and Art of Ustad Salamat Hussain
The name bansuri
has its roots in the word Bans means bamboo. Originally
used as a folk instrument and to accompany dance. The
bansuri with its pastoral association and chosen
instrument of Lord Krishna, is one of the oldest musical
instruments of Nepal and India, it is mentioned in Vedas
and is depicted in the Buddhist art of 2000 years ago.
One Sanskrit verse credits the bansuri as the source of
Swarajnana- the knowledge of music. In India the flute
has been known by many names in addition to bansuri,
algoza, bansi, murali etc. in the beginning of this
century there were at least three different kinds of
flutes in use. Transverse (side-blown), end blown and
fipple flutes (similar to a recorder). They are
typically made of bamboo or reed. There are two
varieties: transverse and fipple. The transverse variety
is nothing more than a length of bamboo with holes cut
into it. This is the preferred flute for classical
music. The fipple variety is found in the folk and filmy
styles, but seldom used for serious music.
There are many
people like Amulya Jyoti, AKA Pannalal Ghosh, Vijay
Raghav Raa and Hariprasad Chaurasia in North India who
play beautiful bansuri. like in Pakistan we have Ustad
“The flute player
puts breath into a flute, and who makes the music? Not
the flute. The flute player! ”. (Rumi, Internet
There is so much
magic that perpetually spills out of the hollow reed,
when Ustad Salamat Hussain gently blows into it, that
one literally has this urge to break open his flute to
see what stuff it is made of.
And his specialty
in the various (mix) of ragas which he constantly
experiments with chiefly, Nat Bhairavi (a combination of
Nat, an evening raga and Bhairavi, a morning raga), also
called the Milap Ka Raaga or the Raaga of union, Nat
Kalyan, Nat Khamaaj etc. also Raag Shush Saarang which
no one can play unless one has full knowledge of its
intricacies, Hans Dhun, Vihaag, Maru Vihaag, Jhnjoti,
Kirwani etc. even complex folk tunes like Heer and Haq
Baahoo Ki Houk.
Ustad’s own all-time favourite ragas are Chanderkaus,
Tlemvati, Bhairavi, Peeloo and of course, Pahaari, which
is close to every flutist’s heart.
Born on October
10, 1937 in Rampur, a village in the province of Uttar
Pradesh of the then undivided India - Ustad Salamat
Hussain’s birth was majestically celebrated by a whole
battalion of 200 soldiers on horseback who had come to
visit him. Mohammad Jan, his father, was deputed from
Indian Army to serve under the Nawab of Rampur as bugler
in the royal cavalry. At the time of retirement, he quit
it in favor of migration to Pakistan.
Hussain’s uncle Master Guchchan (was his first teacher
who was the student of Mushtaque Hussain Khan, and he
was the brother of Ustad Latafat Hussain) an
extraordinary musician, a Clarinet player in the Nawab
of Rampur’s court.
Mastser Guchchan took lessons in classical music from
the versatile film composer, Ustad Mashooq Hussain,
young Salamat Hussain was quietly sits at the place,
and just by watching and listening he gathered enough
training himself. So in a way, his training started
rather early not directly under any tutor until the year
1954, two years after the family migrated to Pakistan.
Where in Rampur
the family was living a regal life, in Pakistan it was
to spend the day in abject poverty and misery. A sad
story of riches to rays took shape. A slum in Jacob
Lines Karachi become home. The family struggled hard to
survive. Salamat Hussain’s father was assisted by
relatives, involved in cap making and he also joined
making Rampuri caps and to sell them. Yet for young
Salamat Hussain nothing could deter his obsession with
sangeeet, not even poverty. And one day, he bought a
flute from Saddar for two annas. There was no looking
back after that.
The girls of
neighbors he said loved the sweet film songs he played.
He got requests to play one or two favorites and he
obliged. A few days later, their mother complained to
Hussain’s mother and said she would break his legs if he
dared play his flute again. Hussain’s mother, in turn,
hit him with a broom, hoping to beat the music out of
him, she could not.
He then started
hiding himself under a thick quilt and practicing softly
till late at night. But he could not give up his music.
The music of the flute attracted him. Wherever he went
and heard it is being played; by the roadside, on the
radio, he stood and listen. He wanted to spend the whole
day listening to the flute. The whole day after spending
/ working tirelessly and in the night he spent
practicing flute. In a few days, he was able to play out
many popular filmy tunes.
