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Saturday September 30, 2023

Young sitarist casts Jhinjhoti’s spell at APMC event

September 17, 2023

At the time when the attention span of people has been constantly shrinking, playing Raag Jhinjhoti for over an hour might not have been a wise thing to do, but young sitarist Rakae Jamil successfully pulled it off as his rendition of the Raag created a deeply calm and romantic aura at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC), where his concert was arranged by the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) on Saturday evening.

The Sitar player was accompanied by Yousuf Bashir on the Tabla.

Rakae, who came from Lahore on the invitation of the APMC, is also a music producer and singer. He has also been part of several projects of modern musical genres, but as it was the APMC’s concert, his entire performance was of the classical Indian music.

The performer was introduced by APMC’s Ayla Raza, who informed the audience that he belonged to a family that was deeply connected with classical music as his maternal grandfather was Raza Kazim, a patron of music credited for developing a new type of Veena named Sagar Veena.

Rakae’s mother Baela Raza Jamil is a known educationist, and her two sisters play Sagar Veena and Sitar.

He told the audience that this was his first solo concert as all the other concerts he had been part of included other artistes as well.

Earlier, talking to The News, Rakae said he did not identify himself as the follower of one particular Gharana (family) of Sitar players because he had received training from multiple maestros belonging to different Gharanas.

Rakae started taking Sitar lessons at an early age from Ustad Ashraf Sharif Khan, the son of the legendary Ustaf Sharif Khan of the Poonch Gharana. At that time Ashraf was also young and a budding artiste. Rakae said his first teacher made Sitar-playing a fun exercise for him.

He then took guidance from other Sitar players, including Ustad Akhlaq Hussain. Finally, he went to Delhi to learn from Ustad Shujaat Khan, the son of another legendary Sitar player Ustad Vilayat Khan.

Rakae was humble enough to admit that he was still learning, and for some years Youtube had been his teacher where he listened to and learnt from Sitar maestros.

When he announced he would be presenting Raag Jhinjhoti, he said one of the compositions he would play was Ustad Shahid Pervaiz’s that he learned from Youtube.

The performance started with an Alaap. It was a relatively long Alaap as these days even Khayal singers do not spend much time on Alaap, probably because the audience want the Tabla to join the main instrument as soon as possible, given their short attention span.

A few months ago at the same venue, Rakae’s teacher Ustad Ashraf Sharif Khan had played the Sitar in a Dhrupad style by following Alaap with Jor and Jhala. Rakae, however, followed the Khayal style by playing compositions on the instrument from slow (Vilambit) to medium (Madh) to fast (Drut) tempos.

Jhinjhoti is considered a light Raag more suitable for Thumri and similar lighter genres than Khayal. It evokes romantic feelings associated with love and longing. It sometimes may also impart sad emotions, but Rakae’s entire performance evoked pleasant feelings as if someone is feeling happy by remembering their loved ones.

The Sitar player wisely did not foray into higher notes as it might have created semblance of Raag Khamaaj, another very popular melody that is close to Jhinjhoti.

The performance ended with a deserved applause, after which Rakae announced he was to play a composition in Raag Shyam Kalyan.

Later, commenting on the performance, music expert Sharif Awan said the Sitar player had played very well and showed various facets of Jhinjhoti. He remarked that the ‘Vilambit’ part was not slow enough to be called ‘Vilambit’ and it was more a middle tempo than the slow one. However, he added that music performers were entitled to such artistic licence.

Earlier, in her introductory talk, Ayla said such cultural events must not be stopped due to the economic crisis that has engulfed the country. She thanked the APMC’s partners such as the PACC that allowed the organisation to hold classical music events without charging any entry fee.

She also urged the audience to bring in their children to such events so that they could develop appreciation for the classical music and become the audience for the future musicians. “It is our music,” she said, adding that there could not be any classical musicians in the future if there was no audience for them.