Ustad Shujaat Khan’s concerts in the Capital are generally well-attended. But when his Imdadkhani baaj is paired with Ustad Zakir Hussain’s tabla on stage, the draw is much bigger. Earlier this week, the Shankar Lal Hall on Delhi’s Barakhamba Road couldn’t be more packed than it already was. With not an inch of space in sight, the winter seemed to be miles away in this non air-conditioned space, as most in the audience struggled to find a breath of fresh air.
Post the deafening applauds and shouts at Hussain’s entry, a surprised Shujaat said, “You all have come for and because of him.” He was right. Hussain’s sporadic concerts in the country, especially in Delhi, apart from his talent and charm, enchant thousands. And those who came, listened in rapt attention, as an alaap, jod and jhaala in raag Jhinjhoti opened the concert.
This was followed by a slow masitkhani gat and some compositions in the melodious evening raga. The concert — organised by Ustad Vilayat Khan Foundation — was a tribute to the genius of the legendary sitar player. “Vilayat Khan sahab once placed a small tabla in a cradle.
That baby was me. This man was a father figure for me and remains one of the greatest musicians India has ever produced,” said Hussain. A screen had been placed outside for those who could not be accommodated inside. If the screen quality was more than just terrible, the sound systems outside were an absolute disaster. As for the acoustics inside, they were definitely better but not like other concert halls in Delhi. One wonders why Shankar Lal Hall was chosen in the first place.
First things first. This wasn’t Khan’s best concert. The meends lacked clarity, and some parts of the concert were sketchy and inaudible at the back. But the gayaki ang that his gharana boasts of, gave us some moments worth standing on our toes through the concert.
As for Hussain, his fingers flew swiftly over the tabla, his head beating the air in rhythm often, finding applause at regular intervals. The hallmark of a good sitar player, among other things, is a great jhaala — the up tempo conclusion in the end. But this one was scattered and lacked soul. A few short compositions that featured in raag Maand later, however, were created beautifully later. Hussain soon settled his tabla with a beautiful theka to accompany the melodious pieces to conclude the concert.
This has got to be a classical concert to have maximum number of people in a long time. But as for the music that was created, one saw some intriguing textures. Musically, the concert wasn’t heartwarming enough.