SPOTLIGHT ON RAAG-MALA
Scintillating santoor TO COMPLEMENT Agra gharana vocals
By RAJEEV GUPTA
The santoor traces its roots to many places, but it is known to have found its way to India through Jammu and Kashmir, where it often accompanied Sufiana mausiqi (Sufi music).
This hundred-string instrument (from which the name santoor arises) made notable appearances in Hindi cinema in Yash Chopra’s films such as Silsila, Chandni, Lamhe, and Darr, for which the music was composed by the legendary santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Raag-Mala is privileged to present the maestro’s disciple, and one of India’s most senior musicians, Pandit Satish Vyas in performance at the Aga Khan Museum.
Satish Vyas learned music not just from Shiv Kumar Sharma, but also from his father Padma Bhushan (late) Pandit C. R. Vyas, a highly respected vocalist. This unique combination of training under his father and the santoor maestro gave Vyas ji an ability to incorporate gayaki as well as layakari and tantrakari ang in his santoor playing.
In addition to all the major conferences in India, Vyas ji has performed on numerous stages around the world including the Mostra Mozart Festival, Edinburgh Festival and Stockholm Music Festival. He also played for the European Parliament in 2017. Vyas ji proved his collaborative versatility as a guest musician with renowned artistes such as the Jazz/World Music Fusion Group Silk, accompanying the renowned vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, the percussion maestro Shivamani, well-known composer/pianist/keyboard artiste Louis Banks and Karl Peters (bass guitar) at a Barbican Centre concert in London few years ago.
Pandit Vyas continues the legacy of Gunidas Sangeet Sammelan, started by his father in the 1970s. It recently concluded its 41st edition. For his contribution to music, he was awarded Padma Shri by the government of India in 2003.
The second part of Raag-Mala’s May concert features the Agra gharana scion Ustad Waseem Ahmed Khan, who comes from the lineage of the gharana’s great musicians, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Ata Hussain Khan, Ustad Sharafat Khan, Ustad Khadim Hussain and Ustad Basheer Khan.
At the young age of six, Waseem took his initial taalim from his maternal grandfather, Ustad Ata Hussain Khan. Thereafter, he continued his studies from his father Ustad Naseem Ahmed Khan. He was an ‘A’ grade scholar in ITC-Sangeet Research Academy under the guidance of Ustad Shafi Ahmed Khan. Today he is a musician tutor at this prestigious Academy.
Performing is hardly new for this artiste; he first took to the stage at the age of 10. One of his most memorable appearances was the ITC SRA presentation of guru-shishya parampara. The daily Bengali newspaper Bartamaan highlighted it as “the best” of the entire conference. Waseem ji toured France and Germany in 2008 where he performed in the prestigious Theatre De La Villa in Paris. He had a highly successful concert for Raag-Mala Toronto in April 2016, a concert that resulted in requests from long-time listeners for this return visit.
In a recent interview, Waseem ji commented on how a classical musician is groomed. “Those that have the desire to learn, they are already born with that seed. Then, the hard work of so many who surround the child – gurus, parents and family – help nurture that seed into a tree of music”.
Lovers of shastria sangeet are no doubt waiting impatiently to be regaled by these two wonderful musicians.
When and where: Saturday, May 25 at 7pm. Aga Khan Museum Auditorium. Tickets: www.agakhanmuseum.org.
• Rajeev Gupta is a Raag-Mala team member