The Week, January 2014
On the very onset, I would like to wish all the readers a very Happy and Musical 2014. New begins, new chapter are always a fascinating aspect of life. Recently, I was channel surfing and I saw a live telecast of the ongoing historic Baba Harballabh music festival that takes place in Jullundur, Punjab, every year. The Festival was celebrating its 138th year. I saw and heard a young girl, Anupama Bhagwat playing sitar and along with a young Tabla player Nitin Mitta. I had never seen or heard about these musicians but the way Anupama began her recital, my interest was building more and more. After a long time, I heard a female instrumentalist playing with so much commitment and dedication. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her music especially as women in India are so caught up with social and domestic pressures that they are very unable to pursue careers especially creative ones, or are not allowed in many cases to continue after they are married. Today we find more sitar players following Vilayat Khan or Ravi Shankar including their relatives and students too. There were always very fewer female Sitar players. Two ladies who became famous in the eighties were Kalyani Roy and Jaya Biswas. I too have few lady Sitar students, two who are doing extreamly well in their careers, Saroj Ghosh and Smita Nagdev. Saroj joined University of Chandigarh as a professor and Smita is performing world over.

There are so many unknown or rather lesser known gurus of music today who has really created great artists. One such artist was Bimalendu Mukherjee, who had invited me to Bhilai in Madhya Pradesh for a concert. I still remember his son young Buddhatiya Mukherjee was standing in the wings throughout my concert. Latif Ahmad Khan was playing Tabla with me. After concert Bimalendu Dada (as I called him) invited us for dinner at his residence. After dinner around at 2am, he wanted us to listen to his young son Buddhaditya. We shifted to his practice room where he was ready with electronic sound amplification. He began Raga Lalit and he was brilliant. I knew he was gifted and talented, a very promising representative of Vilayat Khan’s school. Among the old legendary Sitar greats were Imdad Khan, Enayat Khan, Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar, Mushtaq Ali Khan, Abdul Halim Jafar Khan and Nikhil Banerjee etc.

Sufi saint Hazrat Amir Khusro, created Sehtar (it’s a Persian word which means instrument of three strings), later on it became Sitar. Besides the Sitar, he created many styles of singing as well, including Qawwali and Tarana.

The descendants of Tansen played the Rabab, Rudra been, Sur Singar and Sitar. Legends like Raheem Sen, Amrut Sen, Niyamat Sen and Lal Sen. In fact Amrut Sen became the fountain head of Sitar style of the family of Tansen. Some of these artists lived in Gwalior, Rampur and Jaipur. Jaipur was always connected with Dhrupad and Khayal but there were great Sitar players in Jaipur. There was another great sitar player of Jaipur among the Senia tradition, the legendary Amir Khan (not the famous Vocalist), the brother-in-law of Amrut Sen. Amir Khan was also court musician for the Scindias of Gwalior.

Inayat Khan Pathan started the ‘Sufi Order’ in the West in 1910. He wrote many books on music connected with Sufism and travelled overseas the same year. In the year 1908 he recorded for Victor Records in Kolkata. Inayat Khan received the highest recognition and honors for his artistic accomplishments. The family settled in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris. Sufi Inayat Khan’s memorial is on the out skirts of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia’s Dargah in New Delhi. He created a school of spiritual training with groundbreaking insight on the unity of religious principles and the coming awakening of the human spirit to its inborn spirituality and mysticism.