A mix of old and new
City-based young sitar player Shakir Khan of the Etawah Gharana, hopes to re-define how Classical music is perceived and fused with Western genres in his upcoming albums
Q. We hear that you were introduced to sitar at a very young age. Was it tough growing up to be a musician?
A. I was first introduced to sitar when I was three, and I had my first solo performance at the age of 11. The journey has been a splendid one. It has led me from creating Classical music to acquiring the technique of applying it in Contemporary collaborations and performances. I have also recorded with the European Jazz ensemble, Taalism, and Indian bands like Mukti and Soundscape, and entertained audiences all over the world including in the US, Canada and Europe.
Sitar player Shakir Khan
Q. Besides, it always helps to have a learned musician like your father Ustad Shahid Parvez as a teacher, does it?
A. Yes. I have learnt tons from him and he has been a constant guide throughout my career. He gives me the ability to take the great musical tradition (of Etawah Gharana) ahead as well as stand tall in the era of Contemporary music with live performances and the musical energy that my fingers create on the sitar. I shall always treasure this.
Q. Tell us a bit about the musical tradition of the Etawah Gharana.
A. The Etawah Gharana comes from the Etawah village on the banks of river Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh. I am an eighth generation musician from this Gharana, which has had an unbroken chain. It is based in Uttar Pradesh. It’s also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana after Ustad Imdad Khan, the son of Ustad Sahebdad Khan. Ustad Imdad Khan and his sons Ustad Inayat Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan further went on to make this Gharana a famous one. Ustad Vilayat Khan, son of Ustad Inayat Khan, later modified the structure of the sitar.
Q. The sitar, as an instrument, has changed over the years. What kind of sitar do you use?
A. Every instrument has its own beauty. Sitar happens to be a very difficult instrument to play and the only instrument that can be played both vertically as well as horizontally. Today, we see many changes in the sitar. Earlier, they used to be bigger and harder, today the sitars are small and suited to microphones and larger audiences with good quality strings. The music wire used in a sitar depends on the genre of music one is performing. For example, while playing Classical music, there requires a lot of pulling and bending and thus, the music wire varies. The sitar I use has German-made strings, which are suitable for playing. My sitar was constructed 14 years ago in Delhi. It has been a beautiful companion throughout my journey of music.
Q. Could you tell our readers about the projects/albums you are currently working on?
A. I am just wrapping up two major projects/albums, and am looking forward to an international Jazz project, called Human Evolution, which is a musical masterpiece made in collaboration with musicians from Spain and Portugal. It merges Western European music with liberal roots of traditional Indian music. My second musical project/album goes by the name of Taurat, which means To Express. This album will redefine not only me as a musician but will also change the way Classical music can be fused with other genres. Ranging from Jazz/Blues tracks to EDM, Taurat has everything in a nutshell.
Q. Where do you enjoy performing the most, at home (Pune) or away?
A. In spite of performing all over the world, Pune holds a special place in my heart. The city is a cultural hub for music with a lively audience. I have had some of the best performances and experiences here, the Savaigandharava Music Festival being one of them.