October 6, 2009 6:00 am
Renowned Sitar Player Performs at St. Mary's
On September 25, the Asian Studies Club and the Lecture and Fine Arts Committee hosted a lecture and performance by renowned sitar player Ustad Imrat Khan. The lecture was held in the Blakistone Room of Anne Arundel Hall at 5 p.m. and lasted until about 6:30. The concert was held at St. Mary’s Hall from 8 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m. Mr. Khan is best known in western academia for introducing classical Indian music to western audiences and western college curriculum.
The lecture was well-attended. Mr. Khan’s talk covered the basic elements of Indian music, such as the ability to play all thirteen known notes on several Indian instruments. “Music is one of the oldest subjects in the world,” stated Mr. Khan at the beginning of the lecture. He went on to explain how music was taught in India before the introduction of the western music scale.
Though parts of the lecture wained philosophic and religious, there was a general sense of joviality in the room. Mr. Khan repeatedly asked questions of the audience, and when met with silence, would laugh gently at them. Mr. Khan played a smattering of music including a happy and sad version of “Happy Birthday,” and a generic blues tune to demonstrate different elements of Indian music and the versatility of the sitar.
The lecture was forced to end at 6:30 because of time-constraints involved with setting up for the concert. Students who attended the lecture were generally impressed. “I thought it was interesting how he had a negative opinion of bands today.” said Freshman Dennisse Mallari, referring to Mr. Khan’s comments that modern bands used volume to replace talent and musical skill.
St. Mary’s Hall was standing-room only, as many students arrived early to get seats for the concert. Mr. Khan was accompanied by his son, Shafaatullah Khan, on the tabla, a type of Indian drum. They performed two long songs, with a pause for tuning of instruments in between the songs. “To be in tune [while performing] is to be in tune with God. God is never happy.” joked Ustad Khan.
The audience was held in rapt attention by the musicians and gave them a standing ovation at the end of the performance. “Watching them play was almost more entertaining than the music.” said Junior Kenne Toula afterwards.