KARACHI: Like all great traditions, Hindustani classical music is also plagued with the problems of nomenclature. While the gurus and tastemakers from Northern India insist on calling it ‘Indian Classical’, aficionados and academics from the rest of the world suggest the term ‘Hindustani Classical’ or just the plain and simple ‘Raga Music.’ It’s a debate that’s still raging but inclusive festivals such as Tehzeeb engage musicians from different wings of the tradition in a dialogue – if not solve the problems of nomenclature and identity politics.
The 10th Tehzeeb Festival aims to celebrate Kheyal, Thumri, ghazal and folk music all under the ambit of traditional music. Essentially there’s something for both the puritans who can appreciate the microtones of an hour-long-bandish and the fans who’d swoon over a beautifully rendered ghazal by Mir. “No the Bandishes won’t be that long,” quips Sharif Awan, director Tehzeeb Foundation. “All musical pieces, their duration and the ragas that will be sung were decided in advance to ensure an enriching experience.” The three-day festival kicks off at the Karachi Arts Council today and will end on Sunday evening.
Tehzeeb Foundation’s anniversary festival will be the culmination of a wide range of activities and variety of festivals they have organised over the past 10 years. Traditional music however has been their particular area of interest. This year the festival will have performances by Ustad Hamid Ali Khan (Patiala Gharana) Ustad Raza Ali Khan from India (grandson of the Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan) and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan of the Gwalior Gharana. The younger lot will include Shahzeb Ali, Turab Ali, Shehroz Hussain, Imran Ilyas Khan and Ahmed Raza Khan to name a few. Wali Fateh Ali Khan from Afghanistan will participate and present Kheyal and Persian poetry. This time around, the foundation has also engaged Musicologists, including Ustad Shahid Hamid, Professor Shahbaz Ali and Rakae Jamil.
The inaugural performance of the festival will be given by the younger set of musicians; a decision which might not bode well with the senior members of the fraternity. "You are absolutely right," responds Awan. “I have had to be rude to the seniors. It was a very difficult task to make them realise that the festival is about the art form itself and not about them. It’s been a difficult ride but we are happy to have brought everyone together once again.”
Tehzeeb Foundation has been very particular in choosing the music they feature. However, the emblem of ‘classical’ being associated with anything they touch might raise a few eyebrows as ghazal (widely considered to be light or semi-classical) has been included in the catalogue once again. “I think people need to realise that the inclusion of the ghazal genre is a greater service to Urdu language than classical music. The genre that has witnessed a poet like Ghalib and a singer like Barkat Ali Khan needs to be celebrated more than ever before.”
The festival will conclude with a literary session titled ‘Halaat-e-Ghair Haazira’ in which Anwar Maqsood will read his imaginary conversation with Jaun Elia.
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