East Meets West at the Parrish Art Museum

Ustad Shafaat Khan will perform at the Parrish Art Museum. Courtesy photo
Ustad Shafaat Khan will perform at the Parrish Art Museum. Courtesy photo

By Michelle Trauring

On any given day, it wouldn’t be unusual to see Ustad Imrat Khan, Ustad Vilayat Khan and Ustad Ibrahim Khan laughing around the kitchen table, casual as can be.

For those who are not familiar with traditional Indian music, this childhood memory from Ustad Shafaat Khan may not have much impact. So, he put it into pop music terms.

“It’s like, comparatively, if you see Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley and all these people hanging around your house, playing music and chatting,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what the environment of our house was like, a musical factory. All the time music going, yes. They were the greatest and best-taught musicians of India.”

It was, and still is, a musical legacy dating back centuries, one that Khan was born into and will bring to the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill on Friday, December 15, for a night of classical Indian and folk music.

“The contribution of my family is with the sitar. I come from a long line of musicians dating back to the 16th century,” Khan said. “My family is known as the Imdadkhani Gharana, which is basically a school of music — like you have Princeton, Harvard. There are a lot of people who are playing the Imdadkhani Gharana style, which is my family’s music and that’s what I’ll be presenting.”

The concert will start with a short solo set of tabla music, or Indian drums, which Khan learned from his teacher, Ustad Ibrahim Khan. As a child, it was unusual for him to play and master both tabla and sitar, which was taught to him by his own father, Ustad Imrat Khan — and the young boy felt the pressure.

“I started thinking, ‘Okay, what can I do, something new, that I can be different and I can add something new into this dynasty,’” he said. “I saw that my father and my uncle, Ustad Vilayat Khan, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, they were all fabulous musicians so I said, ‘Will I also be another great sitar player? What can I do so that we can expand this dynasty?’ And that’s when my interest of the tabla was there.”

Khan would go on to distinguish himself as the first known artist to attain simultaneous excellence in performing sitar, tabla and his family’s instrument, the surbahar. He has performed at prestigious concert halls and music festivals worldwide, recently including Bonnaroo Festival with Stevie Wonder, and several of his albums were produced by Deepak Chopra.

“I’m very proud to say that my debut concert was for the Queen Mother in the King’s Lynn Festival in England, under the tutelage of my father, and it took off from there,” he said, his own son overheard in the background playing with a train set at their home in Pennsylvania.

“He’s 5 and already showing a lot of interest in the music,” Khan said. “When I’m playing the sitar, he’s wanting to play the sitar. When I’m playing tabla, he’s wanting to play tabla. But God knows what will happen in the future; it’s too far now. I would definitely want him to have the education, and I would love him to continue my dynasty. But time will say where the wind is taking him.”

Ustad Shafaat Khan will perform an evening of classical Indian and folk music with his fusion group, East Meets West — featuring guitarist and vocalist Coco Bastien, and Farhaj Aziz on keyboard — on Friday, December 15, at 6 p.m. at the Parrish Art Museum, located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Tickets are $12, or free for members, children and students. For tickets, please call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org. For more information about Ustad Shafaat Khan, visit musicalbeats.net.