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Shujaat Khan, Chatterjee Enthrall in Ghazal Ensemble

Kayhan Kalhor

By Parimal M. Rohit

WESTWOOD, Calif. — Three different instruments blurring genres and relaying different emotions and thoughts in a unified sound, a musical conversation combining Indian and Persian strings with a hint of South Asian percussion, captivated a diverse audience of classical music lovers on the UCLA campus here as members of the Ghazal Ensemble performed April 21.

The show, presented by UCLAlive, began with instrumental conversations between Shujaat Husain Khan’s sitar and Kayhan Kalhor’s kamancheh (a Persian bowed instrument), each musician going back and forth as if they were verbally talking to each other through their instruments. Moments later, Samir Chatterjee’s tabla joined the musical conversation to bring the first set to an epic climax, all three instruments fusing together to fill Royce Hall with a euphoria of harmonic melodies.

The three musical voices effectively became one about halfway into the show. Despite the unison of instrumental voice, each artist was able to highlight his own distinct musical apparatus without deviating or straying from the unified whole, a rare combination of oneness and independence at the same time.

As the show continued, the artists became more engaged with each other, the sound emanating from their respective instruments reverberating throughout the hall. Each artist still had a chance to stand out from the group with their brief solos, demonstrating their individual strengths. Adding to the harmonious unification of instruments was the soulfully spirited lyrics of Khan.

All three hit their unified stride in the show’s climax, with each artist gradually finding a perfect balance of symphony and harmony as Khan, Chatterjee, and Kalhor peaked and crested, just moments before the show came to a conclusion on the shores of a vibrantly loud and well-deserved standing ovation.

Labeled a “master sitarist,” Khan is a leading Indian classical musician who has played his instrument since age three and publicly performed for the first time three years later.

Khan also performed April 23 with Abhiman Kaushal on the tabla at Occidental College in Los Angeles in a concert presented by The Music Circle.

Chatterjee, a virtuoso in his realm, has performed as a soloist as well as with Western and Eastern musicians, including Ravi Shankar and Amjad Ali Khan.

Born in Iran, Kalhor is a leading international maestro on the kamancheh, performing at the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran and the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center as a teenager.

Found in 1997 by Khan and Kalhor, the Ghazal Ensemble “creates a musical bridge between Iran and India — two of the world’s most expressive and distinctive traditions.” According to the show’s program, the Ensemble highlights how both cultures have fostered and cultivated musical traditions for thousands of years, each community exchanging “modal scales, rhythmic cycles, and melodies” to enhance the classical tunes of Persia and North India.

The group, which has rarely performed in Los Angeles, has actually toured the world extensively and has recorded four albums, the Grammy-nominated CD “The Rain” as well as one of’s “100 Greatest World Music Albums of All Time” in “Lost Songs of the Silk Road.”