Friday, 3 May 2013

Dancing to Sarod Music

Of all the musical instruments of the world, Sarod is the only musical instrument on whose tunes’s Shri Nathji has ever danced. In the past HH Shri Nathji had danced only to the Ghazals and the music played by Priya Nath on his harmonium, or casio or the piano. In 1992, there is a ‘sarod’ player playing classical music in a television programme. Shri Nathji listens to the music for a while, and, then, on a sudden impulse, gets up from the sofa and begins “dancing” – waving his hands in the air and shuffling his feet a little bit. It is a wonderful scene – captured spontaneously by Priya Nath on his video camera! A historical dance!
Never before had Shri Nathji danced to any other sound of music other than his ghazals. And here He was lost in an ecstasy of Divine Bliss, His eyes partially closed and His Being in some remote corner of the Universe.
As Shri Nathji decides to end His ‘Dance’, and begins to sit down, the Sarod Player on Television miraculously stops playing and bows out–it was almost as if he had come to play for Shri Nathji's ‘dance’. It is one of the most exhilarating sights for Priya Nath. As Shri Nathji would say:
“Ishqe Ilaahi gorakh dhandaa isske khole pech koyi kyaa
Ek khulaa do doosra mohkam, pech ke oopar pech parraa
“Divine Love is a mystery that no one can unravel,
There is a knot tied on every knot, a veil on every veil”
“Kyaa tamaashaa hai ke hai pardon pe pardon kaa zahoor,
Dil jahaane raaz men, dil men jahaane raaz hai
“What a strange fascination is this–that there are veils upon veils,
The heart is in a world of mysteries and the mysteries of the world are in the heart”
One of the reasons why Shri Nathji liked the music of Sarod, probably is its origins to the Persian Rabab. An instrument which has long been an choice of Sufis and mystics. Sarod has descended from the Persian musical instrument called Rubab. Rubab is a similar instrument originating in Persia, Central Asia and Afghanistan. The name Sarod roughly translates to "beautiful sound" or "melody" in Persian.
The sarod is a stringed musical instrument, used mainly in Indian classical music. Along with the sitar, it is among the most popular and prominent instruments in Hindustani classical music. The sarod is known for a deep, weighty, introspective sound, in contrast with the sweet, overtone-rich texture of the sitar, with sympathetic strings that give it a resonant, reverberant quality. It is a fretless instrument able to produce the continuous slides between notes known as meend, which is important to Indian music. Historians that attributes its invention to the ancestors of the present-day sarod maestro, Amjad Ali Khan. Amjad Ali Khan’s ancestor Mohammad Hashmi Khan Bangash, a musician and horse trader, came to India with the Afghan rubab in the mid-18th century, and became a court musician to the Maharajah of Rewa (now in Madhya Pradesh). It was his descendants, notably his grandson Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash, a court musician in Gwalior, who changed the rubab into the sarod we know today. The sarod in its present form dates back to approximately 1820, when it started gaining recognition as a serious instrument in Rewa, Shahjahanpur, Gwalior and Lucknow. In the 20th century, the sarod received some finishing touches from the great musician Allauddin Khan.
The conventional sarod is a 17 to 25-stringed lute-like instrument. The lack of frets and the tension of the strings make the sarod a very demanding instrument to play, as the strings must be pressed hard against the fingerboard. Thus very few people have been able to learn and master this. The finest Sarods are made by Hemen Sen of Calcutta. Most of the well known players such as Amjad Ali Khan, Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Brij Narayan, Alam Khan and many others play Hemen Instruments.
Primary research suggest (This is not yet confirmed, we can do that once we are able to source that recording of the event made by HH Priya Nathji.) that the Sarod player whose performance Shri Nathji saw in 1992 was probably Ali Akbar Khan (14 April 1922 – 18 June 2009), often referred to as Khansahib or by the title Ustad, was a Hindustani classical musician of the Maihar gharana, known for his virtuosity in playing the sarod. Khan (Whose photo is given here) was instrumental in popularizing Indian classical music in the West, both as a performer, and as a teacher. He established a music school in Calcutta in 1956, and the Ali Akbar College of Music in 1967, which is now located in San Rafael, California and has a branch in Basel, Switzerland. Khan also composed several classical ragas and film scores. He was a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Music  at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Trained as a musician and instrumentalist by his father, Allauddin Khan, Khan first came to America in 1955 on the invitation of violinist Yehudi Menuhin and later settled in California. Khan was nominated for five Grammy Awards and was accorded India's second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, in 1989. He has also won a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts's National Heritage Fellowship.
 Of his training on the sarod, he wrote:
“If you practice for ten years, you may begin to please yourself, after 20 years you may become a performer and please the audience, after 30 years you may please even your guru, but you must practice for many more years before you finally become a true artist—then you may please even God.”
And if it was indeed him, whose performance Shri Nathji saw on television, then he was indeed able to please God. 

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