Reaching out: Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The various shades of spring

At the annual festival organised in memory of Sufi Inayat Khan, Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan sang the rare Adana Bahar


The annual festival in memory of Sufi Inayat Khan was held at his tomb in Nizamuddin recently. The saint musician was an unusual man. After being a musician in the Baroda and Hyderabad courts, he went to the US, where he found his Sufi teaching had more resonance with his audience than his music. He returned one last time to India to die in Delhi, where his tomb now lies.

On the opening day, Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan offered his musical “haazri”; he shared that he had been associated with the festival for over 40 years, and that his music was as much an offering to the late Saint musician as it was to his own ancestors whose graves lie in the “dargah”, nearby. As he said, his “haazri” at this festival was special and he always sang rare compositions that he never sang elsewhere.

Musical legacy

His opening raga Bihagada was his main piece, followed by a bandish in Basant “ma shabad sunaaye koyaleeya” then in Bahar “phool khile bageeyan mein” in a racy Ek taal. But it was the array of versions of Bahar that followed that were truly spectacular. The Ustad shared that Hazrat Amir Khusrau, whose musical legacy he represented, had created raga Bahar as an additional raga to render in spring. Loving the raga a lot, Amir Khusrau had then gone on over the years to combine Bahar with other ragas, and composed pieces with lyrics relevant to spring. The word “Bahar” has a Persian originwhich means spring. The usage of the notes of raga Bahar lend themselves to being combined with other ragas, popular combinations are Basant Bahar and Bhairon Bahar.

Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan sang the rare Adana Bahar, “Khwaja Nizam ke ghar aaj” composed by Hazrat Amir Khusrau. The combination of both ragas was masterly. It was hard to discern when the Adana merged into the Bahar. Compositions sung in Suha Bahar and Shahana Bahar (in dhammar taal) were again Khusrau’s. It was laudable that raga Bahar had been combined with fairly similar ragas like Suha, Nayaki Kannada and Adana, yet each “jor” raga had its own distinct identity. Next was a rare “qual” in Bilawal Bahar; also a composition of Amir Khusrau. The Ustad shared that he had also received training in Bageshwari Bahar, Ramkali Bahar, Hindol Bahar and Jaijaiwanti Bahar, amongst others.

Another very rare composition was by Shah Sadarang, in Raga Basant. Unusually, this was said to have been made in honour of Amir Khusrau with the lyrics “lakh baras jeeve mera Khusrau banara, keht Sadarang rangeela”. The concluding piece was a drut teen taal composition in raga Nayaki Bahar, which was attributed to emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, whose pen name was “Shauq Rang”.

The ambience created by the Ustad’s disciples Vivek Prajapati, son Saad Iqbal, nephews Abad Ahmed and Manal Ahmed, singing in unison was another laudable feature of Ustad Iqbal Ahmed’s concert, as he said, “it’s important to give disciples a platform.” On the tabla was Akbar Latif, and on the harmonium, Zakir Dholpuri.