YaadeinM.A. Sheikh reflects

Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan's memorable performance at the Durgiana Temple in Amritsar.

A nonagenarian, aesthete and scholar of high repute, M.A.Sheikh has been associated with the musical circles of Lahore for almost 70 years and has seen profound changes taking place to classical music. "Yaadein" or Memories is a reflection of  M.A. Sheikh's memorable moments in classical music. The current article in this series dates back to 1945 and details a mehfil featuring the duo of Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan.

The death of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan was a tragedy and tremendous loss for us all. He was a remarkable human being who possessed the traits of excellence, humility, sensitivity and compassion. Apart from his soft nature, the maestro had a great sense of humour and would display a sense of warmth to those who were close to him.

In terms of musical achievement, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan firmly established the Shamchaurasi gharana as a unique and independent stylistic school of Hindustani classical music. The alaap part of his presentation was heavily oriented towards the Dhrupad style and would cast a surreal spell on listeners. His behlawas were characterised by the way in which he embellished each musical note to enhance the poetic content of the bandish and presenting the beautiful aspect of music. The ustad employed certain facets of thumri singing into his performances, helping to increase the popularity of classical music amongst the masses. Unsurpassed layakari or rhythmic interplay was arguably the greatest contribution of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan towards classical music and was seen to be his forte. Ustad Salamat Ali Khan was simply a genius who has left an indelible mark on the development of South Asian classical music.

Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan Ustad Salamat Ali Khan

Although my association with Ustad Salamat Ali Khan lasted for many years at Radio Pakistan, Lahore, I had the pleasure of first hearing him in 1945 at the Durgiana Temple in Amritsar. During that time, an annual musical event used to take place at the historic temple, mainly devoted to classical music. On that particular occasion there were almost a thousand people present on each day of the musical event. A huge tent was set up to cater for the large crowd and the organisers had designed a beautifully decorated stage situated in the middle. During the first evening, I had the pleasure of hearing the performances of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Krishanrao Shankar Pandit Gwaliori, and Ustad Bhai Lal Amritsari. The three giants of the Gwalior gharana gave a splendid display of khayal gayaki, and were given a grand ovation by the knowledgeable audience.

The following evening, I saw that there were two youngsters attired in black achkans, white pyjamas and red fezzes,  sitting on the stage in preparation to open the second day’s proceedings. They were probably aged around ten or eleven, had dark complexions, smiling faces and dazzling eyes. The organiser announced that the two boys by the name of Nazakat Ali- Salamat Ali were the scions of the Shamchaurasi gharana and the disciples of their father, Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan. They had been specially invited from Shamchaurasi as a source of encouragement and would present raag Malkauns. I noticed that Ustad Bhai Lal was also on the stage tuning the tanpura for the brothers. When the performance started, it seemed like a feast of musical notes had descended upon us in the audience. Every member of the audience was amazed and in complete awe of the duo. It was almost unbelievable that boys of that age could give such a fine performance. When the drut portion started, the brothers gave a blazing display of taans, sargams and layakari, which left the audience stunned. On completion of the recital, the brothers received a fabulous response from the audience, many people came up to the stage congratulating the boys and their father. The brothers were showered with flowers, bouquets and garlands and were even offered nazaranas in the form of monetary amounts. It was certain that the youngsters would one day capture the imagination of all music lovers and achieve great heights in the field of classical music. This mehfil was indeed unique and in later years, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and myself often recalled the events of that particular evening.



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