Friday, March 24

Rare Vilayat recordings retrieved in NY

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After Satyajit Ray’s classics tumbled out during his son’s lockdown clean-up in Kolkata, 12,700km away in New York another legend’s rare recordings have surfaced after his son sought solace in his ill-ustrious father’s music during home-confinement.

A never-before-heard home-recording of Ustad Vilayat Khan in his 40s being ‘scolded’ by his uncle while taking vocal lessons has been retrieved from one of the 300-odd spools that Hidayat Husain Khan inh-erited from his father after the maestro’s death in 2004. Another has the legend playing, and singing, along with Ustad Munawar Ali Khan. These were lying with Hidayat at his New York apartment.

“It is not as if I was waiting for the lockdown to happen to check out the spools. Over the years, I have checked out some 100 spools. These two rare ones tumbled out when I was stuck at home after the corona outbreak,” said Hidayat.

Work on restoring the spools would have begun had the situation in New York not been so serious, said Hidayat from their residence in Princeton, where he has shifted to be with his mother, Begum Zubeda Khan. Just before leaving for Princeton, Hidayat also found another spool containing rec-ordings of his father’s 1979 Europe concert by Mickey Hart (drummer of the rock band Grateful Dead). “The label mentions Mickey Hart, but I have no idea about their connection. The label also mentions the tabla players were Avtar Singh Namdhari and Zakir Hussain. However, I couldn’t check out the content before I left,” Hidayat said.

The sitar maestro had spent the last 10 years of his life at his Princeton house. Till recently, the legend’s car with a registration plate named ‘Sitar’ sat in the garage. The car has now been sold off but many other memorabilia — his collection of Persian carpets, Czechoslovakian cut glass, pipes and shawls — remain at the house. “I have been cleaning his pipes,” said Hidayat.

The house-recording of his father has a huge archival value since almost no other recordings of the legend taking lessons have survived, said Hidayat, adding that it also reveals the relationship the maestro shared with his uncle. Besides, it reveals how a musician of Vilayat Khan’s stature continued to take lessons despite having attained name and fame. “This recording is from the 70s. It was done at our Dehradun house. My father must have been in his 40s then. One can hear him learning from his mamu, Ustad Zinda Hasan Khan,” Hidayat said.

In this recording, Khan is being taught a combination of six ragas. “The recording is really endearing. One can hear abba ask his mamu if he is playing it right. And then, he breaks into the ‘gayaki ang’. In between, there is a hilarious exchange between the two where abba even gets scolded by his uncle. Actually, the relationship between the two was multi-layered. His uncle was just 15-18 years elder to him,” Hidayat said.

Once the situation improves in New York, Hidayat is hoping to drive down to his apartment and start checking out the other spools. “I am keen on hearing the spools. I don’t think I will take the risk of driving down to New York this week. But once I do, I intend to check out the other spools as well,” he said.


Source: Times of India

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