141st Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan, 2016, Jalandhar

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141st Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan

Rather than going into the details of what went on during each performance, I’ll try to summarise the experience of attending the 141st edition of Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan.

This was the third time I was attending the festival – the first one being in 2012. Although, I love how the whole festival caters music to esurient and yearning music lovers who come from faraway lands to be a part of this legacy, but I do have to point a few things that I feel could have been better. I hope that someone from the management reads this part and takes it in the right spirit. There is no denying that the management works tirelessly to organise this festival. I have heard that only putting up the tent takes about ten to fifteen days. The tent is great, there are heaters all over, the lighting is great, there’s a big screen for people at the back, sound’s also good most of the times, the set and decoration is done by people with good aesthetic taste, even the sponsor advertising is not outrageous. Also, the food served is too good. All this is great.

But you see, whoever comes here from far away comes for the music and when that turns out to be appalling, then there’s nothing else that can fix that problem. This was probably the first time I witnessed a good number of people not deserving of this stage on this stage. I don’t really know how a management with such good musical education can allow that to happen. I have listed down the culprits at the end of this writeup. Apart from this, I saw a difference in the outside catering this time. This was nothing like the last two times I had been here. Last time, there were several food, book and music stalls just outside the performance area. I have no idea why that was scrapped this time. Another observation – the security shouldn’t stop people from entering the Z block when there are a total of 50 people in the tent premises. You shouldn’t be stopping people from entering when you’re pleading everyone to come and visit you from different parts of the country. And, by the way, there’s no security check. Never was my bag checked. The security people allow or disallow you to enter on the basis of a card which says Z block. Fortunately, someone from the management, who has been my single point of contact at Harballabh since 2102, gave me the cards at the end of day 1. I met him just after finding out that my slip-ons were stolen from the shoe area. I didn’t wear chappals or shoes for the rest of the two and a half days I was there. That didn’t hurt. But the bad music really did hurt.

The good thing was that the amount of good music was more than the amount of bad music. Surprising discoveries were made. One of which was made in an outrageously talented and prepared/tayyar Harmonium player called Tanmay Deochake, who was supposed to accompany the tabla duo Shubh Maharaj and Sukhwinder Singh Pinky at around 8 pm but missed his flight from Delhi and the program was shifted from 8 pm to 11 pm. He reached Jalandhar by road. I’m so glad that he didn’t miss Harballabh.

Then there was an underrated Sitar player Harvinder Sharma who played from the treasure of Vilayat Khan. He played a beautiful Pilu. Later on finished with a Meera Bhajan in Pahadi called Paayoji Maine Raam Ratan Dhan Paayo. I’m not really a fan of Sitarists singing while they play but it didn’t sound bad when he sang along. I had the good fortune to meet him after his performance and told him that I loved how and what he played and it reminded me of Vilayat Khan’s play, which I have only heard in the form of audio and video recordings.

The performances of Tejendra Narayan Majumdar’s Jaijaiwanti, Santosh Nahar and Satvinder Pal Singh’s Vachaspati and Satvinder Singh Pinky and Shubh Maharaj’s Teen Taal were captivating. Satvinder Pal Singh on Sarangi was another discovery. It’s a pity that he didn’t accompany vocal artists in place of the ghastly Devendra Verma. Life is cruel.

Of the vocalists, I think only three gave very good performances. The first one being Prasad Kharpade, who is a disciple of Rashid Khan and has appeared in the prestigious music production on TV called Coke Studio. He rendered a beautiful Kaunsi Kanada. While he was getting the instruments tuned, I actually thought he would sing Darbari but that wasn’t the case. No one sang Darbari. Well, at least not on the stage. I had the good fortune to listen to Iqbal Khan’s alaap in Darbari in his room along with a few other people. Iqbal Khan, who is a disciple of Sayeeduddin Dagar, started with Jog – because it happens to be one of my favorite ragas. Then moved on to Darbari – which his one of his favorite ragas. Dhrupad can both be serene and haunting. Deadly combination, believe me you.

A few years back I posted on Facebook a playlist of the songs that I was listening to and one of the rendition was Kaushiki Chakraborty’s to which a person responded how can you listen to an hour long rendition of Kedar. Although, I was far less educated in the art of listening to classical music than I am now, I still think that Kedar is definitely worth over an hour. I don’t think it’s a ten minute raga. It all just depends upon on the khayal and imagination of the renderer. In this, Shantanu Bhattacharya’s rendition of Kedar at Harballabh this time was really good. What I heard was something that can be immediately identified at Patiala gayaki. Shantanu is more of a copy of Ajoy Chakraborty than a copy of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan though I saw hints of both of those singers in Shantanu.

