In the world of Hindustani classical music, the name Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan draws discerning music lovers by the droves. In the same world, the revered Ustad Rashid Khan draws even more. But it isn’t very often that the two decide to match their notes. So on Sunday, when the two came together for a jugalbandi at a concert in Delhi, organised by the Bhilwara Sur Sangam, it wasn’t surprising to see the aisles spilling with people. So much so that the emcee Sadhana Srivastav literally had to wade her way through the people to make announcements.
The colourful raag Pahadi is what appeared to bring out hidden delights from the two artistes. A raag inspired by folk elements, it saw Parvez open the piece with his trademark meends (stretched glides) and Etawah gharana’s gayaki ang. Khan followed it with Baaton baaton mein, with a tonal delicacy that was in complete contrast to the raag he opened with, Shree.
Sitar and vocal jugalbandi is not common because even for the practitioners of gayaki ang, replicating the notes of the human voice on the sitar is challenging. But Parvez’s attempts were commendable. He combines the Vilayatkhani baaj with the style of Ravi Shankar’s school of music (tantrakaari or virtuosity), that has made his technique sought after. He successfully dealt with every challenge that came his way, through bol aalaps, akaars and bol sargams, focusing on the essence of the taan and not the exactness of it. Raag Bageshri, a 16th century raag from Mian Tansen’s vocabulary, appeared in the form of a taraana. Its virtuosity had the audience applauding at regular intervals. However, when in the middle of the performance, Khan stopped to scream “band kar” to a camera person on his extreme right, trying to take a photograph, it seemed rather uncalled for.
The performance also saw Khan finding new dimensions to raag Yaman, a relatively common raag. “Yaman mein rang bharna mushqil hai ab (It’s difficult to fill Yaman with colour now),” he said, before he created some unique permutations and combinations with it. In his prayerful meditation in raag Shree — a north Indian raga that finds mention in Guru Granth Sahib and has an association with Lord Shiva — Khan sang Saanjh bhayi hai, gun gao… Shyam sundar garva lagaye. Sonically, it was a fantastic attempt. Secularly speaking, it crossed many boundaries.
The two concluded with the famous Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan piece, Yaad piya ki aaye, that sounded better in Khan’s voice by virtue of a bias one has had for his rendering of the bandish. Evenings such as these are not just reminders of the dexterity of these artistes but also have the ability to impact the audience and bring their music home.