Inherited, then bettered

Inherited, then bettered

Ustad Rashid Khan upholds a traditional tenet of classical music - Rampur Sahaswan Gharana

Ustad Rashid Khan

The erstwhile royal court of Rampur has been an oft-repeated reference point of classical musicians for its patronage of the tradition. A noteworthy outcrop of this patronage is the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana. Seeped as it is in history and lore, it holds the distinction of not seeing a decline till date as it has continued to field maestros, and one among them is Ustad Rashid Khan.

Groomed by his grandfather, the late Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan had an edge over the other gharana musicians of his family as he went to Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) where the practice of gharana tenets was mellowed and perfected with scientific methods of voice control and performance etiquette. This “double grooming” came about as his guru had joined the institution as a faculty musician after his years as an active performer had taken a back seat.

In the academy, where every faculty member is given the opportunity to choose their disciples, the senior ustad had placed the succession cap on teenage Rashid, who had accompanied his nana as a disciple under this scheme of music promotion prevalent at SRA. Naturally, his first public concert was on the stage of the ITC Sangeet Sammelan music festival, where he was featured as the entrant of the year.

The training years under the maestro in Kolkata had been a duplication of the customary practices of a gharana artiste. The guru demanded exactitude. In addition to the gharana niceties and complexities that he imbibed, the disciple was also made aware of voice modulations through a scientific assessment. This helped him in acquiring vocal finesse — a pleasing tonal blend. This dual-pronged approach has lived on in his vocal character. The ustad’s music is a treat for listeners of all ages, and at home and abroad.

In later years, after moving from his scholastic makeover, Ustad Rashid Khan has given his music a flavour and character of his own. For one, his concert performances feature accompanists. It is not unusual to listen to both the harmonium and the sarangi when he performs. The tabla, too, displays a vigorous and individual expertise, which balances the vocalist’s strong vocal pitch amiably.

Disciples on stage with the guru are more than in single figures, and the passages rendered by them go beyond holding of the note in between the singing of the principal performer. 

Being a taan-pradhan gharana, where syllabic content of raga delineation is paramount, the ustad takes pride in stating that the patterns he expounds is rooted in tradition deeply. “There is so much existing that I do not need to elaborate. I try to perfect and imbibe what my elders have passed on to me,” he explains.

Yet, a listener can easily gauge the emotion behind his melody and lyrics. The bols taans or sargam (note patterns) are sung with lucidity, and are a step-by-step progression within a raga.

Finally, his tarana and thumri enthrall his audiences.

The bonhomie continues offstage as many of his listeners convey their appreciation for the concert to the ustad. Here, Ustad Rashid Khan appears like the neighbour next door and suffuses his exchanges with pleasant small talk.