The Kedia bros played a seldom heard raga called Chandranandan, creation of Ali Akbar Khan.Their rendition was fairly good except for the last two to three minutes where it seemed it bit off. Apart from the Kedia bros, Shubha Paradkar and Mallick bros also showcased their art decently well. Shubha Paradkar’s Shahana was really good. Shahana is a raag I dearly love. I must admit, though, that I did not enjoy Mallick bros performance as much as I enjoy Dhrupad performances in general.

The festival ended with a beautiful performance by Upendra Bhat, a disciple of Bhimsen Joshi, who sang Komal Rishab Asavari, followed by a bandish in Lalit Bhatiyar, a thumri in Jogiya and finally, keeping the traditional, Basant Bahar and Bahar. The festival ended on a good note, literally.

The bad thing about memory is that it remains especially when you want to forget something. There were performances that I would rather unsee but that can’t happen. Remember that I said I’ll come back to the culprits who performed horribly and did not deserve the stage. One example was a Harmonium player called Deverndra Verma. His Pandit licence should be revoked immediately and he shouldn’t be allowed to play at Harballabh. I have never seen such a bad harmonium played playing with a Khayal musician. I only listened to Chandana Dixit from my room at the Dharamshala. Couldn’t make much of it but I don’t think she was also deserving of this platform. Suresh Gandharv wasn’t that good either. Manu Srivastava wasn’t as bad but I think he should have waited for this stage for a few more years. If you see closely, though, amongst all the below average or bad performers, one guy was common – Deverndra Verma, the Harmonium guy. I think that says a lot. Think about it. Ronu Majumdar was worst of all. He wore the worst dress that anyone could wear. It was so red in color that my eyes couldn’t bear it. Inspired from Milan Kundera’s book title, I could write an essay on how bright the red was. The essay would be called the unbearable brightness of a being. Maybe he thinks of himself as the Lady Gaga of Indian classical music. I assure you he is not. He chose really beautiful ragas to play but played them with unneeded haste and audible disgrace. Or maybe, this is what those ragas demanded. Obviously, he knows more about this form of music than I would ever know but I didn’t like his play.

Suggestions for the management

  • Have morning and noon sessions too – If needed break the spree of performances into two or three everyday so that Jaunpuri, Sarang, Ahir Bhairav etc. also get a chance to be heard. It’s a democracy, right!
  • Keep your sessions flexible – The 1.5 hour time limit for all artists is a bit harsh – sometimes for the artist and sometimes for the audiences. It is harsh for the artist when someone amazing is performing. It is harsh for the audiences when someone terrible is performing.Give more time to the artists who deserve more time. This only happens once a year and the audiences and the musicians both deserve the time.
  • Include demonstration sessions too. This will give the students a chance to learn what an artist has learnt and how he has learnt whatever he has learnt. You could call popular people like Gulzar etc. who could communicate the magic of this music in words just like the artist does with his voice or his instruments.
  • Do recognise the fact that Indian music involves both Hindustani and Carnatic. I didn’t see any Carnatic performer here.
  • Also, there are other forms of classical and light classical music that you should think about like – thumri, dadra, tappa, qawwali. These should not be just ornamental to a largely khayal performance. I mean to say that people who specialise in these forms should have been called to perform. Ask yourself a question – would you like to hear a thumri from Shobha Gurtu/Begum Akhtar or would you rather listen to a thumri by Kaushiki Chakraborty!
  • For the sake of good music, please be really careful while selecting the accompanists. Also, there should be more Sarangi accompaniment.
  • One of the presenters brought up rates at which you call artists to perform. Don’t bring up rates of performances on stage, even as a joke. It’s highly distasteful.
  • Harballabh Vandana – Understand this problem. If you allow any Tom, Dick or Harry to get on this stage, then you are diminishing your own standard. Everything is on the internet now. Everyone would see who performed at Harballabh. If these colleges sponsor the festival somehow, make sure that whatever they are performing is up to the mark.

This festival can have the same craze as there is for Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Music Festival. Currently, this isn’t the case, believe me.

