Representing an illustrious gharana of Hindustani classical music must be a proud and a daunting feeling at the same time. Nadeem Khan (40), is a Hindustani classical vocalist who knows this feeling too well. He represents Rampur-Sehaswan gharana, which is credited with giving the first recipient of the Padma award in the country for classical music.
Nadeem, quickly puts things in the right perspective. Says he, “No matter which lineage you come from but music is an art that cannot be bestowed upon you. You have to work hard to learn it and earn it.” He adds quickly, “I also understand that I come from an extremely rich lineage of classical music that is why I have a great sense of responsibility towards my art and my elders.”
Nadeem lives in the congested locality of Khirkee, in South Delhi. Things are so congested here that sunlight struggles to find its way into his home. But he makes up for it by filling his home with the warmth of the notes of Hindustani classical music.
The gharana Nadeem belongs to is named after Sahaswan, in present-day Badaun District of UP.
Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan (1878-1964) the first recipient of the Padma Bhushan Award, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan (Padma Bhushan 1971), Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan (Padma Vibhushan), are some other great names that have come from this Gharana. Rashid Khan, who has made a huge name for himself in Bollywood movies (of aaoge jab tum sajana fame from Jab we met) through his purely classical singing is Nadeem’s first cousin.
“Our home used to be always filled with notes of Hindustani Classical music when I was growing up as a child. That was how my initial training started,” says Nadeem. His initial training was under his maternal grandfather Ustad Sarfaraz Khan and later under his father Ustad Aftab Ahmed Khan. He was a formal student of his Uncle Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, an illustrious singer. “I would say that my training in Hindustani classical singing started with my first breath. We also had the freedom to choose what we wanted. I had a natural inclination for classical singing and my father encouraged it further. On the other hand, my brother did not go the classical singing way and has a rock band of his own and sings Indi-Bollywood music. Still, my father did not object to it. ”
In the Gharana, Gayaki was always taught in the guru-shishya parampara and Nadeem came out through the same grind. It is always said that Ustads are tough on their disciples. So how was it for Nadeen, whose Ustad was his father? “I must say that my father was a little soft on me. He encouraged me but was never tough on me.”
Nadeem is of the view that academics in music cannot take you too far. “Music is not an academic thing. That is what my elders used to say and I believe in the same. Having a doctorate in music will not make you a good singer. Only riyaz and learning under the tutelage of Ustads can make you a good singer.”
Talking about his own singing style and influences he says, “I have always strived to create my own personal style. But then you cannot avoid the chhaap (impression) of the elders in your style. People say that my singing style carries the impression of the singing style of my father and Ustad Hafeez Ahmed Khan.”
He had started giving live public performances when he was quite young. His first live performance as a 13-year-old was at the LTG Auditorium, Mandi House, New Delhi.
Ulhas Kashalkar, Kaushaki Chakrabarty, Ghulam Niyaz Khan and Pandit M Venkatesh Kumar, are some of the contemporary classical vocalists from other gharanas Nadeem looks up to.
“Our gharana is famous for Tarana Gayaki and Tantrakari is our specialty. Also, raag desh is sort of a patented raag of our gharana.” Saying this, he breaks into a famous bandish in raag Desh that is a signature rendition of the gharana.
Nadeem is all for maintaining the purity of classical music but he believes that this insistence on purity should not be restrictive and unidimensional. “In our gharana, versatility in singing is encouraged. We are encouraged to sing in different styles in addition to bada khayaI. That is why singing semi-classical forms such as thumri, chaiti, ghazals are not frowned upon. I impart the same attitude to my students too. ”