A master at play

Originally set up in Lahore in 1901, the New Delhi branch of the Gandharva Mahavidyalya was set up in 1939 by late Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya. Its tradition of teaching music and patronising the arts has continued till today, and the annual three-day Vishnu Digambar Music Festival is a much awaited event in Delhi’s music calendar.

Ustad Irshad Khan in performance Photo R. Shivaji Rao.

These recitals were a celebration of Saraswati puja, held every year by the institution. The concerts, held in the morning, started with a vocal recital by Kushal Sharma. It was followed by a sitar recital by Canada-based Ustad Irshad Khan.

Born into the illustrious Imdadkhani gharana, originally from Etawah, Irshad is the second son of Ustad Imrat Khan. All his brothers – Nishat Khan on the sitar, Wajahat Khan on the sarod, and Shafaat Khan on the tabla – are also practicing musicians. Irshad has been trained on the surbahar but Saturday’s recital was on the sitar. He began the recital with the morning raga Basant Mukhari, rather obscurely saying “because its basant”, even though the raga has nothing to do with raga basant apart from its name!

His aalap was finely crafted with well thought out sequential musical progression, ending in an uplifting eight bol jhala, typical of his house. His gamak movements were impressive. The gat (composition) in rupak (seven beats ) was his own creation, which he also sang in his pleasant bass voice. He stuck to this gat throughout the rest of the recital though a change of gat would have been welcome as the mood changes with the gat change.

Vinod Lele on the tabla provided appropriate accompaniment; clearly the two players have a good chemistry. The second piece was in Alahiya Bilawal, embellished again with fast tans; the last piece was called Mallika bhairavi, bhairavi with a ragamala.

The concert proved that dedicated discipline, a life long activity cannot fail to result in excellence – combined as it is with an over 100-year-old musical tradition of his family. Not only did Ustad Irshad Khan play like the master he is, he also generously allowed his fellow accompanist Vinod Lele to show his form many a time during the nearly two hour long recital.

It was a pleasure to sit among the earnest students of the school, all totally enraptured in the music, all sitting on the floor. There were a few chairs for the teachers and older listeners, but the bulk sat on the floor in the traditional baithak style.