P.S. (on a personal note) – On the eve of 22nd December, me and my sister flew from Bangalore to Delhi. It was a late night flight. I had the great pleasure of being in air on my birthday. Flying, literally. As soon as I reached the airport, my mom was there to pick me up and a few other friends came separately with a cake. Mom had also brought a cake. Two of my friends gifted me a Ibanez Ukelele. My mom and sister got me t-shirts painted with my favorite people’s pictures in acrylic paint – amazing stuff. The people happen to be Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jaun Elia and Bob Marley. Straight from the airport, we left for Jalandhar to attend this festival. Such was the plan. Despite a few disappointments, I think it was more than worth it.

140th Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan – Day 1, First Half

Far away from the busy Delhi life, I left for Jalandhar at around midnight to reach there at 7 in the morning of 25th only to find out that winter mornings in Punjab can be quite lethal if you come unprepared. The only thing I was missing was a muffler – which I couldn’t find at home before leaving. I got an autorickshaw from the bus station to Devi Talab Mandir. The performance area had been set up, completely covered. The performances go on till late night so it gets really cold by the time the concert ends. Gas heaters had been set up across the audience area to prevent them from feeling cold. I had had little sleep before coming here as I boarded the bus within, maybe, two hours of leaving from office that day.

I had made arrangements at the Mandir facility days before arriving but at 7 in the morning, there were no high level officials in the Mandir. I got to know that some of them went home late at night because they were busy setting the tent up and making other arrangements. Luckily, I remembered the room where I paid my staying charges three years ago. Two guys were sitting in a room discussing something non-musical so I don’t remember what it was. They welcomed me with tea and gave me the keys to my room. I was so in sleep even while standing. I went up and unpacked my stuff and went to sleep. Woke up at around 12 to find out that someone was practicing in a room just across the lobby. Without waiting for anything, I went to that room and asked if I could sit. Later on, I found out that the guy who was practicing was the winner of previous years vocal competition, Omkar Gupta.

The program started at around 5 in the morning with students from Lovely Professional University singing prayers in respect to Saraswati and Harballabh. Too bad that their tribute was not as musical as Saraswati and Harballabh would have liked. It is not their fault. If I were in their place, I would have been hundred times worse. I have been a thousand times worse in my school and college days. But to perform at a stage where stalwarts are performing, you need to reflect hard on what you’re going to do. Good that the prayers ended in about fifteen minutes post fifteen minutes of soundcheck.

Post this drama, the real show began with the Ballesh brothers playing Shehnai. I have not been to many live Shehnai performances but this was probably the best I have heard till date. One could see traces of Bismillah Khan here and there. The duo played Maru Bihag for about 45 minutes and then Jog for about 13 minutes. Without taking a breath, they started with Vaishnav Jan To in Khammaj. I love that song more than I think. Can’t beat Lata Mangeshkar’s version. Simple and beautiful. Not always am I in favour of simplicity and beauty. Anyways. In the midst of all this, some guy in white clothes called Uday Singh arrived. Apparently, he is some guru of some kind. Other people in white clothes were following him all around. Absurd and funny. The announcer and one of the festival organisers kept reminding everyone of the fact that how lucky we all were to be in his grace’s presence. I just hope that he’s a good guy.

The second recital of the day was by the amazing Uday Bhawalkar. I am not sure but I think I have seen him perform in Kamani a few years back. Uday Bhawalkar’s is one of the most beautiful and soothing voices you will ever hear in Indian Classical Music. More on him in the next post. Short on time.

P.S. I will be uploading raw recordings from Harballabh soon on DropBox. Till then, you can check out recordings from 88th Tansen Samaroh at Gwalior – happened in 2012 here.

 

 

A perfect tribute to Naseer Ahmed Khan

As soon as the disappointing Rageshree recital ended, I was relieved as up next was Iqbal Ahmed Khan’s performance. I really wanted him to sing Jaijaiwanti. I had also lodged an indirect request regarding this. I don’t know if it reached him or not. He did not sing Jaijaiwanti. I wasn’t unhappy that he did not sing Jaijaiwanti because he sang Jogkauns – which is one of my favorite Ragas. My earliest memories of Jogkauns lie with Bhimsen Joshi’s recital of Peer Parayi – one of the earliest bandishes in this raga by the creator of the Raga himself – Jagannathbuwa Purohit Gunidas. Jogkauns was named Kaunsi by Gunidas before B.R. Deodhar quite aptly renamed it to Jogkauns.

