A passionate exponent of the instrument he
calls closest to the human voice, sarangi maestro Kamal Sabri is
determined to bring the sarangi on to the global music map. The
charismatic artist spoke to Indiatimes about his efforts at creating
compositions that are more of the world music genre, and of
spreading the love of a music that has been unfairly labeled as
Your most recent album is
a departure from past compositions.
The “Dance of the Desert” was released a
month ago. For the very first time a five sarangi ensemble has been
used in its compositions. I have deliberately tried to position the
album as of the world music genre and have used folk melodies from
the desert, both Indian and other influences. One track has
darbouka, an Arabic percussion instrument, piano, keyboards and
guitar. The album has a purely classical track such as the “Guru”
and others which are more of a medley such as “Mirage” and the
You are keen to
popularize the sarangi. Why do you think the sarangi has been a
largely neglected form of art?
It is ironic that though the sarangi is used
in most vocal compositions, to accompany the vocal artist, the
instrument has not received its due. The fault could probably lie
with us artists who are unable to market the versatility of the
instrument. It is the only classical instrument that is capable of
imitating the range of a human voice. I want to explore and promote
the richness and variety the sarangi is capable of producing. It can
beautifully capture so many moods, though most people associate it
with someone’s demise! My albums contain compositions that are peppy
and happy. I would say some of them are pretty much “chill out”
Tell us something about
your film compositions.
I led a 100-string orchestra for a
documentary on the Indian film industry called “Bollywood
Boulevard”, made by Italian director Jan Michelin. I have also
composed for Mel Gibson’s documentary on God. The film, “The Big
Question” required certain devotional sounds that would capture the
Indian spiritual tradition. In India, in the recent past, I played
for the soundtrack of “Khamosh Pani”.
You trace your Gharana to
the legendary Tansen?
Mian Tansen’s great grand son’s disciple’s
descendant taught my ancestor Ustad Haji Mohammed Khan. I am the
seventh generation in the Senia Gharana of Rampur, Moradabad and I
am now training the eight generation.
What has been your
experience with audiences globally?
I remember when I performed at Leon, France,
the venue was packed. What was most satisfying for an artist was
that the audience listened in rapt attention. No beeps of the
mobile, no unnecessary rustling that is so typical of my Indian
audiences. Even when I perform in the USA, I can feel their
appreciation in the silence that accompanies my performance. In
India, listeners get restless after a short while. Moreover abroad,
unless it is fusion music, NRIs keep away from pure Indian classical
As an exponent of sarangi
music, what makes the sarangi so special?
Have you seen how the sarangi is held? It’s
held close to your heart. Played sincerely, and with true devotion,
it can bring forth the deepest human emotions. Listen carefully and
you can hear your “dil ki awaaz” in the sarangi.