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.


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