The performance started in the midst of, probably abandoned, little children yelling across the hall. Khan sahab started the recital with a beautiful Chandrakauns phrase. One could tell that it was Chandrakauns in less than a second. I have heard him sing Jogkauns many times. He sings Jogkauns as Jog with Chandrakauns rather than Malkauns. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t use komal nishad because without a Pa-dha-ni-Dha-Pa-Ma-Ga-Ma-ga-Sa, Jogkauns will cease being Jogkauns – but he doesn’t use nishad in the same way as has been by Ghulam Hassan Shaggan in a 1987 performance in Lahore. In that performance, Ghulam Hassan Shaggan is singing Jogkauns as Jog with Malkauns – a different side of Jogkauns – heard less frequently. Khan sahab, in the pre-concert commentary, tells us that his Jogkauns is composed more of Kauns and less of Jog.

One of the prevailing thoughts of Khan sahab’s interpretation of Jogkauns was the audacious slide in ga-Ma-(Ga)ga-Sa. While executing this hallmark Jog routine, he almost touched shuddh gandhar on the return as well, probably on purpose. This is where the beauty lies. And he knows that, which is why, he does flaunt his expertise with lehek – which can be described as musical rollercoaster, up and down the Raga – a complex interconnection of lightweight meend-work. He explained how four components in Khayal gayaki of his tradition work, namely, lehek, khatka, murki and taan. These are ornamental tools in Khayal gayaki based on granularity of a phrase. Lehek being with the granularity of 1; here, you just move from one note to another with a slide and form a structure with that. Two consecutive notes are separated the most in lehek. Khatka, as the name suggests, is moving from one note to another with a jerk so that the combination of those two notes becomes one entity. The logic follows with murki and taan. Khan sahab use the phrase ek-daana, do-daana for describing the granularity.

Iqbal Ahmed Khan’s recital of Jogkauns consisted of two compositions, one in vilambit ek taal, Daya Mope Ki. The second one set to drut teen taal, Gareeb Nawaaj. Babar Latif Khan’s tabla play was as beautiful and subtle as always is. Apart from a few distractions such as the kids, the supporting vocalists and a few noisy audience members, the recital gave a feeling as if one were sitting inside a temple of sound – a perfect tribute to the Naseer Ahmed Khan. If heaven existed and people in heaven could watch the proceedings on their previous planet of residence, Naseer Ahmed Khan would have been very happy to watch his disciple perform like that.

P.S. – Iqbal Ahmed Khan, in the pre-concert commentary mentioned that he heard Naseer Ahmed Khan perform this Raga at a hall nearby in 1960-61 at Baiju Bawra Sangeet Sammelan. I wish I could go back in time and be there. I looked around but couldn’t find a recording of Naseer Ahmed Khan’s Jogkauns.

Recording of Jogkauns @ India Habitat Center dated 28th December 2015 by Iqbal Amhed Khan in a programme called Khiraj-e-Aqeedat

The Murder of Rageshree

After attending the three-day Harballabh festival, I came back to Delhi on the 28th and found that there was Iqbal Ahmed Khan’s performance at Habitat Centre. I try not to miss his performances. The program was called Khiraj-e-Aqeedat and was held as being a tribute to the master of taans from Delhi, Naseer Ahmed Khan. Secretly, I try to avoid any other performances that are clubbed with Iqbal Ahmed Khan because, invariably, I end up being disappointed. It all ends well because most of the times, being the eldest and the most experienced, Iqbal Ahmed Khan is the last one to perform.

For some unfortunate reason, on the 28th, I reached India Habitat Centre even before the first performance had begun. The first program was by a sitarist from Delhi called Saeed Zafar Khan with his son. The concert started with an incomplete sound-check and a visible disinterest in paying tribute to a legend. The guy decided to play Rageshree – a raag I am extremely fond of. I have mostly heard Rageshree’s vocal renditions by stalwarts like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Salamat & Nazakat Ali Khan so on and so forth. I was really glad that the sitarist guy chose to play Rageshree. Little did I know, at that time, what was about to happenThe performance started with a freestyle alaap, which was lacking substance from the word go. It was one currency short of being mediocre. Just borderline. It was ordinary. I don’t mind things being ordinary, as long as mediocrity is avoided. The alaap was followed by a Madhyalaya Teen Taal (some would call it Vilambit) bandish which lasted about 18 minutes, and post which almost everything was fucked up.

