Friday, July 27, 2007

Ustad Vilayat Khan - Sitar Recital

Ustad Vilayat Khan - Sitar Recital
HMV ECSD 2857 LP (1980)

Raga Maand-Bhairav (alap) (21:35)
Raga Mishra Maand (gat in trintaal) (21:08)

""He died unaccompanied by the usual media noises, which in itself shows the calibre of the man," says an old world connoisseur, admiringly. "He did not receive the recognition he deserved," admits a fellow artiste, ruefully. A chagrinned musicologist confesses, "I know more about Pandit Ravi Shankar than about his equally great, perhaps greater, contemporary."

In a sense these voices summed up the life of Ustad Vilayat Khan, of unimpeachable musical lineage, uncompromising towards the art he practised. Awesomely brilliant in technique, yet capable of making you forget all that virtuosity in the emotion he evoked on the strings, a man who brought a lump to your throat when he broke into singing now and then... It is difficult to speak of Ustad Vilayat Khan without running into superlatives.

When he died of lung cancer (March 13) at 76, not only his music, but many doughty values died with him, never mind that he had also been childish, even mulish, often at the wrong times.

The man was a paradox; that was his bane and his charm. He knew that on the sitar he was peerless ; that this did not bring razzmatazzish celebrity status was to him both a matter of pride and resentment. His acrimonious feuds with contemporary and "international star" Ravi Shankar are too well known to be repeated here. In calmer moments Khansaheb could admit that the combat was stupid.

Vilayat Khan could turn down National awards because he felt that the selectors were not competent judges of his music, and yet get annoyed when the Bharat Ratna went to Pandit Ravi Shankar. Early in his career he boycotted the AIR in protest against its audition policies. "With fewer disciples, few recordings, radio/TV recitals, and dislike of the media, how could he be as well known as Panditji?" shrugs sitarist nephew Shahed Parwez, to whom Khansaheb remains the ideal musician. What he doesn't mention is the mood swing from the honeysweet to the irascible. Ask Khansaheb for an interview at a Delhi hotel and he says, "Don't want to waste time on ignoramuses. Can you sing the shuddh and tivra madhyam correctly'." You comply, hoping that your giggles will not make the notes wobble. Nodding, he says, "Not here, come to Dehra Dun and stay in my house for a few days. I will tell you the story of my life." You fix the dates and turn up at his house in Clement Town and he announces, "You can't stay here, we have guests." So you find a hotel and return to a house with non-existent guests. But Dr. Jekyll greets you now, all hospitable conviviality. Nothing can stop the flood of words either, though he does say (luckily without insisting), "You are going to make a name with my interview. You should pay me." ~ the Hindu" ~ Magic of Juju