Sitar maestro Shujaat Khan in conversation with Medha Dutta:
What are your earliest memories of music?
I was born into a musical house, so everyone was playing music constantly; my father, his students, and his friends. I was born into music, and music used to be there throughout the day.
You carved out a niche for yourself at a very young age. Tell us about it.
It is a difficult thing to explain. I think I am just a normal person who works hard and spends a lot of time thinking about music or on how to highlight my own expression. So many people play music, and there are just seven notes. To bring out my own personality and leave a mark, I have had to work on it and I am glad that people understand that and accept my music.
Has the audience changed over the years?
No, the generation of listeners keeps changing but people who get involved in Indian Classical music are people who are more evolved. There is no change in listeners—they understand what they are coming for.
Tell us about your life’s mantra.
To begin with, a lot of musicians claim that music is their entire life; I must say that music is not my whole life. It is a part of my life. My family, my friends, dogs, home, travels and holidays, exploring different parts of the earth—these are equally important to me. Watching cricket on television all day long, going for movies is also a part of my life, too. So my life is not restricted just to music.
You have achieved so much. Is there anything left?
Is Bollywood stealing the limelight from classical music?
No, they are two different streams. It’s like saying biryani is stealing the limelight from dosa.
Do you think the youth are still interested in classical music?
Yes, they are interested, but they have to be evolved. Young people who are evolved and want something more from life are interested.
An unfulfilled desire.
Many. Everyone on earth has them, unless you are an ascetic. I am a normal human being and have many desires, some of them are unfulfilled but they don’t bother me enough to go crazy. I have quite a few small desires. I am mostly content.
If not a sitar player, what would you have been?
I don’t know. Something to make a living, otherwise I never thought about it, difficult to say.
What is the kind of music you listen to?
I listen to everything—both Hindi and English, more Hindi. I used to listen to a lot of English music at one point in my life but not anymore.
What’s next on the cards?
Recreation and going to different parts of Europe.
March 10: Kochi
March 15-25: Australia tour
April 21-22: Bhilwara Music Festival, Delhi
April 27: Dubai