For the last five years, Fazal Qureshi, one of the three sons of tabla maestro, late Ustad Allah Rakha Khan, has been organising a tribute concert to celebrate his father and mentor’s birthday (April 29). This year too, the tabla player is back with the event, called The Journey Continues, albeit a little late.
"I'm organising the show in May this year because I didn't get any auditorium last month," explains Qureshi. Every edition of the show follows the same philosophy — the teachings of your mentor remain with you even in his/her absence. "Apart from this, the event is also a platform that brings together different kind of music to create unique combinations, and explain the possibility of a connection between them," says the musician. This edition will see six artistes — santoor player Rahul Sharma, saxophonist Anders Hagberg, oud (string instrument) soloist Ahmad al-Khatib, guitarist Sanjay Divecha, sarangi player Sabir Khan, multi-percussionists Varun Sunil and Qureshi — taking the centre stage.
"While my father was a classical musician, he was one of the few people of his time who collaborated with musicians from across disciplines. This may be very common nowadays, but in the '60s, it was unique," says Qureshi, explaining his decision of holding a fusion concert. While Qureshi will be presenting a concert in the city, his elder brother, and celebrated tabla player, Ustad Zakir Hussain, will not be part of the event. "He will be performing at an event to honour our father in the UK. So, he won't be able to attend the concert," says Qureshi, who admits that in his initial years, he was often compared to his brother. "I was always compared to my father and brother, and there were too many expectations. However, I got over that very soon. There were times when I thought I have done a great job, but since the audience compared me to them, they thought I’m not as good. So, it was an uphill task to create a mark. But I managed to do it. In a way, it was good for me, because I pushed myself more," says the musician.
When asked if Ustad Allah Rakha was a strict father or a strict teacher, Qureshi quickly quipped, "He was a strict teacher," adding, "The great thing was his neutrality. He paid equal attention to all his students. I have adopted that art too and treat my students the same way."