gharana system enhanced by Epigenetic Inheritance ?

Shafqat Ali Khan started his concert with an elaborate Raga Aiman (Yaman). This was followed by a Thumri in Mishra Pahadi. After that there was a superb Raga Malkauns and finally a Multani Kafi in Sindhi Bhairavi. When it came to the last number, my eyes were flowing, headless of the surroundings; I was in a ‘zone’ and when that happens only the music exists, all else ceases to be.

Today’s song choice is the  Thumri in Mishra PahadiSaiyyan Bina Ghar Soona’ of which I found an older recording. The lyrics are simple

सैय्याँ बिना घर सूना
सांवरिया ना आये (मोरे)
याद तिहारी जियारा जलाए मोरा
चैन जिया नाहि पावे 

My home is desolate without my beloved
my beloved has not come
My heart burns with the thought of you
there is no peace for my soul


The last song of the performance was Sanwal Mor Moharan, a Kafi in Multani written by Khwaja Ghulam Farid. ‘Turn back home my beloved’ urges the singer; unfortunately that is all I understand of the lyrics. But sometimes lyrics are unimportant; all you need to hear is the emotion. I found this priceless gem of a performance by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan (father of Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan) which I would urge you to listen to. I find it incredibly beautiful!


Filed under Hindustani Classical Music, Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Salamat Ali Khan, Shafqat Ali Khan

5 responses to “Saiyyan Bina Ghar Soona

  1. Ramesh

    Concerts have a special meaning when you live in a part of the world where your genre is rare. Hence the willingness to go 200+ kms , I suppose. I would do the same thing, if for example Andrea Bocelli came to India, but of course there is fat chance of that happening !

    Have never heard Shafqat Ali Khan before, but your clips are lovely. Great voice.

    By the way, delighted to hear that your living room is as large as a concert hall 🙂

    • hehehe Ramesh about the living room, clever twist of words 🙂 Its human nature, I suppose, not to appreciate that which is obtained too easily.. for all you know Shafqat Ali Khan is performing in Bangalore every month and you remain unaware and uninterested, and here I am taking a lot of trouble for exactly the same thing! Well, its an inspiration for you to attend his next local concert 🙂 Now, what is it that I take for granted here I wonder? Clean air, arrestingly beautiful landscape, trains on time, the quiet…well, I will make sure I appreciate them as they deserve to be!
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Jay

    Suja, bahut khoob. Thank you for providing a change of mood. I had heard of neither singers. Thumri probably excels the most in expressing the sringara and viraha bhava. Both Salamat Ali and his son Shafqat Ali carry the emotion that is palpable. Is that Ghulam Ali who sits right across Ustad Salamat Ali Khan at the far end?

    Listening to music or dance at close quarters in mehfil is truly a privilege. It took me back in time, when a small group of friends, a long time back, drove 200+ miles to listen to L Subramaniam for SPIC MACAY, along with an amateur mridangam player who performed so well that night!


    • I am glad I could introduce you to musicians you have not heard before, Jay 🙂 I have a few CDs of Salamat Ali with his brother Nazakat Ali – bought 20 years or so back. They make a very interesting duo, not as energetic as Rajan Sajan Mishra perhaps but very interesting as a combination nontheless. I totally agree with you that both Salamat Ali and Shafqat Ali have a very emotional delivery especially of their Thumris/Kafis. I don’t get much of an opportunity to go to concerts, let alone chamber concerts like this one. Indeed it was a privilege! I heard L Subramaniam in a smallish (not this small) concert in a church about 10 years back. It was a largely non-Indian audience and his concert was not so traditional but I enjoyed it anyway.

      I was wondering if any of my readers would notice Ghulam Ali! Congratulations on being the first to comment on it 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  3. paritosh

    sanwal moor muahran (sajan moor lay muhaar, yani wapis plut aao) ni taki ro ro men waat haran (ro ro kar tumhari raah taktey har gai hoon men) man man mantan peer manawan (manat maan maan kar peer manati rehti hoon) mula kolo taweez likhanwan (or molvi se taweez likhwati rehti hoon)

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