Sitar maestro Ustad Nishat Khan, who held the audience spellbound in a Jugalbandi (duet) with dance guru Pt Birju Maharaj at the opening of the 44th International Film Festival of India in Goa, will enthrall music aficionados on February 12, 2023 on his India tour.
The word, sitar, derived from the Persian word sehtar (meaning three-stringed) is a traditional classical stringed instrument of Abbasid or Safavid origin, and is believed to have been invented in India around 700 years ago.
According to historians, the inventor was Khusrau Khan, during the Mughal Empire, in the 18th century.
It’s played by striking a ping plectrum known as the mizrab (in Persian) on the strings. There are two types of sitar: sada and tarabdar (or tarafdar). The sitar's distinctive buzzing sound of the string vibrating, called Helmholtz motion, is because of the jawari (parabolic curve of the bridge), causing the string to vibrate similar to a bowed string instrument.
IN THE BEGINNING
Seven generations of sitar and surbahar (bass sitar) players, have directly influenced the evolution of sitar up to the present day. The foremost Indian sitar prodigy of his generation, Ustad Nishat Khan, comes from an illustrious musical family of the Imdadkhani Gharana, named after his great-grandfather, in Calcutta.
Born on October 25, 1960, he was always around visiting musicians, and attending concerts, and started playing the sitar (especially designed for a child) at the age of 3, and gave his first concert at the age of 7 in Kolkata.
Though his uncle, Vilayat Khan, was a great influence and inspiration, Imrat Khan his father and guru, and his grandmother, were responsible for initiating rigorous disciplined taalim (training) and riyaaz (practice). His father let him skip school to practice, instead.
Considering that he has been performing for many years, he has also had memorable moments.
“I’ve had many beautiful moments, while traveling and playing around the world. But, the most memorable moment was my first international concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, in 1977, when I performed. My father, and eminent musicians of the subcontinent, Ravi Shankarji, Salamat Ali Khan Sahab, and Ustad Allah Rakha Khan were sitting together in the audience. It was special, a great honour,” says he.
His invigorating, contemporary approach engages diverse genres of Western classical music – jazz, flamenco and Gregorian chant – and draws on his musical heritage, collaborating with the world's leading musicians, Paco Peña, Philip Glass and Evelyn Glennie.
His first live duet with John McLaughlin was in 1986 in Italy. Then, as a composer and music producer, he composed a special piece Dancing with Seagulls, recorded sitar and vocals on the rock song Love is the Answer by Weezer in 2009.
He worked on the concept of Mélange, a fusion-jazz show that features an eclectic mix of musicians around the world, and performed at Tata Theatre, NCPA. In 2010, in Mumbai, he was invited to perform for the President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
He has performed at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, and at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, in 2004 and 2007. In 2008, he toured across India with violinist Vanessa Mae and performed at the Seagrams 100 Pipers’ Pure Music Show.
‘Gate of the Moon’ concerto premiered with the BBC National Orchestra for the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013, which subsequently toured around the world. His groundbreaking album, Meeting of Angels, with Gregorian Chant Ensemble, Gilles Binchois, has become one of the most successful music albums.
“I have composed a few raga, but, not playing them in public, as there are so many raga. I play them for myself occasionally,” he shares.
About the current classical music scenario and dedication of the younger genre, he affirms, “It’s good. There are many new comers playing a lot of interesting music, but T V networks and print media should run high level articles about performances, bring more artists to perform and make it a more viable for performances so that more people get the opportunity to listen to classical music, more readily.”
Apart from performances, he has lectured at Universities around the world and composed music for the album, Jaan Meri, with singer Anuradha Palakurthi. He has won the Radio Mirch Awards, the Indian equivalent of the Grammy Awards.
He was commissioned a 70-minute orchestral score especially for performance at the Film Festival celebrating 100 years of cinema, and has CDs in raga, Dos, Pilu, Maand, Mishra bhaivari, Jhinjoti, Gawoti, Dhansari, to name just a few.
Sitar maestro Ustad Nishat Khan will perform on Sunday, February 12, 2023 at 6.30 pm, at the Aguada Port & Jail Complex, Sinquerim. Tickets for the show are priced at ₹ 1,000 and are available at the venue.