In the realm of South Asian music, when it comes to percussionists emanating from the sub-continent the name of Ustad Tari Khan is inseparable from Tabla. Born in Lahore Pakistan, Tari Khan hails from a family of musicians whose lineage can be traced back to Bhai Mardana. Tari Khan’s father was a classical vocalist of great virtuosity and his early education in music was that of a singer. However, Tari Khan listened to the tabla of Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan at the age of six and became so enamored with the celebrated Ustad that all his musical interests became focused on Tabla. He spent the next eight years of his life listening to Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan at concerts, on the radio, at private mehfils (musical gatherings) and on the television. At fourteen, he formally became a student of Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan. Three years later he performed at the death anniversary of Mian Qadir Baksh. That solo performance earned him a revered place amongst the Tabla greats of all time. Ustad Tari Khan had arrived. There has been no looking back for Tari Khan. Today, he is acknowledged as one of the foremost Tabla players of all time by musicians all over the world.
Ustad Tari Khan has performed in virtually every part of the globe, participating in prestigious festivals and concerts, dazzling and captivating audiences by his extraordinary versatility. Tours abroad have taken him to almost every major city of the world, and he enjoys a large following. His work has led to collaborations with artists and producers from all spectrums of the musical world, including collaboration with famed producer Rick Rubin. He has also composed music for several documentaries and films such as Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala starring Denzel Washington. Ustad Tari Khan has received the highest acclaim for both his accompaniment and solo performances. He has been crowned with the title of "Tabla Prince of India and Pakistan," decorated with the prestigious Hazrat Ameer Khusro Award, decorated with the President’s Pride of Performance (Pakistan’s highest artistic honor), and crowned during Taj Poshi (Golden Crown).
Tari Khan’s Tabla is unique on several fronts. Foremost is the purity of sound. Tari Khan’s hands produce absolute sur (pitch and tone) and ras (essence). Each bol (phrase) is crisp, clean and played with equal love, emotion and purity. Speed, accuracy and precision are also important attributes of Tari Khan’s Tabla. All are presented in equal balance, never sacrificing one for the others. His natural sense of rhythm and absolute time-keeping gives his Tabla a complex and always surprising element. He experiments with difficult and involved rhythmic cycles including 10 ½, 4 ¾, and 8 ⅜. When presenting more traditional rhythmic cycles, he constantly delves into the beats exploring unusual micro fractions and superimposing polyrhythms. But his complexity never leaves the audience behind. Tari Khan develops an instant rapport with his audience and keeps them both engaged and enthralled throughout his performance. The audience latches on to the performance closely following Tari Khan on his journey through peshkars, qaidas, relas, parans, guts, tihais, and chakardars. He has been able to endear Tabla to listeners who are not aficionados of Indian/Pakistani classical music by developing and playing items such as Tabla Tarang, International Kherwa and Tabla Train. In Tabla Tarang Tari Khan tuned a dozen Tablas (one for each note) and played popular melodies and ragas. In Tabla Train, Tari Khan mimics the sounds of a steam engine train through various stages on its journey. His most popular innovation is International Kherwa in which he mimics the different percussive styles of the world including Punjab, Middle East, Europe, Africa, America, and Australia. Regardless of what Tari Khan chooses to present, his performances are at once exhilarating and elating for the audience.
"Memorable Festivals / Performances
“Acoustic mathematics brought alive in sound….wow, exhilarating!”
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