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Westerner’s virtuosity on sarod

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Westerner’s virtuosity on sarod

The Economic Times, January 15, 1989

Ken Zuckerman in the 1980s.

Ken Zuckerman in the 1980s.

Yet one more westerner astounded his Indian audience by his virtuosity in Indian instrumental music at an evening concert at the Dadar-Matunga Cultural Centre last week.

It was thoughtful of Rageshwareee, a modest but very active institution in the field, to thave spotted and projected a visiting Swiss artiste, Ken Zuckerman, on its platform. It would be no overstatement to make that the 36-year-old virtuoso presented claims to unstinted recognition by his two-hour recital.

Zuckerman, who conducts a center for the study of Hindustani music in his home town, Basle, has received intensive grooming from the world-renowned sarod maestro, Ali Akbar Khan, for 15 years. His last week’s performance fully vindicated his shagirdi with his distinguished mentor, as few of the Ustad’s Indian disciples can rightful claim.

Zuckerman began with a one-hour depiction of a difficult raga, Bageshri Kananda, which is in vogue in many variations. He apparently choose the version pioneered and popularized by Ustad’s great father and guru Acharaya Allauddin Khan of Maihar, rightly called a phenomenon that simply came off on the musical firmament of North India in the early years of this century.

For, in its form and fashioning, the unfolding in alap, jod and jhala, followed by a gat composition with a two-tier faster number, all rendered to teen-taal, embodied a rare fusion of Bageshri and Kanada. The melody proceeded from a tranquil grace gathering steady momentum which reflected the artiste’s powers of visualization. Every note was full and pure, every pattern imaginative, and every sequence heartwarming.

When the artist switched over to his gat compositions, we were witness to many felicities of his talent and imagination which revealed themselves in his extempore improvisations. So was his command of layakari and taal. In sum, the sound-picture that emerged was grand and dignified in its impact.

No less charming was the gat bandish in Shivaranjani which he played first in vilambit in rupak taal and then in teen taal drut, after a brief prefatory alap. Here, again, the artiste displayed his finesse for handling melodies with involved tonal substance without compromising the qualities of authenticity and artistic freedom. Specially absorbing was the lilt of rhythm that characterised the drut number.

The final lighter item, again a gat composition based on a melange of Kafi and Khamaj, evoked bitter-sewee feelings, so characteristics of the Maihar parampara. Above all, the artiste was seen completely involved in his creative processes from start to finish. His expression reflected the pure sensuous joy that he derived from his music. And he shared it in equal measure with his appreciative listeners.

Indeed, here was a Westerner who could manage, with such success, to identify himself with musical tradition of his adoption by sheer dint of dedication and determination – a rare example worthy of emulation by our Indian performers.

Young Nayan Ghosh, who has already made the grade as a sitarist and percussionist, deserves fulsome praise for his adroitness and skill on his tabla.


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