Ustad Kamal Sabri

by Dr. Prakash Dixit

(Editor’s Note: Ustad Kamal Sabri, Sarangi and voice; Sabir Hussain, tabla; and Nabeel Khan-Sarangi, nephew of Ustad Kamal Sabri, performed in concert to honour Swami Veda at the 1st Anniversary of his Mahasamadhi on 14th July 2016.)

Ustad Kamal Sabri – Carrying forward a rich legacy

The Sarangi Maestro

Ustad Kamal Sabri represents the seventh generation of illustrious Sarangi exponents belonging to the 400 year old Sainia gharana of Moradabad. Ustad Kamal Sabri, son of Sarangi legend Ustad Sabri Khan Sahab, has been reinventing the art of Sarangi-playing for many years while maintaining the rich legacy of his gharana which is the leading gharana of Sarangi-playing.

He has been responsible for popularizing Sarangi on a global scale and redefining it for the masses. He has demonstrated profound versatility in playing the Sarangi and has introduced innovations like adding a cello string to Sarangi.

Ustad Kamal Sabri was initiated and trained by his father from the tender age of five years. Hailed as a child prodigy, he soon made waves in the music world with his talent. His musical brilliance and innate talent took him from being a seasoned accompanist to an acclaimed soloist.

He has worked with veterans like Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Hossam Ramzy (Egypt), Ricky Niles (Barbados, West Indies), Jukka Tolonen (Finland), and Jan Garbarek (Norway). He has also recorded music with popular rock bands like Massive Attack and One Giant Leap.

Ustad Kamal Sabri has composed music for several Hollywood and Bollywood films, and delivered powerful background scores for documentary films, theatre and dance performances. He is also an accomplished vocalist.

After the golden age of Sarangi in the mid 20th century, there was a vacuum in good Sarangi-playing. Ustad Kamal Sabri has put new vigour in this art and has inspired a new generation of Sarangi players with his distinct style, mentorship and dedication. He once again established Sarangi as a solo instrument while forging new partnerships with both Indian and foreign musicians.

This effervescent master of the instrument considered closest in resemblance to human voice feels that Sarangi is the music of the eternal human soul.

Ustad Kamal Sabri continues to explore the vast realm of the music world yet retaining the purity of the Indian classical music through the strains of his Sarangi.

Awards and Recognitions

Ustad Kamal Sabri has been invited to several prestigious music festivals in Jalandhar, Gwalior, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, "Art of the Bow" Festival in Geneva, Switzerland, World Music Festival in  Lahore, Pakistan, and BBC Millennium Concert in Birmingham, UK to just name a few. Appreciation and rave reviews for his performance have come easily and spontaneously.

Today he is a name to reckon with in the international cultural scene. He devoted close to a decade to bring the knowledge of Indian classical music to foreign shores while teaching in England, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Russia. He has been a guest lecturer at several major universities and music academies around the world.

A top grade artist of All India Radio, Ustad Kamal Sabri has won several awards in India and abroad. He has many achievements to his credit including the privilege to be the youngest Indian musician to participate in "Les 24 heures du raga" (24 hours Millennium concert) in Paris, France. He made a record of sorts in that Festival by playing nine concerts along with his father, leaving the audience spellbound.

Ustad Kamal Sabri has been invited many times to showcase his musical skills by the All India Radio, BBC, Radio France, Radio Pakistan, Radio Switzerland, Radio Italy, Radio Barbados, and Finnish Broadcasting Company (Finland).

Swami Veda and Ustad Sabri

For Ustad Sabri, the SRSG is just like his other home. He is a very busy artist of this fading string instrument and he keeps on giving concerts in India and abroad most part of the year. Yet he always found time to come here and gave his “hajiri” in the temple of Swami Veda. This is Ustad Sabri’s third concert in this ashram.

I like to share an interesting incident which occurred here in this very hall when he came for the first time. As is usual for most musicians, he started talking of his instrument, its technical details, and its history and naturally about his family. Swami Veda politely interjected took over himself to speak about the instrument and his family. Ustad Sabri was pleasantly stunned by the fact that Swamiji knew all about his family up to three generations and finest details and nuances about this instrument Sarangi. Ustad became a fan of Swami Veda and makes it a point to be here whenever we invite him.

When Swamiji dropped his body a year back, Ustad Sabri was not in India. His busy scheduled prevented him from coming to the ashram and pay his tributes to the memory of Swamiji. Even today [14 July 2016], he is coming straight from Denmark where he was giving his concerts and is here to pay homage to Swami Veda this evening on the first anniversary of his Mahasamadhi.

Editor’s Note:

Photo by Michael Kissener.



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