Friday, June 8, 2007

Ustad Rashid Khan declines invitation

Ustad Rashid Khan has declined to participate in this year's North American Bengali Conference. Here's what he had to say:

Dear Debashish da,

I am sorry to inform you that, I shall not be able to perform for your Banga Sammelan Concert to be held this year in.

My experience this year in April, in the US, was a nerve wrecking one. We are Artists, who have been awarded and felicitated by the highest offices in India and abroad. We represent the Culture Heritage of India but I am sorry to say that my experience there was such that I don't think I would want to go there for a second time and face such humiliation.

Hence, I would ask to be pardoned, and an once again taking this opportunity to thank you for having invited me to your conference.

Lots of love & regards to my audience and best wishes to everyone.

You can read the letter on NABC website. Look under the left frame (International Performers).

Ustadji is one of the finest vocalists of Hindustani Classical. He comes from the Rampur Sahaswan Khayal Gharana,and was trained by the famous Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan. We spent whole nights waiting to buy tickets to his concerts at Nazrul Mancha, the Open Air Auditorium at Kolkata. I remember once we touched his feet after a concert. Ustadji is also a glaring example of the success of the Guru-Shishya parampara (which is a way of imparting tacit knowledge) in Indian Classical Music.
A whole day would be spent on practising just a single note. [Link]
Reminds me of a comment in Rock Street Journal: Santana (one of my favorite guitarists) can squeeze color out of one note. Malmsteen's unnecessary speed does not impress me much. Well said!

After hearing him, none other than Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (who comes from the mesmerizing Kirana Gharana) remarked,
"There is now at least one person in sight who is an assurance for the future of Indian vocal music."
Ustadji's rendition of the Yaman is one of the best I have heard till date. If you have napster, look it up. Also hear his Hamsadhwani, a very popular Carnatic raga known by the same name in Hindustani Classical. Here is a clip [10:10 - 7:20; there's a little conversation in between) of Hamsadhwani from Ritwick Ghatak's film 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' (The Cloud Strapped Star).


lakshmi said...

that is sad to here. it is america's loss.

do you know the details of how he was treated during his last concert in america? i tried finding information but could not find anything.

the reason i ask is because i can see problems coming from either side. for example, i can see the indians in america being arrogant and not treating Ustad with the respect he deserves.

but i can also see some Ustads and great artists from india also being accustomed to being revered in india, and not being treated with the same level of reverance in america. but that does not necessarily mean that he was treated with disrepect by the NRIs. it is just that sometimes, these great artists are used to having everyone wait on them hand and foot, tending to their every need, almost doing pranam to him.

i am not sayin the Ustad was this "high maintenance" sort of person - i do not know the facts. i am just saying, from my experience, sometimes what they see as an insult (having to get their own water, having to be more self-sufficient, not getting the kind of god-like treatment) in america is just "business as usual" in that country...and those NRIs might not have known that he was taking these things as a sign of disrespect.

but i've also seen many NRIs act with complete arrogance, even with these grand artists. but if you are a rasika and true lover of the arts, why would you do such a thing? maybe it is because the NRIs send their lackeys to do all the busywork (pick him up from airport, etc.) and these lackeys do not know or care to know who they are helping.

just my two cents!

Holden Caulfield said...


i really do not know what is the cause. for that reason, i have refrained from making any hasty generalizations of any particular social group. i have no knowledge of Ustadji's way of doing things, so i cannot comment. it might be nothing to do with the NRIs, but with other people. if so, it might also be due to some general misunderstanding.

It is difficult to denote exact emotions with precision in an instrumental language like English. i think the letter is an expression of Ustadji's abhimān. It is indeed USA's loss. He is an amazing vocalist.