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The Ustad Alla Rakha Chat

'Artistes should always stay away from the government'

It took tabla maestro Ustad Alla Rakha only a few minutes to get familiar with a new medium. After that he was in great form chatting away, sprinkling his remarks with wit and wisdom. He received a lot of compliments which he took with a smile. At 80, he is a testament to the cliche old is gold. The third anniversary of the Rediff Chat thus began with a bang!

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:37 IST)
You have called me and I have have come and I'm waiting for your questions :-)

Kirti Verma (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:39 IST)
Adaab Ustadji: What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:41 IST)
Kirti Verma: Whatever work I have done, the reason for what I left home, and I am grateful to my lord that I was able to achieve it and I am thankful to you all for loving me.

Raga (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:41 IST)
Ustadji, paiyon choon. Aap aap ke teen beton mein kisko tabla ke asal master samajthe hain?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:44 IST)
Raga: First mera beta Zakir Hussain uske baad Fazal Hussain aur third Taufeeq, but sab se jayada serving the classical art is Zakir then is Fazal Qureshi. Since childhood the guru knows that the student will go ahead with his dedication and commitment. And Zakir as a child itself was always ahead.

rupali (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:43 IST)
Ustadji.. tabla has been the love of your life... but I always wanted to know apart from the tabla which other instrument did you like most??

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:45 IST)
Rupali I haven't loved any other instrument as I have loved the tabla and the tabla is my life. This is what I have done and this will remain my life.

Aparna Tara (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:45 IST)
Ustadsaheb: There is a belief that Indian classical music is promoted more in the West than in India. Would you agree? Do you think enough is being done to promote it here, especially at a level where show tickets aren't expensive so that it accessible to more people in India.

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:48 IST)
Aparna Tara: If India does not make it happen then, where will the classical arts be enriched? It is still alive and well. For 35 years I and Pandit Ravi Shankar have preached Indian classical music all over the world, so it is popular. And in India we have been preaching it since the time we have been 12, 13 years old, Ali Akbar, Vilayat Khan, Alla Rakha, Ravi Shankar, we are household names in India since that age, due to the popularity of the classical arts.

Raga (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:50 IST)
Thank you for your kind response, sir. When Pandit Jasraj attacked Pandit Ravi Shankar after he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt said Zakirsaab and Amjadsaab were appropriating all the government invitations for themselves. Do you agree with such a charge? Do you think that the government should not be involved with culture?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:56 IST)
Raga: All the artistes are Bharat Ratnas. Bharat Ratna means that all the artistes who have been promoting classical arts are the jewels of India so there is no question of being any dispute regarding that. Artistes should always stay away from the government. I will never ask anything from the government because I have sacrificed my life for my art, so why should I ask them any favours? I have never asked for any awards from them. No artiste will make the arts stoop so low to ask for awards or to lobby. If we do anything to our art, that is our service to that art, so the government should not ask us what we want but give without any artiste asking for anything.

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:58 IST)
Raga: Lahaol-wala-quwat! Why would Zakir do any lobbying? He doesn't go anywhere to ask anything. When they approach him to perform, he performs, he never approaches them.

shree (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:43 IST)
Ustadji, Sangeet ke prati aap ka lagaav kab aur kahan se surroo huva?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:1 IST)
Shree: Since childhood one feels close to something, some people feel close to drama, which I used to watch, without money in my pocket entering the theatre and be driven away. But I fell in love with art. In my childhood we would have travelling melas pass our village and I was inspired by their art. Kharbooze ko dekhar Kharbooza rang pakadta hai, in every performance there would be a tabla player and I was fascinated by it.

raja (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:54 IST)
Ustadji...aap unmese hai...jinhone Indian classical music ko videsh mein khas kar tabla ko itna popular banaya... aur abh Zakir bhi usi raste se chal raha hai...lekin videsh mein iska kya asar hua hai? kya woh itna izzat de pate hai jitna hum dete hai???

