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Shujaat Husain Khan

- wins a Grammy nomination

by.

Gyan Marwah

Shujaat.jpg (64664 bytes)
Shujaat KhanÖ.Rare recognition for musical prodigy.

 

With his Grammy nomination for the album The Rain, Shujaat Husain Khan has reason to smile. The nomination has finally given him an identity all his own and pulled him out from under the wings of his towering father, Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan.

It has taken Shujaat Husain Khan all of four decades to emerge from the shadows of his legendary father Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan. One of the few who have managed to make a name in a field so dominated by a father, he has defied the odds and is today on the threshold of global recognition.

With his album, The Rain being nominated for the Grammys, Shujaat has managed to wipe out the myth that celebrated Indian classical gurus unfairly push their children in the music world at the cost of other deserving prodigies.

Today, at 43, this seventh generation musician from the Imdad Khan Gharana has reason to smile. The nomination has finally given him an identity all his own and pulled him from under the wings of his father Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan.

"Itís a euphoric feeling being nominated for the biggest award the global music industry can offer. Iíve a lot to thank Abba for. Since my childhood he has given me one advice,"Give your heart and soul to music and leave the rest to destiny, " says Shujaat who is a visiting faculty member at Darlington School of Music in England, as also the University of Washington and the University of California.

A seasoned musician who has performed at the Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall and was the sole artist to represent India at the U.N. Assembly in Geneva, Shujaat is also the recipient of the highest honour for a classical musician--- Rashtriya Kumar Gandharva Sammaan in 2001.

 

If he wins the coveted Grammy on February 8, 2004 in the Traditional World Music category he will be just the fourth Indian to ever achieve that honour after Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Husain and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

" While recording the album we had a gut feeling we were onto something big," says Shujaat who is accompanied by Sandeep Das on the tabla and Kayhan Kalhor on a Kamancheh (Iranian bow-stringed instrument called the spike fiddle). The Rain, recorded in Switzerland, was released by a German label but is not available in India yet.

Shujaat says it would not have mattered even if it had been released in India because chances were it would have gone unnoticed. He says Indians applaud a musician only after he or she has been acknowledged in the west. "Maybe thatís a hangover of the British Raj but unfortunately that is our psyche. We appreciate only those artists who have been recognized in western countries."

The Rain, says Khan, is a collaborative effort between the three musicians---himself, Kalhor and Das. It is a soulful and haunting body of music that explores different traditions and cultures. It is east meeting east."

The portly Shujaat began his musical journey four decades ago when just three. His father had a Ďbabyí sitar custom-made for him and by the time he was six he had not just mastered it but was also giving public performances. With age he developed a fascination for singing as well.

Besides music he had another passion - travelling. By the time he was 16 he rebelled against studies, left the prestigious Bishop Cotton School in Shimla and his peripatetic streak took him globe tottering.

" I completely freaked out. At some places I earned money by playing the guitar at others I sang Hindi film numbers. I went to rock concerts, discos and wherever there was music playing. I just wanted to live life like any other ordinary teenager and thatís what I did."

Once he returned he became a dutiful student of his father like many others. " I would sit on floor and practice for hours mastering hundreds of ragas," says Shujaat.

His undying passion for singing stood him out in the crowd. Soon enough, his mellifluous voice and sitar rendition started creating magic all its own. His approach to rhythm was intuitive, fresh and spontaneous which never failed to captivate the audience.

Not many know that he has to his credit three folk albums Lajo Lajo, Sur Aur Saaz and Hawa Hawa. His fourth, Sukoon with guitarist Satish Sharma featured Sufi and romantic numbers. Though the critics didnít have kind words for any of them, the popular response has been enthusiastic.

Shujaat says till his Grammy nomination he was being judged on the basis of the standards set by his father. " Having a father-guru like Ustad Vilayat Khan gave me a head start but it was also disadvantageous as I was always known as Ustadjiís son and not a musician in my own right," says Shujaat still in awe of his fatherís stature.

But the smile on his face vanishes the moment you quiz him why no other students except kids of musical gurus get all the chances. " I donít agree. Do you think I got the Grammy nomination because I am Ustad Vilayat Khanís son? Even if you get a headstart it is always up to a point. After that you need to prove your calibre. If you are not talented then no amount of pushing by your father can help."

For Shujaat, the Grammy nomination has changed all that. Now heís keeping his fingers tightly crossed for the big night on February 8. What if he doesnít win? Shujaat just shrugs his shoulders and says, " Waqt se pehle aur muqaddar se zyada kucch nahin milta (No man gets anything before time or beyond his destiny)."

If he wins, then of course heíll be somewhere between Cloud Nine and the Seventh Heaven.

*****

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