Virasat: Ustad Shahid Parvez on the sitar at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight has to go down as one of the major musical and cultural events of 2018 for me, and the opportunity to see and hear Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, one of the “masters” of Hindustani classical music playing in Edinburgh was one not to be missed. Ustad Shahid Parvez is considered by many to be the No 1 Sitar Player in the world today. Virasat translates to English as Heritage or Legacy.
This concert was presented to us by Indian Arts Connection as part of the Virasat (Heritage) series of Indian Classical music concerts in Edinburgh, and amazingly, this was Ustad Shahid Parvez’s first visit to Edinburgh, so let us hope it was only the first of many in the years to come.
Getting the opportunity to see and hear any musician perform on any instrument at this skill level is always something special as there always seems to be something unique happening and the instrument and musician become almost as one, the two becoming one breath almost, and the musician somehow becoming a conduit for the music itself. That is exactly what happened tonight, and it was so obvious that music, breath, life are inseparable from one another for Ustad Shahid Parvez, and being a seventh-generation heir to the sitar's first family, the Etwawah Gharana, one could maybe expect no less a personal philosophy from him than "Music is my life."
The sitar is a very special instrument and one of my favourite sounds (along with harps, lutes and mandolins), and if some people (myself included) are correct, and the universe is built upon sounds, then I think that the sitar is perhaps one of those instruments that captures some of the music of the creation itself. To watch a musician as special as Ustad Shahid Parvez play is to realise that somehow there is a connection being made to something past what most of us connect to in our daily lives, something almost spiritual. Sometimes, creation seems to allow very special people like Ustad Shahid Parvez a bit closer to its many mysteries, somehow inviting them to see and hear layers of wonder that are hidden from sight to most of us.
I think that part of my fascination with Indian music is its evolution as a musical structure that is different from our Classical European Musical structure. Neither is better than one another, simply different, and if the eyes are as we are often told “the windows to the soul”, then music is “the windows to another culture”. Through music and words we can learn from one another the very best of our different cultures and often merge them and build upon something new without losing any of our individuality along the way. The work that Indian Arts Connection is doing in presenting these concerts is as important in bringing people from different cultural backgrounds together as the music itself, and it is work that needs supported and if possible expanded upon. This concert was made possible with the partial funding support of Big Lottery Fund, The Queen’s Hall and other supporters.
Accompanying Ustad Shahid Parvez on the tabla tonight was Gurdain Singh Rayatt.
I have to admit in this review that despite having a love and appreciation of Indian classical music and its musicians that my knowledge on the subject itself, although growing very slowly, is still very limited, so I am indebted to the organisers for some additional information on tonight's concert
"Ustad played Raag Bageshree. He first played an Alaap, followed by Jod and finally three bandishes in Teen Taal (16 beat cycle).
Alaap is a slow, contemplative exposition of the raga, Jod is a faster rhythmic exposition still without Tabla accompaniment Bandishes are lines of verse with their individual structure that are innovated and improvised around by a interplay between the lead musician and the accompaniment on the Tabla.
He followed this after the interval with a Mishra Dhun. A lighter piece to conclude the concert."
Review by Tom King
additional information by Karthik Subramanya