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:3 IST)
Raja: The West like the rhythm of the tabla, and they give a lot of respect to our art and the guru shishya parampara. I have 400, 500 disciples in countries all over the world. It is the individual who counts and his love for the art.

bipin (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:0 IST)
Ustadji, How old are you?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:4 IST)
Bipin: I'm just celebrating my 80th birthday.

shree (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:48 IST)
Ustadji, aap ke aaj tak ke sangeet safar me sab se avismarniya lamha kuan sa raha hai?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:8 IST)
Shree: Lamhe ka matlab yeh hota hai jab insaan guru ke pass apni vidya le kar aata hai, aur riyaas karne ke baad jo lamha hota hai, main jab bhi riyaas karta hoon main us lamhe ko yaad karta hoon. All the incidents that have happened in my life have all been nice I have no bad incidents. Once I was in a plane with Ravi Shankar, and the weather was very bad. We were going from London to some place and the plane kept on bouncing. He remarked 'Yeh kya ho raha hai?" I said 'That when a car goes in a ditch it jumps so don't panic'*lol*

The barne (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:52 IST)
My heartfelt greetings Ustadji! Dear sir do you remember Woodstock? How was it like to be there as a performer?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:12 IST)
The barne: There were 30,000 people over there, there was no way for us to perform so I had to go by an helicopter and Woodstock is such a hilly terrain but it was filled with people all the way. I don't think there was ever such a performance, the public was like 'Ravi, Alla....Ravi, Alla'.... I have never seen so many people, Viku Vinayakram's car got stuck on the road because of the people. It has never happened with any artiste. We performed a mix of ragas and kept on improvising there.

rupali (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:11 IST)
Ustadji ek accha fankar banne ke liye kis gun ki sabse jyada avshaykta hain..??

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:13 IST)
Rupali: The one basic requirement is 'ALL YOUR LIFE' you have to dedicate your life to be a good fankar.

raja (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:13 IST)
Ustadji...kisi bhi kala mein guru ka hona bahut zaroori hai...lekin mujhe lagta hai ki aaj kal zamana badal gaya to guru ke paas sikhane ka waqt hota hai...kyon ki woh concerts dene mein mashroof rehte hai..aur na hi shishya ke paas waqt hota hai...aur khas taur pe humare sangeet mein ... guru ka itna hi importance hai jitna ki seekhne wale ka hota hai...lekin aisa nahi ho raha hai...iske liye kisko dosh diya jaye?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:19 IST)
Raja: Are you talking on your own behalf or you asking on behalf of the others as a generic question? If you have experienced a guru in the real sense you won't ask this statement. And if you want to see how students respect and love their guru and work with him, you are most welcome to come to my classes and experience it for yourself.

shree (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:19 IST)
Ustadji, Aap ka jindagi ko dekhne ka ek alaag najariya raha hai, jisane aap ko biheed se alaag ek pahchan di hain. Kya aap hamen yeh raaj bata sakete hain?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:22 IST)
Shree: Because I have differentiated myself from everything, I have made myself different from everyone else around myself, and even my style of playing the tabla is very different and hence others come to watch my style. It is something I have developed. Attitude is all important and has played a big role in my life.

The barne (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:16 IST)
Thanx a ton sir ..... we all know that one performance changed people perspective of Indian classical music both home as well as abroad ...... Did you know sir that MIKEY HART of GRATEFUL DEAD had paid tribute to you in his book PLANET DRUMS ..... do you remember any of them? Did you watch the other performers?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:23 IST)
The Barne: Mickey Hart is my student, he came and learnt from me later. I have seen the book and cherished the tribute, I wrote him a note saying 'I'm very happy about his book'.