Right since his
childhood, Ustad Salamat Hussain has been pursuing his
own technique, as instead of being trained in proper
flute playing he had trained in classical music under
the late Ustad Hamid Hussain Khan, a Sarangi nawaz of
repute with Radio Pakistan.
He says “We used
to go on foot from Jacob Lines to Light House taking
food for his Ustad. Those were tough days, but just the
madness to accomplish something kept me going”. And
today, he looks back in satisfaction and even pride that
he was so committed towards the causes.
Hussain was also much inspired by Dibu Bhattacharya,
another great musician and flute player. One more
flautist who greatly influenced him was Pannalal Ghosh.
He says “Although he could never meet him, he largely
inspired him, and he even adopted part of his style of
playing the flute in the Gaayki (singing style).
One year at the
Hyderabad Radio, he groomed up more with Ustad Mohammad
Jumman, a renowned singer who initially was a flute
player. He learnt much and shared with him several
techniques of music.
“So much love and respect I have received from my fans
and admirers that at times I have even landed in the
strangest of situations. The day I got married and was
coming home with my bride, Mr. Suhrawardy’s daughter
Begum Akhter Sulaiman’s car was waiting outside my
house. I was told that I have been called by the Begum
to perform at the Governor House. I could not even enter
my house and had to send my bride in alone. And, very
much in the groom’s attire I performed at the Governor
House for prestigious guests from all over the world who
had gathered there” remembers the Ustad.
“Ayub Khan loved
my performances like anything. He took me to England,
Moscow and Tashkent, too many other places where he
went, and many a times had offered me much money which I
had curtly declined. Even such HE Suhrawardy offered me
handsome rewards, but I told them both that I was happy
with what little I had”.
Hussain has been associated with the Lahore film
industry too, for five years (1960-1965) where he has
given some of the best renditions, the film industry can
boast of. Lat uljhi Suljha ja re balam, a rather
famous song from the film Sawaal, sung by Madam Noor
Jehan, the music of which was composed by Rashid Atre
gave him a certain respect in the contemporary music
circle. He also gave his best work by playing famous
songs like "May ney tu preat nibahi sanawariya tu
nikla herjaye", Mala's song, composed by
Khalil Ahmed, incidentally her first song in film
Khamosh Raho, Chand jab bhi tu muskurata hay dil mera
doob doob jata hay, song from film Sarhad, whose
music was composed by Khawaja Khurshid Anwar, There are
plenty of other songs from films Heer Sayal, Naila,
Lori, etc. etc. which carry the inimitable flute of the
He contributed in
so many films being made at Karachi from 1952 including
all Sindhi movies from Umar Marvi (first Sindhi film).
His most popular songs such as Kiya howa dil per
sitam tum na samjho gey balam, sung by Zubaidah
Khanum, Har gaye har gaye tu say dil laga key,
Nena roay cham cham, tu jo nahi tu kuch bhi nahi
mana keh mehfil hassen hai. Whilst working with
Nashad Sahab, famous song Jan keh ker bolaya tu bura
man gaye. One song sung by film actor Nadeem Sahab
(the then Nazir Beg) "Muhabat key qadardan na shahar
may na gaoon may" were among his best works. With
Sohail Rana, almost all the songs recorded at Karachi
Film Studies for Arman, Ahsan, Samadar, Heera Pathar
etc. Also worked with Lal Mohammad Iqbal, originators of
several famous songs.
to the Sindhi films is unparalleled, as I have done the
most number of Sindhi songs, starting from the first
Hussain worked from 1966, precisely with the PIA Arts
Academy, initially headed by the well known personality,
Zia Mohiuddin Sahab, which later on taken by the
Government as the Pakistan National Council of Arts and
at Karachi named as National Performing Arts Group,
under Ministry of Culture and Inheritage of Pakistan.
Being a staff artist (Flutist), he is still required to
travel extensively with Pakistani delegates and cultural
trip was in 1957 to travel to Nairobi, with Pakistani
delegates at the coronation ceremony of the HH Prince
Karim Agha Khan.
With Pakistan National Council of Arts, he toured U.K.
and attended the Commonwealth Institute with The
President, General Mohammad Ayub Khan and performed for
Queen Elizabeth II, He has been traveling with
various Presidents and Prime Ministers of Pakistan
to other parts of the world including SAARC Summits and
similar government organized events.
