All-India Radio (AIR), the most important patron of traditional musicians of India in the 20th century, has made it standard practice to play the music of the bowed instrument sarangi on the air to announce the death of an individual considered newsworthy. Thus, the sound of the skin-covered, squat-bodied fiddle whose haunting timbre and expressive qualities bear uncanny similarity to the human voice, became signified as mournful.
Since I’m not in India currently and don’t have access to AIR broadcasts, I can only assume that the sarangi music of Ustad Sultan Khan, who left this world on Nov. 27, 2011, played as his obituary was broadcast on the air. His passionate sarangi playing and soulful, husky voice is no longer with us in person. However, thanks to the wide appeal of his exceptional music, recorded and loved in classical, film, and world beat circuits India, its legacy.
Khan Sahib, born into a lineage of sarangi players from Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, spent much of his professional life in Bombay (Mumbai), where he died on Sunday at the age of 71 of kidney failure. India, no, the world, lost one of its exceptional musicians. Khuda hafez (Go with God), Khan Saheb – enjoy the music of the celestial abode!