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Murad Ali. Photo: Inni Singh
Murad Ali. Photo: Inni Singh

A sarangi treat

On Murad Ali, the torch-bearer of a family of sarangi players, that hails from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh

If someone had to make a selection of unusual songs, it would be natural for them to source it from professional singers with years of experience. Without doubt, many vocalists have quite a treasure of rare and unique compositions. And yet, some of the most unusual pieces I have heard belong to the varied collections of musicians who have not specialized in singing.

The well-known sarangi player Murad Ali is one such source of very fine and unusual compositions. Only in his 30s, the well-established and critically acclaimed sarangi nawaz is the torch-bearer of a family of sarangi players that hails from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. A recipient of several prestigious awards including the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar (2009-10) established by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, and the Sanskriti Award (2011) from the Sanskriti Pratishthan, New Delhi, Murad Ali has earned his position among the leading sarangi artistes with his skill, talent and expressive musicianship.

My first sighting and hearing of Murad bhai, as I have referred to him for years, was probably when he was a little tyke who looked like he could have a merry time turning cartwheels or playing cricket in school. I was then part of a jury that selected talented young students of the performing arts for a scholarship programme established by the New Delhi-based Centre for Cultural Resources and Training, or CCRT. Murad bhai and his equally talented twin, Fateh Ali, who plays the sitar, came plodding obediently behind their grandfather and ustad, Siddique Ahmad Khan, who escorted them to the scholarship interview. When asked to play for the examiners, the young lads did so with the nonchalant and easy air of people who are used to doing this every day. Stunning everyone with their prowess, talent and poise, they easily won the scholarships.

Within a few years, Murad bhai was accompanying musicians and dancers in Delhi and other parts of the country, and was soon a regular on the recording circuit, as well. In my long and greatly cherished association with him, I have not only had the pleasure of his splendid sarangi accompaniment to my singing, but have also had the chance to discuss a host of music-related issues. In the course of our many discussions, he sometimes sang compositions he had inherited from his grandfather and father, Ghulam Sabir Khan. It is some of these compositions that he has very graciously and generously agreed to share with readers of this column.

As with most communities in India, wedding celebrations are never bereft of music. But among families of hereditary musicians, such as the one Murad bhai belongs to, wedding songs are not simple singalong ditties. Murad bhai shares a beautiful wedding song in the Shahana raga . And a rare shakkar-dori composition taught by ustads in the family during the initiation ceremony of their disciples.

Here are two charming little tracks that illustrate the playful rhymes and verses used by this family of hereditary musicians to teach their young children the complexities of taal and rhythm:



And finally, soz, or a traditional song of lament, recited by Murad Ali and his 12-year-old nephew Shahnawaz Ali.

Also Read Shubha’s previous Lounge columns

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