The Week, April 2012
The music, I know is the music given to me by my father who was also my guru, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan. This is the music I know. Everything I have played in my entire life can only be a result of the legacy that has been bequeathed to me by my father. The Guru Shishya Parampara is a very appealing and sacred title. Shishya in Hindi and Shagird in Urdu have the same meaning which is student. This age old relationship is diluting and also dying fast. The role of Guru was challenging and equally challenging was the role of the student. Most of the established musicians today belong to this era and time. There use to be test of a Shishya’s patience and dedication. Eventually very few Shishyas or followers could survive those vigorous and emotional tests. India is the only country where we had various kinds of Gurus in every field. Unfortunately some Gurus have taken advantage of their innocent followers. To achieve anything you need determination and hard work. The greatest example is the Guru Dronachrya and Eklavya relationship. Though the Guru was helping his favorite Shishya Arjuna but with determination, devotion and love for the Guru Eklavya also achieved what he wanted.

I feel so thrilled to see the technical industry completely taking over the music world by storm. It seems that now an artist is incomplete without being well versed technology, particularly sound technology and its intricacies. One has to do everything from handling a laptop on stage to playing a raga created in the 15thcentury! I have rarely concerned myself with the technical aspects of the music recording process which seems to consume the present generation of both musicians and music lovers. Finally it is the substance of music that matters. However well or uniquely the music is recorded, it is the music that makes it worthwhile and not the recording technique. We listen with enchantment on shellac (the technique is now outdated and obsolete), 3 minutes old records of musicians like late Bade Ghulam Ali Khan or D V Paluskar recorded 40-50 years ago. These 3 minutes of recordings possess three and a half life times of pure bliss. That is because the art was greater than the recording technique. Though I have many studio recordings, personally I am a supporter of live recordings. They have the immediacy and surprise of public concerts. There is the old saying that, ‘aspects of music, cooking and a turban never come out the same way twice'. These recordings come out with a particular magic on these occasions. They will never be repeated. Next time around they may be better but never the same, I feel that those who will listen to a live recording of any artist will feel the electricity that accompanies concerts which is its principle thrill and pleasure. That it can happen in this fashion again and again in the lives of so many musicians is what has kept this art alive and rich through all these centuries. A live recording, which has no retakes, is indeed a tribute to the art. It is time now we must realize we must learn to balance technology with Tradition.

My second presentation of my ongoing 4-concert residency at the Wigmore Hall in London had its sell out second concert featuring Sanjay Subrahmanyan from the South Indian tradition followed by my performance. I presented my concert in the Dhrupad style that is a rare style of classical music in which the use of embellishments does not exist. The usage was more of long glides both for vocalists and instrumentalists. I was accompanied by Fateh Singh Gangani on an ancient drum called Pakhawaj. It is the standard percussion instrument in the Dhrupad style. The pakhawaj has a low, mellow tone, very rich in harmonics. The larger bass-skin is played with the left hand, the treble skin by the right hand. The bass face is smeared with wet wheat dough. The bass skin is traditionally prepared for playing with the instrument by a batter of flour and water which is freshly applied each time to receive its low-pitched resonance making it sound very majestic.