Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ghulam Farid Nizami...

What: A review of a concert of Indian Classical Music
Who: Ustaad Ghulam Farid Nizami (Sitar) and Shiv Naimpally (Tabla)
Where: Radiance Dome, Austin, Texas
When: 7:30 pm-9:30pm May 14, 2010

This review is offered as a service to the community interested in Indian Classical Music. We believe that reviews can be important channels for feedback to the artists, audiences and aficionados of music and are necessary to keep the field vibrant and the discussion lively. In this spirit comments on and reviews of this review are also most welcome.

The concert began with Raag Madhuvanti an evening melody that is supposed to remind one of the scent of honeysuckles and other flowers at dusk. Nizami's Sitar was well tuned and he was able to capture the mood of this exquisite Raag in the short Alaap and the Vilambit (slow tempo) and Drut (fast tempo) Gaths (compositions) that followed. He was ably accompanied by Shiv Naimpally who gave solid rhythmic support. The next Raag was Iman Kalyan a popular evening Raag whose main moods are peace and devotion. Nizami once again did a great job of evoking the mood of the Raag in a short Alaap followed by two Gaths in slow and fast tempos respectively.

After a short intermission (during which Samosas, cookies and Chai was served in the Dome) the second half opened with Nizami presenting the vocal music part of the concert. He accompanied himself on the Harmonium very ably during this part and rendered a beautiful composition in the springtime melody Raag Bahaar and several songs from North India. The opening piece was the famous Rajasthani song ``Kesariya Baalam" in the Raag Maand. Nizami's singing was passionate and tuneful and reached the higher registers flawlessly. The audience could easily relate to the music on an emotional level despite the language barrier and gave the artists a standing ovation.

The concert was billed as a Sufi Music event. Nizami himself referred to it as ancient music (1000 year and 700 year old respectively) from Pakistan. Ancient Pakistani Music? In view of the fact that Pakistan did not exist until 62 years ago I was intrigued. What exactly is Sufi Music? Does Sufi Music refer to North Indian Classical Music sung by Pakistanis? What music has originated in Pakistan since its creation? Why was it that Nizami not once stated that his music was 100% Indian Classical Music?

Perhaps the answers to these questions can be traced to the schizophrenic attitudes of the Mughal Emperors of India towards all things Indian. They loved the Music but hated to acknowledge its Hindu origins from Vedic times and pursued a relentless campaign to Islamicize the music. As a result all Hindu musicians in the Mughal courts had to convert to Islam or adopt Islamic names. A prominent example of this is Ustaad Wazir Khan (1840-1932) the Guru of Ustaad Allauddin Khan (1862-1972) and 19th century leader of the Senia Gharana, whose private Hindu name was Chhatrapal Singh.

It is appropriate to point out that Nizami claims allegiance to the Jaipur branch of the Senia Gharana and has recently obtained political asylum in the US based on his claim that he cannot pursue his music in Pakistan. Indeed the Islamic regime of Pakistan continues to have an ambivalent and hostile attitude to this music and has almost destroyed this rich culture in Pakistan. After attending a concert, the late Pakistani dictator President Ayub Khan approached the musicians and asked them to rename the Raags after deleting the names of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses!

Nizamiji is an excellent artist and a wonderful addition to Austin's growing slate of talented resident musicians pursuing this type of Music. Austinites are generous and liberal but Nizami should not underestimate their knowledge, intelligence and sophistication especially when he performs at a place like the Radiance Dome where the audience is devoted to the spiritual teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the ancient Gandharva Music tradition.

Sur Saadhak

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