Indian voice wins over aficionados at Uzbek Maqom Festival

Indian voice wins over aficionados at Uzbek Maqom Festival

Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan won top honours at the first international music festival initiated by President Shavkat Mirizoyev.

Strains of the Vande Mataram blended with Amir Khusro’s poetry in the the ancient Uzbek city of Shakhrisabz, as an Indian artiste won top honours at the first of its kind International ‘Maqom’ music festival.

Maqom, the oriental system of music that is enhanced by string and percussion instruments across Asia, is quite different from the classical Hindustani “Thaat” system, but the Uzbek audience voted with its hands, clapping and cheering for Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan and accompanying members of the Dilli (Delhi) gharana.

“I couldn’t believe my ears when they started shouting slogans about Uzbek-Hindi (India) ties,” Ustad Iqbal Khan told The Hindu in an interview after the festival. “I am so glad that not only our work at the Dilli gharana has been recognised, but India was recognised in Uzbekistan,” he added. He described his rendition of the Vande Mataram set to the “Tiranga (tricolour) Malhar” raag that he had composed in 2014 as a combination of three other raags — Megh Malhar, Surdasi Malhar and Mian ki Malhar. Mr. Khan also sang Khusro’s famous Sufi kalam Man kunto Maula”.

160 participants

Mr. Khan was awarded amongst 160 participants from more than 70 countries at the Maqom festival, including groups from Turkey and Israel, South Korea and Japan.

A group of qawwals from Pakistan led by Asif Ali Khan also drew cheering crowds that joined in the chorus during their rendition of the ever popular Sufi “Allah hoo”.

The festival, initiated by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirizoyev, is as much a cultural exchange, as part of the President’s ambitious plans to draw together strings from across the region, say officials.

“There is a general sense here that development has led to deculturalisation, and with that some of the old and historical links between Central Asia and South Asia were lost, that are now seeing a revival,” explains Professor Chander Shekhar, a Persian scholar who is currently Director of the Indian Cultural Centre in Tashkent, who attended the festival.

The Lal Bahadur Shastri Centre for Indian Culture, as it is known, offers classes in kathak, tabla and yoga, drawing in more than 1,200 students each week.

Links with Dilli

Ustad Iqbal Khan’s links to Uzbekistan and Maqom run deep and in fact date back eight centuries since the Dilli gharana that he is now the “Khalifa”, or head, of, was started to popularise and preserve the works of poet Amir Khusro (1253-1325) by his forefathers Hassan Sawant and Bula Kalawant. They were court musicians and qawwals who followed the famous Sufi saints Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi and Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer.

Khusro’s father was from Uzbekistan, while his mother was the daughter of a Hindu Rajput minister. The poet-musician went on to develop Hindustani classical music, khayals and qawwalis, Urdu (Persian-Hindavi) literature and poetry in a unique syncretic style.

Khusro is well known in Uzbekistan, and the museums and public exhibitions at the Maqom festival here refer to his works. On a visit in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented then President Islam Karimov with the Khamsa-e-Khusrau, a bound quintet of Khusro’s poetry to mark the bond.

In the centuries after Khusro, Uzbek figures made a different kind of mark, as Amir Temur (1398 CE) and then Babur (1526 CE) led armies to India.

The bonds across time were revived last week in Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Temur. With his historic Ak-Saray summer palace (1380 CE) as the backdrop, the powerful poetry of Khusro, sung by an Indian singer resounded most clearly.

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