Sohbet of the Week (42 -17)

Musharaff Khan tells of the relationship between music teacher and disciple

The study of music in the East is of entirely different character, the link between teacher and disciple is much more intimate than in the West, and this is mainly because the old music of India has never been written down.

The disciple, before being accepted, brings a present, fruits and flowers, to the Master. The Master in his turn gives the disciple something sweet to eat. The disciple also brings along a cord, a twine, which is bound loosely around his wrist, and the teacher tightens the twine. Incense is kindled, its scent symbolizes the prayer and gives a mystical note to the little ceremony. Exchanging fruits, flowers and sweets, the tightening of the twine around the wrist are the outer signs of gratitude of the disciple and the link of intimacy which now is established between disciple and teacher from the very beginning.

My first music teacher was my elder uncle, the eldest son of Moula Bakhsh, Murtuza Khan. He in his turn had been disciple of my father as a boy; and I can still remember the day on which my father presented me as disciple with him. I was then eleven years old, and I remember that it was on a Thursday. My father waited in front of the door and listened, until he heard my uncle practising, then we both entered his room. My father had brought flowers, sweets and incense, and with a deep bow he offered him these, laid them at his feet and presented me to him.

‘Master, here is a disciple, if you wish, please accept him’ he said and bowed deeply. That was my initiation into the sacred Room of Music. My uncle did not answer, and my father retired. My uncle, completely baffled, was moved to the depth of his being by these acts, words and respectful attitude of his old master. You must know that we are a very sensitive race; we live close to nature, and we live in an intense, but happy climate.

I stood there, full of wonder and expectation. Astonished I saw how the hand of my uncle trembled as he took a sweet between his fingers and put it into my mouth. I saw tears in his eyes, and felt his emotion and affection. First, he sang a scale, and I repeated each note after him. I can still see him before me, when I think of him, with broad shoulders, vigorous, with a swinging voice, a sort of king to me, the son of Moula Bakhsh and the brother of my mother.

When the scale was over, he sang a song to Sharda, the goddess of music. Then he sang a hymn to the Prophet Mohammed. The room turned holy for me. These lessons with my uncle always remained the happiest and most beautiful moments in my life.

With deep gratitude, dear Musharaff, for your work and testimony.

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Dear friends, here are the collected 'Sohbets', much joy listening!