The ‘Sikar Gharana’ from Rajasthan is one of the most revered musical families. Over the generations, they have followed the traditional father-son training method, where the art has been genetically ingrained to the current generation. It was here that Ustad Gulab Khan Sahab, its foremost exponent, imparted the knowledge to his grandson, Imran Khan.
Imran’s musical sojourn began even before he was exposed to the real world. His mother was always amidst the music played in the house. Imran opened his eyes to a world very different from most of us. The air was filled with the musical notes rendered by his father Ustad Niyaz Ahmed Khan Sahab and also his uncle, the renowned Sarangi player and vocalist, Ustad Sultan Khan Sahab. His initiation into music was at the behest of his grandfather at the age of 7. He later on trained under his father and uncle. It was a traditional strict Guru-Shishya method of imparting knowledge.
“I am blessed and feel very lucky that I got to learn from the best and not just one, but from all the elders in my family,” said Imran.
Imran followed his father and chose the sitar over the sarangi. His first public performance was at the age of 12 for All India Radio Music Conference. Since then, Imran has played alongside legends likes Pt. Birju Maharaj, Ustad Sultan Khan Sahab, Ustad Rashid Khan Sahab, Shankar Mahadevan and international artists like Mozartium Orchestra, Jens Pollheide, Johannes Haase and numerous others.
“The biggest thing I have learnt from the legends I played with, is to be original and play with a pure heart, it definitely has an effect on the listeners,” expressed Imran.
Imran describes his journey of performing globally as a wonderful experience. Sharing the stage with musicians from different genres and varied ethnicity does aid an artiste to widen his thought process as a musician. Imran belongs to the new crop of Indian classical musicians who are unfettered. He wants to imbibe new things daily by collaborating with great musicians.
“I keep myself open and want to explore many more genres of music and their beauty. I just want to be a student all my life and to keep learning and to keep growing.”
It is heartening to witness that the next generation of classical musicians are not averse to experimenting or incorporating technology in their music. Indian classical music is now at a stage where it is evolving whilst maintaining a balance between the new age needs and its ethnic soul.
“It is good to see musicians experimenting and not too afraid to try new things. But you can’t change the effect or beauty of a ‘Raag’ no matter you play it for 15 minutes or an hour,” opined Imran.
Being on stage is what Imran prefers, as it gives him the liberty as an artiste to perform. He feels his artistic thoughts are confined in a studio room where he cannot be impromptu, which he can be during a live recital. Technology is something he makes full utilisation of both in the studio or on the stage. He uses a condenser pickup, for his sitar, which can be equalised according to his taste.
“The sitar has a very soft and delicate sound which makes it really challenging to bring out its original sound, especially when you are playing with loud instruments like drums and bass or electric guitar. Due to new technologies and gadgets, I can be equally loud when I am playing with them,” smiled Imran.
Imran still is an old school artiste at heart. He reminiscences his grandfather’s teachings, that music is not just a profession to earn your livelihood but it is also a big responsibility to be taken to the next generation. He is of the opinion that Indian classical music does not need to be enforced upon the younger generation as our soul is familiar with this sound and its culture is imbibed in our roots.
“We just need them to invite and let them experience it and I am sure once they listen to it with their heart and soul, they will find the connection between it,” said the future Ustad.