'Vocals enjoy high position'

Inspired to take up sitar at a tender age of three, he began practising on a specially made small sitar. He started performing publicly by the age of six and sitar maestro Ustad Shujaat Khan calls it a natural choice. “When music is all around you, it is natural that you try and imitate the ones you see around you,” Khan tells Metrolife referring to his musical roots that go back seven generations of leading artistes of Imdad khani Gharana - the North Indian school of sitar and surbahar music.

While critics disregard the gayaki ang or the ability to reproduce precise human voice on an instrument, Khan stands by it and recollects his father’s efforts to achieve the versatility.

“I remember my father pulling on the strings of the sitar and changing four to five notes, which is difficult to do, in order to imitate the power of the vocal. That is why, I believe in it and I think it renders a good challenge for instrumentalists,” says Khan, son and disciple of the late master sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan.

By emphasising on the gayaki ang, he says that while vocals are the most important part of a performance, instruments lend the thrilling aspect to it. “If vocals enjoy a high position, instruments render the thrill factor to a performance which can’t be taken away, and when it can do so by being as close to the human voice, it is even more enchanting,” says Khan.

Known for his albums Lajo Lajo, Hazaron Khwaishen, and Waiting for Love, and various music festivals, Khan says improvising on stage is what he strives for.

“I now believe in the free flowing ideology of my performance and improvisations that it entails,” says Khan on the sidelines of the recently concluded HCL Concerts’ Swami Haridas-Tansen Sangeet Nritya Mahotsav.

While “practice” is his message for the younger ones in the field, he avers that during performances, it’s a matter of “having fun”.

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