Shujaat Khan’s new album is an ode to Rumi’s poetry

This Pale is an Indo-Persian ensemble that musically interprets the poetry of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Grammy-nominated sitarist and composer Shujaat Husain Khan has collaborated with Iranian-American vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi for this six-track album that also features the Iranian ney (wind instrument used in Middle Eatsern music) artiste Shaho Andalibi and Shariq Mustafa, the fifth generation tabla player of the Thirakwa lineage.

Shaho Andalibi.

While Shujaat Khan conveys the essence of Rumi’s immersive verses through his sitar strings, Katayoun sings in Farsi to communicate the inherent emotions of Rumi’s poetry.

“The 15th century poet is as relevant today. Though we chose parts of his ghazals that we felt would be perfect for a musical arrangement, none of the poems have been modified,” says Khatayoun.

Iranian-American vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi.

Iranian-American vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi.

According to Shujaat, it was a challenge to bring out this album during the pandemic as everyone worked from different parts of the world. Having worked with Katayoun many times in the past , Shujaat talks about the comfort and understanding in their partnership. “We met a few years ago, when she toured India with her band. I realised she has a certain way of expression and Farsi comes naturally to her. Normally when musicians collaborate, they have their own vision. For This Pale, I had complete freedom as far as music composition is concerned. I create the tunes, she lends expression.”

Shariq Mustafa.

Shariq Mustafa.

Having said that, Shujaat says he does not chase collaborations. “If it happens naturally, it’s fine.”

Bonding over poetry

Their love for poetry has been the starting point of all their projects. “Shujaat had heard some of my songs and liked it. So we decided to try working together. In the process, we became good friends and every performance has been a delightful experience,” says Katayoun.

In all the tracks, Katayoun’s voice and Shujaat’s sitar gather an indefectible sound from the ney and tabla, leading to an effective synergy. “ It happens when there is mutual respect. Being the oldest in the team, they let me lead the music, though they are all exceptional musicians in their own right,” says Shujaat.

A collaboration like this could inspire younger musicians. However, Katayoun has a word of advice for those wanting to be part of cross-genre exercises: “A strong foundation in one’s art is a must. Also, a good understanding of the culture one is born and raised in.”

Shujaaat agrees: “Young musicians should first establish themselves as solo performers before experimenting with collaborations.”

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