KARACHI: Ustad Jari Khan is a tabla player from the Punjab gharana and a recipient of the Pride of Performance award, but the instrument was not always his forte. Khan’s passion was to sing and at the age of four he used to be called on to sing Lata Mangeshkar’s bhajan “Sanware Sanware” in front of an audience. Much to his own and the audience’s surprise, he sang it perfectly.
Khan said that during his childhood, “Regular visitors including Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Abbas, Hamid Ali Khan and Asad Amanat Ali would come to our house to listen to my brother Abdus Sattar Tari play the tabla. He also received the Pride of Performance Award in 2008.”
Khan’s real name is Shabir Hussain but changed it many years ago. “It was a small gathering in 1983 and I was the tabla nawaz for Salamat Ali. My tabla was in tune to his voice but then I changed the beat. Salamat Ali thought I had made mistake but I had done it intentionally. He asked me to repeat the tune but I changed the beat again. Then a member of the audience said to me, ‘You played it correctly, jaari rakhein (continue on).’ This is how my name came to be Ustad Jari Khan.”
Khan began playing the tabla when he was eight years old. He used to watch his brother practice and when his brother wouldn’t be home, Khan would practice for hours. When this came to his brother’s notice he allowed Khan to continue playing the tabla. Today Khan says he can tune his tabla to high classical notes, light classical notes, ghazals and geets.
Ustad Jari Khan has performed in Europe, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, India and Sri Lanka. At a performance in the UAE, he was praised by Amjad Khan who was in the audience and asked Khan to pay a visit to India.
Khan was closely associated with the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, “My brother and I were working with him before ‘Dam Mast Qalander’ became a hit. During our last meeting he vowed that we would work together, but life is a little unkind at times and death takes one away from the physical world. He passed away a month after our meeting and sometimes I wonder what plans he had made for us to work together. Unfortunately those dreams could not be turned into reality.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2010.