The sarangi, an instrument believed to have the ability to conjure up sau rang or a hundred colours, continues to be played among families of hereditary sarangi players in India. But it has also been played in Pakistan. Many of the important Pakistani sarangi players migrated from India after Partition. In the third episode of our series on the sarangi as a solo instrument (you can read parts one and two here and here), we feature Nathu Khan (1920-1971), one such respected sarangi player from that generation.
He plays a short aalaap followed by a composition set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time units, in the raag Chandni Kedar. Intricate left-hand finger technique and virtuosic playing mark his performance. He even includes the jhala, a climactic section that is normally associated with plucked instruments due to its repetitive percussive strokes.
The amazing coordination between both hands and the ease with rhythm is evident throughout the recital.
The second track includes a short aalaap and a composition set to a medium tempo Teentaal, in the raag Lalit, a raag prescribed for the morning. Once again, Nathu Khan’s technical dexterity is on display, but he juxtaposes it with slower passages that draw out the essence of the raag. The performance ends with the jhala.
The last recording in this episode has an exquisite composition played in medium tempo Teentaal in the raag Tilak Kamod. Almost singing through his instrument, Nathu Khan draws out phrases that are evocative of thumri singing. The sharp tonal edge in his playing is more pronounced in this recording.