A tribute to the sarangi mastery of Sabri Khan

First appeared in www.scroll.in on December 5, 2015.

Among all instruments from North India, it is perhaps the sarangi that closely resembles the human voice.  It was therefore traditionally regarded as the best accompaniment to vocal music.  A bowed fretless instrument, the sarangi is also a solo instrument and many performers following different styles have developed its technique and scope.

Sabri Khan was one of India’s seniormost sarangi exponents.  Originally from Moradabad, Sabri Khan lived for the better part of his life in Delhi.  Known for his accompaniment to a galaxy of vocalists and for his solo performances, he served as a staff artiste on the All India Radio.

Sabri Khan passed away a few days ago, but his recordings are witness to his artistry.

To begin with, here is an interview with him, recorded for Rajya Sabha TV, in which he talks about his training and career.


In the next recording, Sabri Khan plays a drut or fast composition in the night raag Jog set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time units.  Evidently, he tries to incorporate various devices to draw in the listener in the brief time-span at his disposal.  Consequently, he plays a variety of taans that display virtuosic left hand finger work, uses varying syncopation at times to manipulate the rhythmic canvas differently, and invites the tabla player to join in to anticipate as well as reproduce his phrasing.


The last track features a drut composition in the afternoon raag Gaud Sarang.


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