Vol. 5 Num 679 Thu. April 27, 2006  

Ustad Shahadat Hossain Khan
Upholding a legacy in music

Despite his formidable talent as a sarod player, Ustad Shahadat Hossain Khan prefers to keep a low profile. As he says, "To be in the public eye is sometimes important but not my priority." Today he is content to do two or three programmes annually through the family-run school named Ustad Ayet Ali Khan Sangeet Niketan. The other platform for him is working with the Grand Union Orchestra in London through music composition and performances in Europe.

Shahadat's talent has not gone unrecognised. In 1994, he was honoured with the Ekushey Padak, the highest national award of Bangladesh for his contribution in the field of music. He has also travelled overseas with his sarod, as a member of Bangladeshi cultural delegations to USA, UK, France, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Hong Kong, and Russia, among others.

Other credits include the composition and direction of music for the documentary films, Mrityuheen Pran and Meet Bangladesh. There is also his CD, Ripples in Meadows, produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Bangladeshi embassies around the world.

In Shahadat's reckoning he is one of the few sarod players in the country. The others are Yusuf Ali Khan and Afzalur Rahman.

Why is sarod playing so low key in Bangladesh? "The sarod is a very tough instrument to master and needs a lot of practice. Moreover, the instrument is not readily available here and students have to get it from India. Also there is a lack of sarod teachers in Bangladesh," says Shahadat. To some extent he has managed to fill this lacuna through the Ayet Ali Khan Sangeet Niketan, which offers classes in sarod, along with sitar, violin and mohan veena.

Shahadat also bemoans the lack of support to instrumental musicians and the trend of opting for instruments such as electronic guitar, keyboards and drums. "Five to 10 years from now, it will be difficult to find acoustic players," he warns.

Shahadat is in a sense born to play the sarod. Coming from the illustrious family of celebrated musician, late Ustad Alauddin Khan (sarod), he is the son of the late Ustad Abed Hossain Khan (sitar and sarod). That's not all. His grandfather is the late Ustad Ayet Ali Khan (surbahar).

No wonder then that at the tender age of seven, he began taking sarod lessons from his father. Later, he studied under his uncle Ustad Bahadur Khan, the celebrated sarod player of the subcontinent. Appreciation came his way in 1972 when he performed an instrumental duet with his uncle Ustad Bahadur Khan at the Alauddin Music Conference in Dhaka.

Along with his father, and as a guest artist of All India Radio, Shahadat performed in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Srinagar and Delhi. To him goes the distinction of participating in the All India Radio Music Conference (1974) along with renowned exponents of classical music from all over India.

As for the future, Shahadat has his hands full. In the course of his collaboration with Grand Union Orchestra, he strives to compose fusion music and introduce the sarod in different countries. Shahadat makes a fervent appeal that the government support instrumental music. As for TV and radio, he adheres to the belief that the electronic media should increase air time for instrumentalists.

An engrossed Shahadat at a concert