Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Ustad Sultan Khan and international colleagues


Vilayat Khan (1927-2004) was the creator of modern sitar playing, and I had enjoyed his London recitals in the past, without having the knowledge to appreciate fully why he is so revered, as was expressed movingly in a tribute by one of his disciples during this remarkable evening organised by Navras Records, with which he had an exclusive contract in his later years. This well organised event, with colourful stage decoration, served also to launch a Vilayat Khan DVD & CD, which were formally presented to his long term colleague Sultan Khan.

Last night's memorial concert involved an eclectic mix of music given by an international ensemble, led by Ustad Sultan Khan (sarangi) whom I have enjoyed hearing play in London since c.1990.

Ustad Vilayat Khan’s younger son, Hidayat Khan, was booked to commence the concert with a sitar recital, but up to the last minute failed to obtain a visa to come to UK from USA; several of the musicians were to have gone on from London to Portugal today, but they also have failed to receive the necessary visas in these troubled times.

Felix Maria Woschek from Portugal introduced the final Sufi mantras with a moving speech about music to bring together peace and understanding between nations and faiths, the audience, at a far from full QEH, joining in with the refrains to bring the concert to an end.

There was no printed programme (a peculiarity with London's Indian concerts) and the vocal introductions (partly in Indian language) were impossible for noting the numerous names and guessing their spellings.

Ustad Sultan Khan and his son led off with a spell binding set; the sarangi is perhaps the most vocal of Indian string instruments and the young man is clearly another future great virtuoso in the family tradition.

Later Sultan Khan (who also sings) retreated into what used to be the accompanying role of his instrument, from which this great musician had played a major part in its emancipation. Ustad Mohammad Eghbal headed the Sufi music, of which Vilayat Khan had been fond, singing and playing the Persian reed-flute Ney and oriental lute Ud.

Most spectacular was a colourfully turbanned duo from Rajasthan, Anwar Khan and his son Jaisa Khan, the father's full-throated singing of Sufi vocals nearly upstaged by his eye and ear catching son, a dancing virtuoso on the mesmerizing khadtal (wooden castanets).

Sultan Khan's new CD The Longing (Navras NRCD9034) is especially recommended to European collectors for its very helpful analysis by Martin Clayton of the performance of Raga Puriya Kalyan, which has a veritable Wagnerian quality, by avoiding what we would call the tonic and dominant notes of the scale to "postpone the sense of resolution, thus generating a sense of longing".

© Peter Grahame Woolf