Shujaat Khan

As is in life, so in music – there is no short cut. It takes a lifetime to reach a level where one doesn’t have to pull strings for applause. At 42, sitar maestro Ustad Shujaat Khan is one musician who has the audience eating out of his hands. As was evident at the Kamani Auditorium on Tuesday, the opening day of the silver jubilee celebrations of Odissi Kendra, a premier institute of Odissi dance in the Capital.

A lot of people were wondering about my participation at an institute which is primarily promoting dance. My answer is, Indian classical music connects with everyone involved in related art forms – whether it is dance, vocal recital or playing an instrument. I wanted to be part of this celebration also because I have immense respect for Guru Shri Hare Krishna Behera, founder of the institute. I feel he has worked very hard to promote Odissi but he never got his due,” says the son of legendary sitar player Vilayat Khan.

Even after 35 years of performing, he still feels the pressure of carrying forward the torch of his illustrious father. “Initially, it was very difficult because the audience expect a lot more from an artiste hailing from an illustrious family. I have been performing from the age of six. At that time, people would come to listen to Ustad Vilayat Khan’s son. Today, I am glad that I am known for my own style and people want to hear what I like to render,” says Khan.

Tradition is binding but then it has its own luft (loosely translated, it means fun). Khan feels that following the traditional norms in music is not restricting. “Our predecessors have done so much but there is still enough space to explore. So I don’t understand it when people claim that they are creating new compositions and try to disassociate from the traditional classical music,” observes the Ustad.

He seems to represent a happy mix of East and West. Though one would assume that it is only music that keeps him going, that’s not true. Whenever he is not performing at a concert or teaching Indian music at the UCLA, Shujaat Khan loves to indulge in sports (he has just lost 12 kilos) and loves to travel with his family. “We are a close-knit family with common interests,” gives the peep into the Ustad’s home. And no, so far, there is no interest shown by his son to carry forward the tradition. But then as Ustad Shujaat Khan points out, there is enough to explore within the parameters.

          Meeta Mishra (source : HT, New Delhi)

by Shujaat Khan