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AFP
March 30, 2009
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A superb recital by sitar maestro

World

AFP
March 30, 2009

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Islamabad

The music trust, ‘Mausikaar,’ in collaboration with the Marriott Hotel organised a musical evening with Ustad Rais Khan and his son Farhan. A nicely done up stage, floor seating with pillows and candles giving out a soft glow — right from the entrance to the venue inside — gave a warm welcome to the guests and created the right ambience for the occasion. Unfortunately there was no spotlight on the stage so the artistes could not be seen clearly but an organiser said Ustad Rais had requested a dim light — which sounded strange as he sat under a bright light when he was not playing!

Addressing the gathering, Public Relations Director Tahir Khan bade them welcome and acknowledged the interest of General Manager Zulfiqar Ahmed in promoting artistes and their music. Introducing the main artistes as well as tabla maestro Mohammed Ajmal, he then called upon the GM to say a few words and he also extended a welcome and asked the invitees to enjoy the evening.

Seema Khan, who established the music trust about a year ago, said she had done it to help keep the classical genre of music alive as well as support the artistes, most of whom were badly neglected both by the government and society as a whole. Thanking the Marriott for its support, she appealed for donations and as requested music lovers to become members so that they could listen to good music as well as help the musicians.

Before beginning his performance Ustad Rais Khan addressed the audience and said he was happy to see so many people present; apologized for sitting on the sofa because he was unable to sit on the floor and was somewhat harsh on the vocal qualities of pop singers, though he said he was not against popular music. In his opinion they should all take some training before getting up and singing!

There followed about forty-five minutes of soul stirring music enhanced by the dulcet tones of the sitar and to repeat the words of praise used by the

ambassador of Syria, Riad Ismat, the performance was ‘superb.’ Since he was the minister of culture in his government before coming to Pakistan, he should know — so, no more to be said! Later Tahir Khan, himself an accomplished vocalist, and other amateur singers entertained the audience, so it turned from a classical recital to a semi-classical concert.

The function was well attended but too many non-serious persons were invited and created a lot of disturbance, especially at the rear end of the hall, turning it into more of a social chit-chat occasion than an event to listen to good music. Mobile phones rang and were answered in loud vices; late-comers trailed in as late as two hours after the programme was supposed to begin, which it didn’t because the Marriott management was waiting for some of its ‘valued customers’ to arrive — they should have been made to stand outside for coming late! For this reason, refreshments (varied, plentiful and tasty) were served first which disrupted the general mood because then it took some time for people to settle down again. Seema, a soft spoken person who is sincere in her efforts to promote both music and musicians of the classical genre, tried her best to get the talkative guests to keep quiet but failed and no amount of shushing and ‘quiet, please’ from others made a difference. This is the tragedy of it all. No respect is given to artistes by most people at large gatherings — they come to see and be seen and in the process those who come to enjoy good music lose out. While the Marriott management’s effort to promote musicians and music is laudable, they should arrange concerts according to the varying tastes of their clientele rather than lump them all together in one public relations exercise.

Ustad Rais Khan is the scion of one of the most distinguished musical lineage of India hailing from Indore and an exponent of the Mewat Gharana Baaj. His brilliant technique of playing the sitar through elegant pacing and blinding speed has gained him recognition as one of the great sitar masters in the world. Rais Khan is also a vocalist — a master of gayaki (way of singing) and is the first one to record the well known and popular geet, ‘Kay ghungroo toot gaye’

Farhan Rais was born in January 1981 and has been brought up under the tutelage of his father and put under rigorous training of both the sitar and the surbahar, at the tender age of seven. Experts say the clarity of his ‘taans’ and his sense of ‘laya’ is truly beyond one’s expectations. He gave his first public performance at the Nazrul Manch in Kolkata in 1991, when he played with his father and was accompanied on the tabla by Ustad. Zakir Hussain. In 2001, Farhan performed at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, and the United Nations in New York. The same year, he performed with his father and world renowned ‘shehnai nawaz’ Ustad Bismillah Khan at India Gate, New Delhi.

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