The Unknown Legend
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It was in the early '70s when electronic rock reared its head. This was also the time when Pandit Ravi Shankar, who had aroused a lot of curiosity among western audiences, was becoming a global phenomenon. He was livening up the classical music scene with shortened raga structures, in turn altering the perception that classical music did not belong to the masses.
Ustad Imrat Khan had just come to his own. Ustad Vilayat Khan's younger brother and the second son of Ustad Inayat Khan, he traces back his lineage to Mian Tansen. Always overshadowed by his brother at concerts, Imrat's career catapulted after his iconic performances on All India Radio and concerts in Capital — considered the litmus tests for musicians back then. He not only dribbled musical pedigree but his musical elucidation in improvised compositions were complicated and interesting.
So when the resplendent strains of the sitar resonated in Delhi on Tuesday, the second day of the Delhi Classical Music Festival organised by Punjabi Academy and the Delhi Government, it was one of those rare days when legends played to tug at the audience's heartstrings. It also reminded us of the old, purist times, when the same raga was played for hours at a stretch. This was not music to please an audience. Its meditative nature dealt with the spiritual side of the musician. "This is what I grew up with. It is an important part of my taleem. Unlike some musicians, I don't do short classical music performances, nor have I ever become a part of pop festivals or any such hotchpotch," said 77-year-old Imrat, a spitting image of his elder brother, even when it comes to speaking his mind.
On Tuesday, he brought the Imdadkhani-Etawah gharana's trademark gayaki ang (vocal style) to the fore. The notes of the alaap wafted through the air and flowed into a hypnotic drone in a few moments. This is also the technique that Imrat has followed while playing his other favourite instrument, the surbahar, another prominent fixture in his style that made Imdadkhani-Etawah gharana extremely popular in the 20th century.
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