Scintillating Sitar Performance by Ustad Shahid Parvez

“Our members are really excited about ending this already great season on a high note,” says Nishant Parekh, who is on the programming committee of Raag-Mala Toronto. Parekh is referring to the upcoming performance by Ustad Shahid Parvez, one of the finest and most loved sitar players today.

In a concert season that was packed with well-known names such as Ronu Majumdar (flute), Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (mohan veena) and Irshad Khan (surbahar and sitar) as well as exciting talents like Manjusha Patil (vocal), Hidayat Khan (sitar), Sougata Roy Chowdhury (sarod) and Mitali Bhawmik (vocal), a performance by Shahid Parvez is indeed icing on Raag-Mala’s seasonal cake.

“The reason that Ustadji is so loved is this,” exults Parekh.  “Not only is  he a great tantrakari – the virtuosity of his playing, particularly in the fast passages is a wonder to behold, but he is also terrific at unfolding any raag that he takes on.

One has only to go to YouTube to verify Parekh’s observation. Type in “Shahid Parvez” and one gets numerous hits on some of the best-loved raags such as the morning raag Ahir Bhairav, the late night raag Malkauns or the rainy season raag Miyan ki Malhaar.

My personal favourite of Ustadji is his recording of raag Bihag, a night raag he performed at the Saptak Music Festival in 2004, which is available online. From the introductory alaap and jod (played without tabla accompaniment) to the madhya lay vilambit bandish (medium-tempo melody) to the drut bandish, a fast composition—all this Ustadji performs with astonishing precision over three octaves, while maintaining Bihag’s aesthetic beauty.

“First time listeners of raag music are often surprised at how accessible it is,” says Parekh. “They can often relate the raags to the Indian songs that they listen to.”

To illustrate Parekh’s point, listeners of Bihag can tie the raag to songs like “Tere Soor Aur Mere Geet” from the film Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) and “Zindagi Ke Safar Men Guzar Jate Hain Jo Makam” from Aap ki Kasam (1974).

Toronto audiences will have an opportunity to listen to Ustad Shahid Parvez at the Aga Khan Museum auditorium this month.  He will be accompanied on tabla by Subhajyoti Guha, a well-known tabla nawaz from Kolkata, who has accompanied Ustadji many times before.

Mohamed Khaki

When and where?
Saturday, October 28th at 8pm
Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Drive
Tickets: agakhanmuseum.org
Rishi: 647-521-3816 Manoshi 416-276-5616