‘Ghazal’ maestro mesmerises audience

An evening of light classical music organised at Kuch Khaas — the centre for arts, crafts and dialogue — featured Ustad Sultan Fateh Ali Khan and saw a good turnout of music lovers both young and young at heart, proof of his growing popularity. Ustad Sultan Fateh Ali Khan has a husky, soulful voice, best suited for ‘ghazals’, which he renders with a semi-classical touch, adding his personal flavour to each piece. His performance, which lasted about three hours, with a break for tea, was enjoyed by the audience who requested well-known numbers, not all of which were sung but those that were much appreciated!

On the whole the event was an enjoyable one but some of the magic was lost because of disturbances and the accompanying music, which was too loud for a small room such as is used for concerts in Kuch Khaas. Not being an expert on the subject I asked someone who is and she said such renditions, when sung so adeptly, require the least amount of instrumental embellishment. In her opinion, there was an extra harmonium player (the ustad accompanied his own singing) and an electric keyboard. The ‘tabla’, of course, is a must, however, its volume was such that it drowned the singers voice (very true) while the piano organ was also too loud — most, inappropriate for the semi-classical style of singing. Had Sultan been singing straight ‘ghazals’, as recorded for films, she said, this instrument would have been perfect. Here, it was jarring, taking us away from the purity of this genre of music. In the space that the performance was held, only a mild enhancement was needed for the singer on the mike. The tabla and second harmonium didn’t need a mike at all. The piano organ was a misfit, period. So there you are. Hopefully the organisers as well as Ustad Sultan will keep this in mind next time he performs in a small room.

Sultan Fateh Ali Khan belongs to the famous Patiala ‘gharana’, which has produced several generations of renowned classical singers. He is the son of the famous maestro Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and nephew of the late Ustad Amanat Ali Khan. At the age of seven years he began receiving training in classical music and growing up in a family of classical ‘giants’ he got more in terms of guidance than any student of classical music could ever imagine. He is a versatile singer and apart from classical, he is as good at semi-classical, ‘ghazal’, folk and light singing. He formed the first pop band of Lahore in 1987 called ‘The Avengers’ and was one of the pioneers in combining pop and classical music; which is what his cousin Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan did when he later formed the band ‘Fusion’.

Sultan has performed in many countries including those in Europe, the Middle East, India, South Africa, Bangladesh and Nepal. He has performed all over Pakistan as well and is currently residing in Islamabad, where he teaches classical singing in the PNCA as well as at ‘Mausikar’, which is run by a trust of the same name. This talented singer has also written and composed several songs, some of which many music lovers must be familiar with, such as ‘Ankhon ke saagar’ and ‘Tere bina jiya nahi jaye,’ both sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali .He has written and composed several of his own songs as well, such as ‘Burf rut mein gulab dekhta houn.’

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