Sabri with his father Ustad Sabri Khan
I talked to Kamal
Sabri in candlelight — thanks to the KESC, which changed
the ambience of Saffia Beyg's beautiful house and made it
more romantic as her son Rizwan promptly lit all the candles
in the room.
"Are you related
to Ustad Sabri Khan?" was the obvious question I asked.
(The Ustad is extensively covered in Daniel Neuman's book,
'The life of Music in North India' and I had read about
him, though never had luck to go to any of his con-certs.)
"He is my father."
Kamal smiled and I felt as if I had known him for ages.
Kamal is visiting
Pakistan for 'a second time, the first was when he came
to Lahore in 1992 with his illustrious father, Ustad Sabri
Khan. The 24-year-old sarangi player from India studied
Political Science at Delhi University. He has three brothers:
Sarwar, who plays tabla; Jamal, who is a chartered accountant
and lives in Dubai, and Gulfam, santoor player who teachers
music at Melbourne University in Australia. Kamal represents
the seventh generation of sarangi players belonging to the
Rampur gharana. The late Ustad Hamid Husain Khan, the famous
Pakistani sarangi player, was a cousin of Ustad Sabri Khan.
With the stigma of an instrument
meant for sangat (accompanying the vocalist) attached to it,
the sarangi becoming an instrument for the soloist is a recent
phenomenon, though Ustad Shakoor Khan and Ustad Bundoo Khan
played it solo and made their indelible mark in the realm
of this great instrument. Kamal is strictly a soloist and
has gone places, enthralling audiences all over the world.
The Doordarshan recorded his first performance when he was
only 6, and his first public performance with his father was
when he was 12.
The sarangi, because of its
"innumerable and beautiful tone colours" has been fondly and
aptly called "saurangi", meaning full of hundred colours.
The name of the instrument occurs
in ancient treatises and it is said the "pinakini veena" was
the forerunner of sarangi since it had no frets and had gut
The present day sarangi is the
major bowed instrument of North India. It is made from a single
piece of hard wood. The hollowed lower portion is covered
with goatskin, the middle portion has the board on which to
run the fingers and the box-like upper portion has fixed pegs.
It has 35 to 40 sympathetic strings that provide resonance
while the melody is played on the three main gut strings.
The bow is skillfully run on the gut strings. Unlike any other
musical instrument it is played with the cuticles of the fingers.
The sarangi has the unique distinction
of being closest to human voice in richness and melody and
affords intense emotional expression. Because of the unlimited
span and possibilities for variations, the instrument is great
suited for presenting art music of a high class through solo
performance. One wonders what keeps the young and educated
music lovers, even in India, from learning this wonderful
instrument. Just as they learn the sitar or sarod.