Sultan Khan and the Sarangi

Recently, sarangi maestro Sultan Khan passed away – a great loss to the musical community. I met Khan sahab on his 2009 tour of Melbourne, where he performed in the Arts Centre with his brother on the tabla. I will post a clip of that recording – it has a few interesting parts – when he started off, he said “My English is like your Chinese or Japanese – pretty bad”. Then he demonstrated the complex trio of Puriya, Shree and Puriya Dhanashree. In the last raga, he sang the well known khayal ” Payaliya Jhankar Mori” – stopping to explain to the audience the difficult “saas -nanad” (mother -in-law and sis-in-law- who usually give the wife a hard time) relationship.

His performance was also marked by an outburst at the organisers on stage. (about a glass of water).

Musically, I was most inspired by a rather unique rendering of Malkauns that you can find here: (Tarana in 12 beat drut Ektaal)

What’s so special about this rendition? A few points come to mind

1. The points of emphasis are very deliberate.¬† He really “beds” down the note¬† e.g the Ga Ma movement. This is not that typical of Malkauns treatment. It’s more a reflection of the sarangi (vocal) treatment.

2. He introduces a quirky movement (around the 0.16 second mark and again at 0.21) -it is a quick Ga-Ma-Dha movement, done very quickly, but I had never heard this movement before. Note, that this movement is not directly translated in his playing (except at one point). This adds a new “angle” to Malkauns

3. He doesn’t dwell on the lower Dha Ni much – which is pretty much a Malkauns signature- he’s up on the middle octave most of the time

This is precisely the kind of innovative raga treatment that I crave. He also played “benchmark” compositions, instead of settling for lesser ones.

May he rest in peace.