Shujaat Khan: 'Music is beyond any technique...'

Shujaat Khan: 'Music is beyond any technique...'

Ustad Shujaat Khan will be performing today in Mumbai at a concert

Shruti PanditUpdated: Saturday, September 02, 2023, 10:59 PM IST
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Known for his vocal renditions while playing sitar, Ustaad Shujaat Khan admits that it was a wee difficult for him to get out of the shadows of his father Ustad Vilayat Khan, the sitar maestro.

This Roger Federer fan admits that listening to music is not his favourite hobby.

Ustad Shujaat Khan will be performing today in Mumbai at a concert. The Free Press Journal had a candid chat with him, ahead of his concert organised by Pancham Nishad at NMACC.

Excerpts from the interview:

You often sing Sufi or your own compositions while playing the sitar. A rare combo.

Vocals are magical. Vocals have been given the highest padvi even in the shashtras. Words and melody together touch people’s heart. Insaan ki awaaz cheez hi aisi hai. It touched my heart… for me, words and music together convey the emotions and mood the best. Words are powerful tools that have a profound effect.  

Which shayar do you like most?

That’s difficult to say. To begin with, I don’t read. The lines that I sing are bits ’n pieces that I have heard... Also, I believe that in every ghazal or nazm only a couple of stanzas are killing… or hold you… rest are to fill up space. However, those few words are extremely meaningful.

Was being the son of a maestro overwhelming in more than one ways?

Honestly speaking, in every which way... terrible! It is extremely difficult to grow under continuous pressure. And further down, because I chose to be in the same field, the comparison that followed was no fun at all. And it’s not just me. Anybody born to a famous personality faces this — musicians, film stars, authors… you just can’t handle the pressure of comparison.

When did your father start training you?

I am a young prodigy. My father started teaching me when I was three years old. I was just six years old when I gave my first concert. No regrets. But yes, I lost my childhood to being a master in sitar. But that’s the price one has to pay if one wants to pursue excellence. Nothing comes free. And I wanted to be more than just extraordinary…

When did you decide to be different from your father?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. As I progressed in my career, there came a point when I wanted to make my own mark, carve my own niche. The path I took after that was a natural evolution.

What similarities and dissimilarities do you notice in you and your father... you and your son?

This is a difficult one. Let’s talk about dissimilarities first.

With my Dad: He drank, had a short temper, had quite a dysfunctional life and was very disbelieving — which I think was thanks to his hardships in early life. I always wanted to have a normal family life. I don’t drink, have early dinner and I am not a very social person. I also trust very easily.

With my Son: He doesn’t play sitar to begin with. He is the younger generation who is extremely active on social media and almost glued to his phone. And he is not at all punctual, whereas I am very particular about time. I don’t have any social media account.

Now the similarities…

With my Dad: Both very stubborn and hardworking. And punctual.

With my Son: Again, he is hardworking too. And understands that being a good person is most important and believes that creating your own dignity is hardwork while success is destiny.

How has time and technology changed methods of teaching classical music?

Nothing has changed. Has technology reached a stage where you can’t learn or practice and yet achieve excellence? No. You have to do it yourself. I never teach on Zoom.

Because music can’t be imparted via a screen. Music is beyond any technique... it starts at the end of the technique.  

What kind of music do you listen to?

I don’t, usually, listen to music. Apna to bilkul nahin suntaa. But… sometimes I listen to my father, Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar or Shivkumar Sharma. Fusion bores me. Aaj ke filmi gaane to samajh mein nahin aate. Naushad, Madan Mohan, Pancham… that was a different era. Aaj toh ek hookline pakdke – most often purane gaane ki – aage kuch tod phod karte hain! However, I must state here that even today there are some good, sincere musicians and singers like Arjit Singh.

What’s your inspiration?

Don’t know... seasons, beauty, smile, laughter, poetry, flowers.

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