Violinist Ustad Asghar Hussain’s unforgettable moments with PM Modi, Putin

Story by  Sumana Mukherjee | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 05-03-2024
Violinist Ustad Asghar Hussain with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin
Violinist Ustad Asghar Hussain with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin


Sumana Mukherjee / New Delhi

On a glittering evening in New Delhi’s Hyderabad House, the two most powerful world leaders - Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin - were captivated by the melody of the violin. Suddenly, PM Modi gesticulated to signal the veteran violinist to take a pause.

The maestro was a little anxious since he had no idea why the PM had asked him to take a pause.

“Khan Saheb, could you please play Vaishnav Jan Bhajan? I believe that you can do it very well.”

Violinist Ustad Asghar Husain shared the most unforgettable moment of the event in 2019 with Awaz-the voice.

Ustad Asghar Hussain

Ustad Asghar Husain, the successor of Dilli Gharana, explained the thrilling experience at Hyderabad House and an unforgettable moment for life. He said “I was surprised when Prime Minister Modi Ji asked me to stop. I thought he must have found some mistakes in my recital and as I paused, intensely  awaited  his response.”

He continued “But I was fortunate enough that Modi Ji requested me to play Vaishnav Jan Bhajan (Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite Gujarati Bhajan) and encouraged me at the same time. The list of the Ragas that were supposed to be played was tabled in front of the esteemed guests that evening and Vaishnav Jan Bhajan was not included in that. Accepting a special request from the PM was a true inspiration for me and it was the biggest reward as well.”

How did he feel playing before the two most powerful world leaders? “It was not only representing the music in front of the first citizens of two nations but I truly wished to leave a good impact of my music that they would cherish for long as listeners. We need to connect with the soul of our listeners through our passionate tunes and I was sure that I could do so.”

Ustad Asghar Hussain with the legendary Kathak Dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj 

Ustad Hussain said he was attracted to music from the first site of the instrument and the first music emanating from it. He said “My father Ustad Anwar Hussain who was my first Guru was a Tabla maestro from Dilli Gharana and used to play for All India Radio, Delhi. I accompanied him there once and saw the violin and fell in love with it instantly.”

He also learned music from Gauhar Ali Khan, Ustad Zahoor Ahmed Khan, and Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan, who is the ‘Khalifa’ of Dilli Gharana.  He vividly remembers his first performance in All India Radio at the age of 12 and how a sense of anxiety grasped him.

Talking about his love for violin he said “Violin is considered to be the most versatile instrument in the world and I feel truly blessed that I was destined to be a violinist.  You will be surprised to know that the violin can be played differently and it varies country-wise. There are 4 to 5 different styles of playing violin all over the world.” 

Ustad Asghar Hussain during a performance in Akashvani Ahmedabad
According to Ustad Hussain violin is also the most difficult instrument to play. He says he thinks like a student who has to learn every day. Though he started playing violin at the age of 12, he firmly believes learning is a lifelong process.

He has been playing violin for nearly four decades and yet considers himself a learner. However, in the world of music, he is considered a maestro.

He added "Music is unfathomable; you cannot measure its depth. Words are not enough to denote the versatility of the violin.I am completely absorbed in my music.”

When asked why he plays Krishna Bhajan along with Sufi Musi, he says, “Music is Music Why do we create boundaries in the name of religion? Music is the religion of every musician on this earth. Belonging to a Muslim Family does not mean that I can’t chant Krishna’s name or I can’t play Krishna Bhajans.”

He said, “Learning is a relentless process that will never come to an end. I am always grateful to the almighty that he blessed me to keep the Dilli Gharana traditions alive.”

Ustad Hussain with PM Modi and Oman's King Haitham bin Tariq Al Said

He told Awaz-the Voice, “Music is the bridge between international boundaries, religions, languages, and cultures. Music is food for the soul and works as a healer.“

He mentioned a woman who was bedridden for more than 3 years and recovered after listening to his music on social media sites regularly. She profusely thanked Ustad Ji for his divine melodies.

He recalled when he played his mystic Arabic tunes in front of the King of Oman Haitham bin Tariq Al Said on 16 December 2023, His Highness was highly pleased. When he was 6 years of age, he received blessings from Lata Mangeshkar during the rehearsal of her unforgettable song “Allah Tero  Naam, Ishwar Tero  Naam”.

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What is the future of the original instruments in the time of artificial intelligence and auto tuners, he said “Original instruments are safe; they have a bright future and no technology can replace the classical musicians in the world. Classical music is safe and keyboards cannot replace them. People are taking an interest in classical music all over the world. They value talented performers.”