The second bandish was a rendition of Naseer Ahmed Khan’s popular Un Bin Mohe Kal Nahin Aaye set to Teen Taal – a beautiful composition in a beautiful Raag. This rendition started with a bad, almost abusive execution of taans. On more than a few occasions, the sitar was besura. The sitar guy – the main guy, Saeed Zafar Khan and his son – whose name I don’t care to know, were trying to do pull off a high tempo finale with the tabla – failed miserably. Random car horns are more musical than this. This was noise. I whispered in my friend’s ear, ‘Ye log kar kya rahe hain?’.

See, all this would have been okay if a young person, learning sitar for only 5 years or so had done this. The strange thing is that this guy has been honoured with the title Ustad – probably has been playing for decades. I really do understand his son’s shitty play – that guy is young and has a lot to learn. Will probably get better with time. One can only hope.

I was so devastated post this that even Iqbal Ahmed Khan’s rendition of Jogkauns couldn’t bring me back to my musical senses. The next day, I was only thinking about how a Raag got murdered last night. It was as if Rageshree, out of sheer desperation and helplessness, was crying out this Pirzada Qasim couplet.

Musalsal qatl hone mein bhi ek waqfa zaroori hai

Sar-e-maqtal hami ko phir pukaara jaa raha hai kyun?

Nobody came to her rescue. And she was murdered.

P.S. – This was probably the worst performance of the year 2015. I had to write about it as I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Recording of the Drut composition in Rageshree @ India Habitat Center on 28th of December 2015 by Saeed Zafar Khan.

The comeback!

So, after more than a year, I finally thought that it would be a good to write for my derelict blog which is visited only a few. I don’t mind that the blog is visited by only a few people because I don’t have unrealistic expectations from the general public that they would suddenly stop listening to whatever they are listening to and start listening to Salamat Ali Khan; that is never going to happen. And, secretly, I want it to be that way. Whenever a thing comes in contact with too many people – it is ruined. For example, consider the planet Earth, the subject philosophy, prostitutes and Indian classical music. This should remain untouched (it should be touched by some – and carefully).

Since the morning, I’ve been listening to this beautiful song by Ulhas Kashalkar in Khammaj, set to a very subtly paced Teen Taal. The song is called Koyaliya Kook Sunaawe. This is a thumri. Some people call it a bandish-ki-thumri. It is just like a Khayal bandish in structure but there are no hardcore taans and bol-banav is prevalent throughout the recital. Khammaj is not considered to be a raag for khayal gayaki, but it is one of the most common ragas in which thumris, dadras, tappas, ghazals are composed. But this information is readily available anywhere. And if you are reading this blog, you already know this. What you don’t know is that I am sitting in bed right now, listening to this beautiful song for probably the twentieth time since the morning and studying statistics for reasons that are unclear to me and even to statistics herself.

Ulhas Kashalkar has the just right voice for singing a thumri. The execution of a thumri needs a kind-of feminine touch to the voice and understanding of feminine emotions. Another captivating rendition of a thumri in Kafi by Ulhas Kashalkar goes like – Dekho Dekho Kaise Dhoom Machawat set to Adi Teen Taal. This is a Hori. Horis are usually composed in ragas such as Kafi, Pilu and Sindhura. Another beautiful composition, which was popularized by Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan via the music video was Mora Saiyaan Mose Bole Na. The original was sung by his elders from the Patiala Gharana – Fateh Ali Khan and Amanat Ali Khan. How the Patiala people treat thumris and dadras, or for that matter, khayal, is a subject which can be discussed at length. The only thing that should be kept in mind is that one composition – when sung by a Patiala gharana person will sound incredibly different from when someone from Banaras gharana sings the same composition.

