One-of-a-Kind Delectable Shehnai House Concert

Rishi Nigam, Pittsburgh, PA    

Note:  Rishi Nigam moved to Pittsburgh last year after earning his MS in engineering management from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is a consultant in the healthcare industry. Interested in music, he is working on his own album.

Recently I got an incredible opportunity to listen to Ustad Hassan Haider Khan on the Shehnai, accompanied by Pt. Samir Chatterjee on the Tabla. I attend music concerts often, but this pure classical recital transported me to a musical realm I have never been before.

Ut. Khan comes from a musical family. His great grandfather Ustad Sajjad Hussain Khan was the first Shehnai artist to take the instrument to Europe, playing it to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. Khan’s father, Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan is a Banga Bibhushan-awarded Shehnai maestro. The young Khan has performed around the world and has recorded Shehnai for music directors like A.R.Rahman. Yet, I found him so easy to talk to.

Pt. Samir Chatterjee, widely known for performing with eminent artists and as a soul-capturing soloist, accompanied UT Khan on the Tabla. I have been listening to Tabla performances for many years, but Pt Chatterjee on the Tabla in the recital made me completely fall in love with the instrument. His encouraging support to the young Khan enhanced the overall ambience of the evening.

The concert started with pure Indian classical ragas and ended with beautiful semi-classical and folk pieces. Towards the end, Chatterjee briefly gave a background of Indian classical music, how the shehnai is made, and how challenging it is to play the wind instrument solo for three continuous hours.

The shehnai recital was special because this was a house concert in Irwin in music connoisseur Samar Saha’s aesthetically decorated living room. The audience got immersed in a pleasant journey in ragas and laya for three hours in the intimacy of the house-concert. The proximity of the stage gave the artistes an instant and intimate rapport with the audience.

Before the recital, in a good-natured way, Pt. Chatterjee looked around and spontaneously picked two young girls, Sohini Ghosh and Ahiri Ghosh, from the audience, and “volunteered” them to provided shruti support, which they obliged for all three hours of the recital.

I heard the two veteran artistes doing things I had never heard before, surprising me every time a new piece started. This gave me a rare opportunity to talk to them later. For me as a music producer, a music learner and a passionate music lover, this was God-sent. The evening ended with a delightful dinner and desserts making it a splendid event.   ♣

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