S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

18.2.1929 - 4.1.2017
Sitar maestro Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, who passed away at his Bandra (Mumbai) residence on 4 January 2017, was in the league of such great names in the field as Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee. He effortlessly straddled the worlds of Hindustani classical music and Hindi cinema, and established ‘Jafferkhani baaj’—a unique style of playing the instrument. He was highly decorated, receiving such awards as the Tantri Vilas, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Tagore Samman and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

How did Halim Jaffer Khan achieve such eminence at a time when the legendary sitar triumvirate were at their peak? This question haunted me, and I put it to him when, during his last Kolkata visit in 2004, I met him at the residence of his prime disciple Harashankar Bhattacharya, whom he fondly addressed as his ‘bada beta’ (elder son). He took the question very sportingly and answered, “Riyaaz ki roshni ne raah kar di” (Devoted practice illuminated my path) and my disciples are now following it. In 1976, I founded the Halim Academy of Sitar in Mumbai. Zunain, my sondisciple and a few dedicated disciples like Prasad Joglekar and Gargi Shinde have come forward to take care of the Academy; and Harashankar founded Madhyami here in Kolkata to promote and propagate Jafferkhani baaj. His boy Deepshankar is showing great promise of keeping the flag flying high.”

I asked him why he called his style ‘Jafferkhani’ and not ‘Indore’ as a member of the Indore beenkar Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan (1927-2017) Meena Banerjee gharana that follows the tradition of Ustad Bande Ali Khan. He patiently explained that since his playing method had experienced a paradigm shift from the tradition he belonged to, and since his singer father had sowed the seeds to invent new traditions within the tradition, he dedicated this baaj to his father Jaffer Khan.

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