Now, moving to Salamat & Nazakat Ali Khan’s Laage Tose Nain in Khammaj. I don’t have words now. J

Playlist – Sanjeev Abhyankar, Kankana Banerjee, Begum Akhtar

The first track on my playlist today is a rendition of Poorvi by Sanjeev Abhyankar. While he has always retained the originality in expression when it comes to his music, I’ve always thought of Sanjeev Abhyankar as a treble-less version of Pandit Jasraj with a velvety voice and a killer of a smile. This track is from the album Arpan, you can get access to the track from this link on Raaga. It consists of two different renditions, the first one being More Laal Pyaare Ko Palana Jhulaao and the second one, Daya Karo More Maa, Kali Maiyya. His renditions are immensely beautiful because of his tayyari. It is funny, how he eats up space from the pronunciation of a word or a sargam syllable. But that, in any case, doesn’t diminish the beauty of his music; on the contrary, it just adds a different flavor. Just another day, I had Pihu Pal Na Laage Mori Ankhiyaan in Gaud Sarang in two very different flavors, one by Ustad Umrao Bundoo Khan (which was chocolate) and the other one was by Pandit DV Paluskar (which was vanilla with a hint of strawberry).

For another different flavor, I am risking my life with a new rendition of Gaud Sarang, which is by Kankana Banerjee from the album Khayal on HMV. Set in Drut Teen Taal, Room Jhoom Badariya (find the lyrics on Bandishein)by Kankana Banerjee is not that effective as other Gaud Sarangs that I’ve heard. The rendition seems too orchestrated, which makes me mad sometimes. Even being so visibly orchestrated, she gets often gets herself detuned. The phrase Saawan Garaje Bhaado Barase, which is the opening line of the antara, is always sung beautifully, but the beauty gets vaporized as soon as a flattened note is his by the vocalist. I’d like to hear more of her and I hope this was not her best. This was an unknown flavor (a bitter one).

Now, I turn to Begum Akhtar. She never disappoints me. Ever. Balamwa Tum Kya Jaano Preet, which has been rendered, time and again, by Ajay Pohankar, must also be heard in Begum’s voice. It is one of those voices which brings life into stuff, and people like me. Just the other day, I was listening to one of her albums on Universal (1981) on my way to office. I realized that what was a messed up, sad face when it left home for office. While listening to Begum Akhtar, there was a ceaseless smile saying to the subject of the smile that, ‘This is bliss’. And remembering that I’ve just listened to one of the songs featured in that 1981 album. Pearls on paper by Jigar and Begum’s voice – again, that smile is telling me – ‘This is bliss’.

12.01.14

 

 

 

 

 

The sad story concerning the conferral of honorary titles in Hindustani Classical Music

The story of conferment of honorary titles goes back to the medieval period, or probably even before that. The oldest popular example of such a conferment is the bestowal of the title of ‘Tansen’ to the Dhrupad vocalist Ramtanu Pandey by Mughal emperor Akbar during his reign. The first ever Khayaliyas to be conferred upon such an honorary title might have been Ali Baksh-Fateh Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana who were famously called ‘Karnail-Garnail’ of Khayal gayaki. Apart from honorary titles such as ‘Taan Samrat’, ‘Mallika-e-Mausiqui’ and so on and so forth, which are often conferred upon the artists by the government of the time, artists are also conferred upon with titles of Ustad or Pandit. In the olden days, these titles were generally bestowed upon an artist in a formal mehfil where the senior masters and contemporaries sat among the audiences to judge the performing artist. And, at the end of the recital, if the performing artist ended up impressing the maestros, they were then conferred upon the title of Ustad or Pandit.

These days such a title is either self-conferred or it has been borrowed from the DNA being born in a family or maestros. Both these methods by which artists get their titles are extremely hopeless to start with and are also deceitful for the avid listeners. People check out the internet for events in their cities and take time out to attend a concert of a Pandit nobody Sharma or a Ustad nobody Khan. Such a dishonest presentation of artists is extremely distressing for a lover of the art. Though, I might be overstating the problem at hand but I actually have come across such Ustads and Pandits. I sincerely think that at any given point in time, there have not been more than 50 vocalists or 50 instrumentalists in the world who were worthy of such titles. The number of such artists is decreasing by the day.

The right way to confer such titles upon an artist, I’ve always thought, is to present him to their peers and senior maestros. That will prove to be a litmus test of the artists credibility. I’ve heard artists telling stories about the day that they were bestowed a particular title. They remember the mehfil, the day and the artists who actually conferred upon the title upon them. Such a day is definitely one of the peak days of an artist’s career. The value of such a day has depreciated hugely in my times because people who are actually nobodies, or probably in the process of being a good artist, present themselves with such titles.

P.S. – In the hundreds of concerts that I’ve attended, I’ve never come across any such felicitation but I’ve definitely come across Ustads and Pandits who don’t deserve to be called an Ustad or a Pandit.