Bansuri (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:54 IST)
Do you sometimes feel overshadowed by Ustad Zakir Hussain? I read somewhere that you disapproved of his experiments in fusion music. Is that correct? Did he ever consult you or seek your approval in these matters?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:25 IST)
Bansuri: I like fusion music so I don't disapprove of it. There can't be anything different from classical and I have seen his performances and they are different from classical but they did use classical music in it, maybe they added it because I was sitting in the audience*lol*.

Mudit (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:8 IST)
Sir How many hours of "Riaz" do you do everyday??

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:28 IST)
Mudit: I have become 80 years old, when I was learning with my guru then I used to reherase for 12 hours. Morning 4 hours, afternoon 4 hours and evening 4 hours, though not together. So now at this age when it's difficult to me to get up*grin* I make my kids rehearse.

rupali (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:26 IST)
Ustadji aapke zindagi ke sabse yadgar lamhe kaun se rahe...yah aisa kutch jo aapki zindagi, aapke sangit par gahra prabhav kar gaya hain?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:29 IST)
Rupali: Sur aur Ley *rhythm*, aur ley is something that we use to move around, without ley the world will stop.

The barne (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:28 IST)
Do you have any plans to pen your memories?

Vince (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:28 IST)
Ustadji, you have appeared together with Pandit Ravi Shanker... Is there any plan in the offing for a an appearance together on stage of your son Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:31 IST)
The Barne: My biography has already been published in the US.......Vince: There is no plan as such, if there is a programme it may happen but there is nothing planned in the future, though Zakir performed with Rahul (Sharma, santoor artiste Shivkumar Sharma's son).

Raga (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:56 IST)
Why have Fazal and Taufeeq not made it to the level that Zakir has? Is it because their talent was not up to his level?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:34 IST)
Raga: How old is Taufeeq? Fazal started his riyaz only at the age of 20 and Taufeeq is in a different line, he is into composing and is making a mark for himself in the music industry.

shree (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:27 IST)
Ustadji, Aap ke anusar Sangeet ka jivan me kya sthan hota hai?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:32 IST)
Shree: All life is rhythm so it is life itself.

rupali (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:20 IST)
Ustadji jis tarah Protima Bedi ne Nrityagam ki shuruwat kar..ek misal kayam ki hain Guru Shishya parampara aur hamare culture ko jivit rakhne ki..kya aap samjhte hain ki ki sangeet ki liye bhi is trah ke gurukul jaroori hain.. kya government ka bhi isme yogdan hona utna hi avashyak hain.

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:36 IST)
Rupali: I don't want to encourage any participation by the government in setting up musical institutes. If the government wants to do something, then well and good, I have set up my institute, I can always give suggestions to them as to how to set it up and how much it will cost, though if they don't do anything then I am anyway doing something about it in my own way.

anokhi (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:44 IST)
Ustad...what do you think about all this fuss that is being made about Dilip Kumar and his Pak award? Should artistes be subject to political boundaries?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:39 IST)
Anokhi: Artistes are of a different world. His whole universe is very different, so why should he be connected to politics in anyway? But it doesn't feel nice what they are saying to Dilip Kumar.

Sitar (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:45 IST)
Ustadji: People say you gave the tabla and the tabalchi its place in the sun. Until you came along, tabalchis were considered to be second grade artistes. Did you manage this on your own? Or were other artistes responsible?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:41 IST)
Sitar: Whatever I have done I have done alone. I came to Bombay in 1938 and have been preaching this since then. I did whatever I could, I took my art wherever I could. I created such a combination that Ravi Shankar had to take me along everywhere and we became an act, it was never me accompanying him.

shaina (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:45 IST)
Ustadji Namaste. I have been your fan for over a decade and i wanted to learn the tabla as well but being a female I was constantly discouraged. Why is there such a discrimination against women when it comes to this instrument??

