Monday, October 2, 2017

"The Surbahar's future? Andhakarmoy" অন্ধকারময় says Smt. Annapoorna Devi

In August 2009, I sought an interview with one of the most distinguished performers on the Surbahar, Smt. Annapoorna Devi. Getting a personal interview was, as anyone can imagine, impossible. But, her husband and Sitarist, the late Prof. Rooshikumar Pandya agreed to help. She dictated to Rooshi Bhai the answers to my questions.I reproduce here the full text of the questions and answers.
Question: Did Alauddin Khansaheb play the Surbahar? If so who were his teachers?
 Answer: No.  Baba played Sarod , Sursingar, violin and several other instruments.  

Question: It is known that Ayat Ali Khansaheb was a Surbahar player. Who were his teachers?
Answer: Baba took Ustad Ayat Ali Khansaheb (his brother) to my Dadaguru Ustad Wazir Khansaheb, Rampur.   Ustad Wazir Khansaheb then taught surbahar to Ustad  Ayat Ali Khansaheb.

Question: Did you study the instrument with Baba or Ayet Alai Khansaheb, or both? 
Answer: I studied under Baba. 

Question: Have you trained any students on the Surbahar? Can I have the names, please?
Answer: Niloufer (Ustad Rais Khan’s sister) did learn from me for some time.  

Question: Would you care to name some of the good Surbahar players she has heard in your times?  What was their background? Whose students were they? 
 Answer: I hardly went out. Didn’t hear any surbahar players. 

Question: Were you taught the 3-mizrab, 2 mizrab, or single mizrab Baj of the Surbahar? With how many mizrabs did you perform? Did you use the little finger for the Chikari, as on the Been?
Answer: I have performed  wearing two mizrabs as well as single mizrab. Yes. I use the  fingernail of the little finger for the chikari. 

Question: In your gharana, has Surbahar been played only for alap-jod-jhala? Or were Dhrupad-Dhamar or Masitkhani bandishes also played on the instrument? 
Answer: In our Gharana surbahar is for alap-jod-jhala -- although occasionally we do play tar paran and Dhrupad compositions. 
Question: Is it right to say that the Surbahar uses only Da (inward) strokes on the Baj string? Or, are Ra (outward) strokes also used?
Answer: Yes. As a rule, this is the Surbahar technique.  However, when not playing pure Dhrupad anga, the Ra stroke are used for playing fast passages in some ragas. 

Question: Is it right to say that the Surbahar melodic idiom is predominantly a "meend" idiom, with virtually no role for fretwork techniques? My experience tells me that Surbahar notes sound lifeless on the frets.
 Answer: True. 

Question: What is the correct/ most common thickness of the Baj string on the Surbahar? Niloufer had told me Rais Khan and she used No. 6. Vilayat Khansaheb, and Imrat Khansaheb use No. 5. What gauge did you use in youth? Is it decided by the acoustic design of the particular instrument?
Answer: I think it is a question of preference.  Some sitar players use no. 3 while some use no 4.  For surbahar some people feel comfortable with no. 6.  I use  no. 5. I do not know much about the acoustic design but I think the person who  does the jawari needs to do it a bit differently for different gauges. 

Question: At what pitch are most Surbahars tuned for solo performance?
Answer: I tune my Saa to the  tivra madhyam of the sitar 

Question: The Surbahar has survived as long as Siatrsists were willing to master two different instruments. Can you give me your views on the future of the Surbahar?  
Answer: Andhakarmoy!     

 (c) Deepak S. Raja 2009