Its 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 Pahadi ‘Saiyyan 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!