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Bringing Sarangi to the world
Deepanjali B Sarkar
/photo.cms?msid=1885294 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 mournful.
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 “Gypsies Song”.
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” music.
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 music concerts.
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.

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