Nature seems to have put in immense efforts to set up a charismatic miracle in the guise of 105-year-old Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan, a timeless celestial wonder and a rare musical genius with perfection in the music realm at its preeminent.
With an old world charm in his gayaki, the living legend and intuitive seer of Hindustani classical music still retains a youthful freshness in his enviable voice, which he attributes to 'Allah ka karm' (Grace of God).
Born in a family of illustrious musicians, the leading doyen of Gwalior gharana was trained by his grandfather, Ustad Bade Yusuf Khan, and father, Ustad Chhote Yusuf Khan. He specialises in khayal, dhrupad, dhamar, thumri and other genres of singing, but not many people know that fifty years ago, when his music was at its zenith, some rival vocalist poisoned the god-fearing Ustad.
However, destiny intervened and the poison affected his physique, but not his voice, which emerged more masculine, melodious and mesmerising.
Abdul Rashid is credited with scores of performances in India and abroad, besides writing and composing as many as 2,500 classical music bandishes (compositions) under his pen name, Rasan Piya. Presently, he is a 'resident Guru' at the ITC Research Sangeet Academy in Kolkata.
Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan is in Chandigarh for a classical music concert organised by SPIC-MACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth), Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi and PGIMER (Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research), Chandigarh. Sharing his views on the journey of Hindustan classical music in the last century, the Ustad says, "Unlike Carnatic music, North Indian or Hindustani music has been subjected to many cross-cultural rampages over the centuries, though it gained a lot in the Muslim rule and royal patronage."
However, the vocalist feels there is a lot that needs to be done to keep alive the Indian traditional music. "India certainly needs a clear cultural policy that is defined and specified to help preserve and propagate the rich cultural and musical heritage. Unfortunately, the'Ustad-shagird' tradition of learning music is fading away, thereby making roomfor formal teacher-taught relations without the sanctity of sansakars (principles). The role of the government is not very healthy, as it decorates the artists with awards without providing adequate financial help.
Comparatively, organisations such as SPIC-MACAY do a wonderful job by reaching out to even remote areas and encourage talent."