Wednesday, December 06, 2006
By A Wex Writer - Afternoon Dispatch & Courier - Bombay,India
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Meet India’s first female Sufi singer, Zila Khan, who’s gearing up to perform at the ‘Jahan-e-Khusrau’ in Boston, Sufi music’s biggest festivals...
Noted Sufi singer, Zila Khan has recently added another feather to her cap. India’s first female Sufi singer has been invited to perform at one of Sufi music’s biggest festivals, ‘Jahan-e-Khusrau’ at the end of this month. The festival, which takes place in Delhi every year, is taking place at Boston this time around. And Zila has been practicing diligently for the show. Her last live performance was at Manimajra where she vowed audiences with her soulful voice. Daughter of sitar maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Zila is the seventh generation of an unbroken line of sitar and surbhar’s oldest ‘gharana’. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Women’s Extra, Zila Khan talks about her herself, her inspiration and ‘Jahan-e-Khusrau’.
Since how long have you been preparing for ‘Jahan-e-Khusrau’?
The Sufi festival in Boston is being organized by Woodman Taylor. Muzaffar Ali and I were asked to participate in it through the ICCR, as they wanted India’s leading Sufi singers to perform there. Taylor liked the name ‘Jahan-e-Khusrau’ so much so that he asked Muzaffar Ali if he could use the name and Muzaffar agreed, since his film is also being shown there. Apart from this, it has always a pleasure to sing in ‘Jahan-e-Khusrau’ in Delhi and all the other Sufi festivals like the one I sang in Kashmir recently.
Did the fact that you were born in a family with a musical background inspire you to choose the career that you did?
Yes, I consider it my good fortune to be born in this family. The literature and discipline of this profession is what attracted me to absorb it in my singing. But choosing this profession as a career was due to my husband Dr. Khalid Anwar and my esteemed father Ustad Vilayat Khan, whose vision was far ahead of his time and he knew this would be the right career for me.
How many hours do you practice daily?
I used to practice 12 to 14 hours a day with my father, who used to teach me with a lot of love and insight. Now with my slightly busy schedule and my responsibilities towards my son and husband, I practice at least two to four hours a day.
Who do you credit your success to?
Firstly I’d credit it to God because without ‘rehmat’ and ‘dua’, success is not possible. So with the ‘rehem’ of God and the ‘duas’ of my father and husband, this success has been possible!
Who are your favourite performers?
To perform, one needs to have a very magnetic and arresting kind of presence, which my father was known to have had. His charisma was phenomenal. And I love Nusrat Fateh Ali’s, Ustad Amir Khan’s and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali’s performances and singing. Pandit Birju Maharaj, too, has such an amazing presence on stage!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I guess my interest and vast keenness to explore the medium of every dimension of singing and the vastness that lies in this medium, is where I get my inspiration from and even my peace.
What advise would you give other women in this field?
Women, because we’ve just come of age and are being able to be what we choose to be, must be more careful with how we conduct ourselves or grow as human beings. We have to pass on this beacon of freedom to the coming generation of women. I think the same applies to men too.
When you look back on your journey as a singer, how do you feel?
I feel humbled that my passion could be transformed into such a huge aura and zone of spiritual and literate pleasure. That is definitely something to feel happy and humbled by.
Could you tell us something about your forthcoming album ‘Sar Masti’?
‘Sar Masti’ is an album which has five songs, all written by Hazrat Amir Khusrau. I am very happy to be able to sing ‘real and authentic’ poetry by the great poet and sufi inventor (of the sitar and tabla, etc) Hazrat Amir Khusrau, in my own singing style which is again so humane and full of feelings.