It is indeed a huge responsibility when you have to carry forward the legacy of the country’s legendary musicians, says sarangi player Sabir Khan, son of the late Ustad Sultan Khan. The 38-year-old musician, who has enthralled audiences across the globe with his sarangi recitals, and has performed with renowned musicians such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Ghulam Ali and Asha Bhosle, is set to charm listeners in the city this weekend at a concert titled Udayswar@Prithvi. In a chat with HT Café, Sabir talks about his father, his childhood memories and Bollywood projects.
What changes have you experienced in the classical music scene of the country over the years?
Not much has changed. Even now, we follow the same pattern of ragas for different time zones — morning, afternoon, evening. Only the presentation of music has changed. For example, Indian artistes collaborate with foreign artistes and combine our folk music and raag to their style of music to create something unique. I find such experiments very interesting. I have worked with many western musicians, and even played in one of Lady Gaga’s songs.
Sarangi is said to be a tough instrument to master…
The word ‘classical music’ is appealing to people but it’s very tough to learn. Playing sarangi was a hard task. In the beginning, my fingers would bleed and I used to get blisters. My uncle and guru Nasir Khan Saab would put bandage on my fingers. It was really a painful task. One has to sacrifice for learning classical music. As a child, I used to practice for five to six hours every day. However, if you do a difficult thing repeatedly, it becomes easier.
How did you feel when you first played on stage with your father?
It was my dream to play with my father on stage. I still remember my first concert with him. I was so scared that I didn’t know what was happening to me. My hands were shivering, and they were swollen. I was sweating and my heart was beating rapidly — all this was happening in front of Ustad Zakir Hussain saab, with whom I had always dreamt of playing. That day I performed raag Jog with my father, and it turned out to be a memorable experience of my life. My father always used to say, ‘Beta sikho toh shagird bankar, aur kaam karo toh guru bankar (Learn like a disciple and perform like a guru)’.
Tell us about some special memory of your childhood with your father.
There are a lot of memories attached to my father. I was around seven to eight years old and he was performing in Jodhpur (Rajasthan) with Ustad Zakir Hussain. That was the first time I had heard my father play sarangi live on stage. I sat right behind him on the stage. While listening to his sarangi, I fell asleep on stage. I felt so peaceful [at that moment]; I have not experienced that peace till date. I still have a picture of the concert.
My father always used to say, ‘Beta sikho toh shagird bankar, aur kaam karo toh guru bankar (Learn like a disciple and perform like a guru)’ - Sabir Khan, musician
You are often spotted sharing stage with tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain.
I went to USA for the first time with my father only to look after him during his one-month-long concert tour. There Zakir uncle gave me the first opportunity to play with him. So during the first half, my father, Zakir uncle and Faizal uncle (Qureshi; tabla player) used to play; and in the second half, there was a folk piece that I used to play.
I have played in many concerts with him. I still remember around two years back, I performed at the Deenanath Mangeshkar awards ceremony, which Lata ji organises in the memory of her late father. I was playing with Ustad Zakir Hussain, who had also won an award in the function. After my performance, Lata (Mangeshkar) ji came onto the stage and gave me `50,000 cheque. She said my sarangi recital reminded her how my father used to play in his younger days. I still have that cheque with me signed by her.
You have played in several Bollywood movies too.
Yes, I have played in films such as Dor (2006), Chak De! India (2007), Saawariya (2007), Jodhaa Akbar (2008), Yaariyan (2014), Badlapur (2015) and Dangal (2016). I actually don’t remember all of them but I have played in many films.
Tell us about your future projects.
Currently, I’m composing music for a Mahesh Bhatt film. Another movie in which I have given music should release by July this year in which Bhatt saab is acting. Jubin Nautiyal has sung a song for me in the movie. I’m also going to the US next month to work on a new project with Ustad Zakir Hussain. So, hopefully, soon I’ll share about my new project that I’m doing with him (smiles).