Ustad Sabri Khan was my first sarangi teacher. During the winter of 1971 I visited him a few times a week in his home in Mohullah Nierian, Old Delhi—off G.B. Road. The first thing he taught me was the jhaptal bandish "Allah hi Allah" in rag Bhairav—without the words. Many years later I realised the Islamic import of this song and that it is the most common piece taught to young Muslim sarangi players. The learning situation was chaotic—children running in and out, cooking going on in the corner of the room, Sabri Khan shaving or taking care of household chores or preparing to go out. And he never sat with me with two sarangis. But he taught me several beautiful bandishes, several of which I still play or sing. I didn't really appreciate at the time that this was life—normal—when you have 12 people living in one room. I was a crazed kid, fresh from America, and considering that, Sabri Khan really did very well by me.

Sabri Khan is the son of Chaju Khan of Moradabad where Sabri Khan spent his early years. He learned sarangi from his father and also from his grandfather Ustad Haji Mohammed Khan and his uncle Ustad Laddan Khan. He is a "Top Class" artist of All India Radio, now retired, having worked as a staff artist in the Delhi station for decades. He was one of the most prominent accompanists in India during the second half of the twentieth century, playing with all the greatest singers. He has received many awards including the Sahitya Kala Parishad award, the UP Sangeet Natak Academy award, the National Sangit Academy award, the Padmashree award and the Padma Bushan award

Sabri Khan's son Kamal Sabri and his grandson Suhail also play sarangi. I filmed Suhail reciting his lessons in rag Yaman when he was six, in 1998. Now he is well known as the sarangi player and singer of the outstanding pop group Advaita. See their beautiful take on rag Durga.

The videos below are from a visit on 10 May, 1995. Despite his excellence, fame and weathered maturity, he is still showing off what he can do like a young buck, and nervously denigrating other sarangi players. He started with the morning rag Nat Bhairav:

 

This was followed by a demonstration of difficult chromatic tans. He names several of the other best sarangi players in India, saying that they are all imitating him.

 

The next clip is of Todi—led into from Nat Bhairav:

 

Finally a tappa in Kafi  (the famous miyan jane vala). He invites me back to do some repairs on his sarangi. Unfortunately I was only in Delhi for a couple of days.

 

Sabri Khan audio

 

The following playlist gives a nice selection of Sabri Khan's sarangi over three decades. Check out the Kedar for a lovely example of him going somewhat beyond himself.

 

Please update your Flash Player to view content.