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`An offering to the Almighty'

G. JAYAKUMAR

For Hindustani vocalist Rashid Khan, music is like a prayer.


Just as happiness, sorrow is also part of life. When there is sorrow you are able to sing better.

PHOTO: MAHESH HARILAL

DEVOTEE OF MUSIC: Rashid Khan belongs to the Rampur Sahaswan gharana.

Although he started training at the age of six, it was only when he was 18 that he began to understand and really enjoy what he was learning, says renowned Hindustani vocalist Rashid Khan

In Thiruvananthapuram for a concert, the singer was in an introspective mood as he talked about his experiences as a student and singer.

"As you grow older, experiences teach you new things. Each concert is an experience that gives you a better insight into the minds of the listeners and helps you communicate through your music effectively," says the singer who was given the Padma Sri this year.

Gurukul system

"I studied under the gurukul system. I would get up at 4 a.m. Guruji Nissar Hussain Khan would ask me to take the tampura and sing sur. That would go on and on. At times, I felt bored and would wonder why I had to sing the sur always. Only later did I realise that it was to improve voice quality," recalls the unassuming singer.

His first public performance was at Kolkata. He was then 10 years old.

"I was quite nervous because there were pundits and ustads, including my guru. But at the end of the concert I was relieved when all of them encouraged me with their blessings."

Is there a definite pattern or style in his singing?

Pattern in music

"See, there is a pattern or style for everything. Similarly for music too. No two persons will have the same countenance. That's what makes a person. I belong to the Rampur Sahaswan gharana. I follow my guru's method. When I sing, I begin a khayal with alaap initially and move on to the bandish; the pace is determined keeping in mind the essential features of the raag. Towards the end there will be sargams."

Rashid Khan is known for the emotional content that he imparts to the listeners through his distinctive way of singing.

"That's also decided by the supreme being. The emotional content may be in the alaap, sometimes while singing the bandish, or while giving expression to the meaning of the lyrics. It depends," explains Rashid Khan whose favourite raags include Yaman, Hansdwani, Pooryakalyan, Kedar and Bihag.

When asked why he has kept away from singing ghazals and film songs, he says, "My first love is classical music. But if I get offers where I can display my talent, I would not mind singing in movies.

"Every form of music has its own place. So is the case with ghazal. I do not sing but I like listening to ghazals. I would like to sing Carnatic music too."

Rashid Khan who enjoys taking part in jugalbandis, feels that jugalbandis need two experienced singers or musicians to succeed.

"I have performed with Carnatic singer Seshagopalanji (Carnatic), and also with Shahid Parvez (sitar). The most important feature in a jugualbandi is empathy. We have to understand each other. It is like in a marriage. Mutual respect is important," he avers.

Fusion music

On his role in fusion music, Rashid Khan says: "It is an interesting concept. Talat Azeez calls it `dynamic fusion' when I join Louis Banks, Talat Azeez, and Abhijit. We combine classical and light classical forms of music. For instance, I sing the raag Pooryadhansree. And they pick it up. Talat bhai follows it with a ghazal. Abhijit bhai would sing a Kishore number like `Raina bheet.' In this way it progresses, accompanied by the music of Louis Banks."

Dwelling upon the role of music in his life, he says, "Music is like a prayer or offering to the almighty above. That's how I see it. And life is decided by that supreme being. I am contented. Just like happiness, sorrow is also part of life. When there is sorrow you are able to sing better."

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