“I have traveled
to and performed in nearly every country of the world
that is mentioned in the Pakistani passport, except
Israel. I have from 1956 to now many passports and any
new passport gets full very fast with visas!” he says.
The Ustad who has
received in 1990, the President’s Pride of Performance
Award, and subsequently the PTV Award of Excellence and
the PTV Silver Jubilee Gold Medal, as well as the
Cassette Melody Award by the poet Yunus Hamdam are
modest about the honors. He speaks of life as nothing
new and rather unchanged even after having received so
many accolades and awards.
With at least
24 cassettes to his credit, of which three deal
purely in classical music, and 4 Long Plays Record – one
released by the EMI, one by Asghar International, one in
Europe and one in America. Ustad Salamat Hussain is
widely registered in the hearts and minds of his varied
fans. But he feels proud to have been acclaimed by
various other Ustads and maestros who have given him
much respect, acknowledgement and encouragement. “This
is definitely an achievement of sorts,” he believes.
“But this is only
because I can play any raga in the world, and tune of
any country- those of China, Japan, Korea, Russia,
France, Germany, etc. especially Turkey. I can adeptly
render the typical tunes of more than 12 languages of
the world. I can play the flute as the Chinese play…. as
the Japanese play, etc, etc,” he says with a grin sauced
with enough confidence. “And I have paid my respects at
Maulana Roomi’s tomb in Turkey, where the flute is
played for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”He says.
Hussain can play ‛all the members of the flute family’
equally well, such as Alghoza, concert flute (with
keys), piccolo, recorder, etc though he prefers to play
the indigenous wooden flute which is blown side ways.
Which is why, he is the most sought-after flautist in
the country for singers and musicians, too. He says “I
used to charge Rs.5 per song for the EMI when I started
work years back. I remember doing as many as 20 songs
in one day and one night at a stretch. Those were
the days and that was the stamina. Whilst working with
National Performing Arts Academy, he has composed much
musics for Folk dances like Kashmiri dance, chitrali
dance, moenjodaro dance etc. At sometimes, his recorded
flute songs / folk music and Mili Naghmay was part of
all PIA flights – domestic and international.
Nasreen’s Raag Rung Programme on PTV, 1 have
experimented with ragas, and played some very old and
intricate ragas in a most modern way, “he says, and even
goes onto appreciated the contributions of Nusrat Fateh
Ali Khan. “There should be fusion, there should be
change, and there should be a metamorphosis!”
Hussain is very much young at heart, even though he
plays the world’s first and oldest musical instrument.
“The instrument of Prophet Hazrat Daud (AS)” as he
refers to it.
He concluded by
saying Maulana Rumi’s masnavi:
Bishnu az nae
choon hikayat meen kunad
Wa az judai haa
shikayat meen kunad
The bansuri weeps
to see the holes in its body
O Lord! Riddle my
heart with holes so that I can sing thy praise.
He makes his
flute sing, cry, laugh, and dance. He has always been
fascinated by the sound of the flute, right from the
time he was a little boy. There is sweetness and purity
in the notes of the flute. Only someone who is pure
heart can play the flute well. He feel the bamboo reed
cries when it sings, trying to get closer to God. He
cries with it.
Family support and structure
It would be very
unfair if a brief introduction of Ustad & Mrs. Salamat
Hussain’s sons and daughters is not mentioned here,
particularly keeping in view of the struggles he had
been made from his childhood to now, the extensive
traveling schedules etc., it is an eye-opener to the
reader as well that how his family educated and reached
to such levels:
a Metallurgy Engineer, worked with Pakistan Steel Mill
2. afar Hussain,
an Income Tax Officer
an Executive Chef of 5 Star Hotel, Halifax, Canada
4. Dr. Zaki
Hussain, Surgeon (serving as Major in Pakistan Army at
Martyr (shot dead whilst on duty with Karachi Police)
Chef, 5 Star Hotel, Movenpick at Medina, Saudi Arabia
MBA - Gold Medalist from ZABIST, businessman
Officer, Shaheen Air at Karachi Airport
Mohammad, house wife
Salamat, working as Research Officer, Agha Khan Hospital
It is a unique
talent that Ustad Salamat Hussain possess which none
have harboured or chiseled in the family. It is this
artistic appeal of his which makes him distinctive
amongst the rest.
Ustad thanks to
ALLAH, the Almighty for His kindness and grants
to him and his family, without any regrets.
interview conducted by the author, Uzma Noor)