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:42 IST)
Shaina: I have never heard of such an event, there is no discrimination between member of any sex playing the tabla.

taal (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:40 IST)
Pay Lagoo Ustadji, Ustadji wot do you think about A R Rahman?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:44 IST)
Taal: Rahman has kept his name on my name, A R Rahman, he always said he is Alla Rakha Rahman *lol*........I'm not in the film line anymore but the public loves his music but he can make the music even more beautiful, then I'll like it more, I can't take much to the 'bhaag-daud kind of music'

taal (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:43 IST)
Ustadji, aap ka Hindi film music ke bareme kya khayal hai?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:47 IST)
Taal: I have no khayal on film music. Though 20, 30 years back music has an identity. You knew this was Naushad's music, today all music sounds the same. Today we copy someone else's music so where is the originality? Music is not written according to situations. In the early days you had great music directors, today the music and stuations have changed and there is a lot of chaos.

raja (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:45 IST)
apne mere sawal ka jawab nahi diya... aur ek sawal hai jo mein puchna chahata hoon...woh ye hai ki jyada tar dekh jata hai ki Indian classical music ek khandani pesha hota hai...bahut kam sunne ko aata hai ki bina kisi family background ka koi sangeet ke duniya mein naam bana raha bhi bare fankar hote hai...woh kisi na kisi tarike se apne sons ya daughters ko promote karte hai...sangeet to sab ke liye hota phir itni khubsurat kala mein itni bias kyon hai...

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:49 IST)
Raja: A gharana is something permanent. It can't be moved. Zakir is my son and shagird, so is Fazal and so is Taufeeq, sab ko ganda bandha hai, Yogesh is my disciple, Anuradha is a disciple. So they all evolve in their own talent and own space. There is no special treatment for anyone.

rupali (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:53 IST)
Ustadji...aajkal jamana "bhag- daud" ke music ka hain..lekin phir bhi jab Shiv-Hari jaise jodi ne popular music diya tha..kya aap bata sakte hain ki koyon Shastriya sangeet ke fankar film music nahi dete??

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:52 IST)
Rupali: Dete hain, bahut sare dete hain, in South Indian films all music directors are trained in classical music.

Bansuri (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:48 IST)
Log kehte hain ke aap aap ke career se itne busy the ki aap ne aap ka family ko jyadda time nahin diya. Isliye, aap ki biwi ghar ka full charge mein hein. baat saihi hai kya ustadji. log kehte ki aap ke bachche aur aap unse bahut darte hain! :-)))))

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:55 IST)
Bansuri: Yes she is the boss of the household and no we are not scared of her. We respect her and when you respect someone it is equivalent to being scared of that person:-)

uma (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:49 IST)
Ustadji :How would you compare the tabla to the mridangam and the other percussion instruments? If you learn one can you play the other.

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:57 IST)
Uma: All percussions are different from each other because each has a different 'bol' (voice) A dholak has a different bol, a mridangaam has a different bol.

Sitar (Mon Jul 12 1999 21:51 IST)
What in your memory sir was the most memorable moment in your career? Was it the UN concert?

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:58 IST)
Sitar: Everyone asks this question. This is like a kid's question because everyone wants to know which was my favourite concert. But for me they all are my favourites, every concert was the best in my career.

rupali (Mon Jul 12 1999 22:59 IST)
Ustadji aapke teeno ladken aapke hi fan ko aage badha rahe hain..aur aapki daughter-in-law bhi Kathak dancer hain.. ek foreigner ho kar bhi woh Indian culture me itni ruchi dikhati ..aap ko kaisa lagta hain??

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 23:2 IST)
Rupali: If my son or daughter does something good then it will be termed as good only na:-) I'm proud of them. Bye

Ustad Alla Rakha (Mon Jul 12 1999 23:0 IST)
Everyone: Whichever art form you study or enjoy and like, then learn it or follow it with a lot of love. If you love something it will love you back, gaana bajana pyaar se hi hota hai, if love is not in your heart it won't be in your hands or voice. Sab ko mera pyaar aur jo bhi vidya karta hai usko mera aashirwaad, usko pyaar se rakho woh bhi pyaar rakhegi.

Questions the Ustad did not answer