A wafting winter chill that had everyone pulling their shawls closer, an evening of music under the stars, and the fabulous 15th-century Neemrana Fort-Palace as backdrop — the cup, as they say, brimmed over. On November 30, Shujaat Hussain Khan scion of the Imdadkhani gharana, performed for a small audience at the Fort-Palace’s very beautiful amphitheatre. A semi-circular space with cushion seating, it was lit up by diyas for the occasion.
Shujaat Hussain Khan, who has risen in the ranks of musicians these past years, is primarily a sitar player who performs in the gayaki style — having his notes imitate as nearly as possible the nuances of the human voice. However, as value addition, he joins his own voice to the music, making it not quite pure classical music, but undeniably a novelty and very pleasant.
The concert started early: Khan was keen to have the light-to-dark transition during the performance. He has a remarkable voice and croons languishingly — phrases from traditional compositions, folk music, Kabir, Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusrau — and weaves them into his sitar riffs. Irritatingly though, they are mostly just phrases — if all the singer will do is refrain ‘Man kunto maula’ without following it up with ‘fa haza ali un maula’, it leaves you heartily wishing he would at least scratch the surface. However, he did give us generous bits of Khusrau’s ‘Chaap tilak sab cheeni’, which compensated. Shujaat Hussain Khan was accompanied and supported by his son Azaan, who seems like he could come on nicely but perhaps appearing a little too soon on stage. Quibbles apart, there’s no denying it was a magnificent evening, rounded off with a lavish dinner that had us staggering off to bed.
Neemrana is hosting concerts and performances through the winter. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan performs on January 31; there are several classical dance performances lined up and, on March 28, the Delhi Divas will have their say. The evening shows begin after sunset, around 7pm. Concert costs are Rs 1,500 per person, including dinner, and if you’d like to stay on after the recital, bespeak rooms at the fort (Rs 2,000-21,000).