The Enchanting age old Sarangi and the young Maestro Kamal Sabri.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2001
The enchanting sarangi and the young maestro
KAMAL 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 strings.

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.



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