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Ali Akbar Khan excels

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Ali Akbar Khan excels

By MOHAN NADKARNI
The Economic Times, January 29, 1989

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, acclaimed as the greatest instrumental virtuoso of this generation, is also known to be extremely moody and temperamental. If he is in the right mood, there are occasions when he has taken his audiences to transcendental heights.

The packed audience that had gathered to listen to the Ustad at a full concert, organised during the week-end by the Suburban Music Circle of Santa Cruz, in observance of its 52nd foundation day, had this experience. And doubly so, as this was the Ustad’s concert appearance that came after a long time on the city platform.

What puts Ali Akbar Khan apart from several other great luminaries is the profoundly moving strain that imbues his creative effort when he is in an expansive mood. He rose to his full stature as he proceeded to portray his Bageshree Kanada in alap, jod and jhala and backed it up with a gat composition in vilambit and drut both played in teen taal.

Apart from the clear comprehension and precise projection of this difficult raga, which is a fusion of two time-honoured melodies, Bageshree and Kanada, what also struck the audience was the authenticity of the technique and presentation, the unique blend of gayaki, layakari and tantrakari, which constitute the hall-mark of what is known as the Seniya baaz, as exemplified by the Ustad’s great father and guru Allauddin Khan.

In fact, in whatever the maestro played, each swara was full and pure, each beat subtly sensed and each phrase strictly spelled. The superstructure that emerged was as touching as it was imposing shimmering as it did in all its glory.

The composition, heard next, was equally exciting. The Ustad described the raga as Lom-Nat. The name sounded unusual and unfamiliar, too. Sensing, as it were, the eager curiosity of his listeners, he explained that the melodic theme was taught to him by his father in his childhood as in elementary exercise to enable him to acquire a thorough grip over the shudh swaras of the saptak.

True enough, it was a gat composition cast in the mould which was composed of all shudh swaras. In its build-up, it presented an uncanny amalgam of the ingredients from Chhayanat, Tilak Kamod and Yaman. This charming innovation of Lom-Nat had all the dignity and charm of a time-honoured traditional raga.

The third and final piece was a raga-malika, woven around the central theme based on Shudh Bhairavi. The variegated garland, embellished with strains from Sindhu Bhairavi, Bhatiyar, Bhairav and many other ragas, related and unrelated, turned out to be live and sprightly, with pounding rhythmic accent. These came from Zakir Hussian, the young percussion virtuoso, who aligned his artistry to the intuitions and ideas of the sarod maestro’s music.

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