In the subcontinent, Sham Chaurasiya Gharana holds a special place in Classical Music. This house has God gifted expertise in Dhurpat, Khayal, Tarana and Lehkaari. The foundation of the Gharana was laid down by Mian Chand Khan & Mian Suraj Khan in district Hoshiyarpur village, India in the 16th century during the era of Tan Sen who was a patronage of Akbar, the great. Since that day, this family is performing classical music and have become one of the renowned families of subcontinent in the classical music. Distinguished artists in the family include Mian Kareem Buksh, Ustad Ahmed Ali Khan, Ustad Niaz Hussain Shami, Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan. Ustad Shafqat Salamat Ali Khan, son of Legend Ustad Salamat Ali Khan discussed about the current situation and history of Classical Music with us being presented in front if our readers.
BRIDGE TEAM: Are you satisfied with the current eminence of classical music in Pakistan?
SSA: Classical music is not descending; it is the intellect of people that is fading away. We have replaced bogus with genuine. Classical music still holds the status as it had before. If people patronize it today, classical music can get its prestige back.
General Ayub and General Musharraf supported it. My father arranged the wedding ceremony of Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi’s sons wedding. He brought Farida Khanum and Azam Chishti to the ceremony and people enjoyed it.
It’s not necessary that everyone understand classical music. It is our heritage and we have to protect and present it. Initially, music artists didn’t have financial pressures; therefore they were able to contribute their time to music only. Landlords and head of the states used to take care of them and pay them. It is not the case now. The Government needs to take such initiatives that help patronize classical music. If private and government institutions can sponsor sports activities then why not music which is our cultural heritage.
BRIDGE TEAM: The status of Singers in India is far better than in Pakistan. Why do you think is so?
SSA:Music in India is a part of their religion however, it is not the case in Pakistan and can never be. Class difference is colossal in Pakistan. There are Chaudhries and landlords who look down upon lower castes. One is ‘Mirasi’ and second is ‘Atayi’. Mirasi is not a cast. It is derived from the word miras. When a person does anything and is skilful in it then he is the mirasi of that profession. Singing was considered bad in our society because it was associated with the Rajas and Maharajas and not the common man who used to listen to it in the history of the sub-continent. Even Mir Taqi Mir was called a mirasi because one who read marsiya was also related to mirasis. Singers are called mirasi and thus families distanced themselves from music. People need to change this approach. Being a Mirasi is not a bad thing instead it a sign of pride. Educated people know the difference, the government also needs to educate people about it. Loss of music is a loss of entire tradition and culture. Europe promotes their music in order to keep the individuals occupied and calm through music. In Pakistan, negativity and extremism is promoted more than music whereas the case should be opposite.
BRIDGE TEAM: The way pop music is promoted in the country why not the classic?
SSA: Pakistan has a lobby of distributors and benefiters who have exploited music for their own profit. In 70s, Ghazal was brought in light and classical was neglected on purpose, then Pop music was brought in, and later music became poisonous. The distributors brought forward people who were not even melodious. Therefore, if government desires, it can bring back classical music and its status can be resumed that used to be once.
BRIDGE TEAM: Pair Singing has been an identity of your family. Although, now duet culture is fading. What is the reason behind it?
SSA: The tradition of pair singing still exist. Basically, one singer in a duet performs the role of a supporter. In case of my father and his brother, my uncle played the role of supporter and my father led the song. I also at times sing in duo with my brother and my son.
BRIDGE TEAM: We have heard that when your father used to sing, people were emotionally shaken by listening to him. Why is it not the case now?
SSA: Neither the singers nor the listeners are same. Music is a spiritual tool. Humanity and spirituality has a deep connection with each other. As humanity is diminishing from our society, so is spirituality. When music became commercialized, it has only became a source of earning. Vulgarity is being promoted in the name of music. Since then, music has lost its importance. When my father- Ustad Salamat Ali Khan- used to sing, not only humans but animals use to feel the essence of the music as well. In some of my concerts as well, I have witnessed people shedding tears and being absorbed in the harmony.
BRIDGE TEAM: What is your favorite raag (Melodic Mode)?
SSA: My favorite raags include “Mud Kalyan”, “Gorakh Kalyan” and subah ka raag known as “Bairagi”. BRIDGE- Who is your favorite singer? I don’t have a single favorite. I have Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, Lata Mangeshkar and Mehdi Hassan among my favorites.
BRIDGE TEAM: Which one is your most memorable performance?
SSA: In All Pakistan Music conference held in 2014, I sang “Raag Kailash Bhero”. I felt like it was my last day. Crowd was touched and emotive and felt that raag for 15 days upon me. That was, so far, one of my best and memorable performance.
BRIDGE TEAM: Have you ever composed music or would like to do it in the future?
SSA: Yes, I have composed music for the title songs of a number of Drama serials such as “Digest Writer”, “Landa Bazar”, “Moam Ka Chehra”, “Piya Naam Ka Diya” and “Yaad Piya Ki Aaye”. Films including “Janisar”, “10 Kahaniyan” and an upcoming film “Parwaz” in which I have composed music and sang as well.
BRIDGE TEAM: How do you spend your leisure time?
SSA: I am fond of watching movies. Apart from that, I play cricket a lot and watch it as well. I really like boxing and never miss any boxing match.
BRIDGE TEAM: What would you like to say to our readers?
SSA:Individuals from reputed families want to adopt music and learn it. Music has no caste or religion. It should not be considered Mirasi. Many people from good families adopted this and created a name for themselves like Ali Zafar, Atif Aslam, Jawad Ahmed who didn’t have any musical background. Music is not a possession of a particular family or gharana, it’s a God’s blessing. Schools and Universities should have music departments where they may train.