Ustad Amjad Ali Khan: I want to communicate with listeners who find classical music remote

Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan speaks with Firstpost about his concert series for a good cause, his early musical beginnings, and why he doesn't differentiate between forms of music

Sujata Majumdar October 22, 2016 09:30:57 IST
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan: I want to communicate with listeners who find classical music remote

The mellifluous tones of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s sarod have moved many. But the maestro’s recent series of concerts are special, in a different sense.

Khan saab will be strumming his sarod for the ‘Music For Vision’ concerts, one among which will be held in Delhi on 23 October, Sunday (another was held in Mumbai on 20 October). The concert series — which marks a collaboration between HelpMeSee and Music For Life International (MFLI) — have been held to raise awareness about (and funds for) eliminating blindness caused due to cataracts. The series of worldwise concerts will wrap up with a grand finale in February 2017, at New York.

In an interview with Firstpost, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (the maestro is the global goodwill ambassador for the Music for Vision initiative) said he is always supportive of a noble cause.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan I want to communicate with listeners who find classical music remote

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

“The way the initiative has been able to help people who suffer from cataract blindness makes me very happy, because I know the world of the visually impaired. As a young musician I visited many schools for the visually impaired and performed for them. And the applause I received from those children, it made me realize that they ‘see’ everything through sound. And with these concerts, we’re trying to help a lot of people,” Khan saab said.

For the concert, the maestro will be performing his concerto ‘Samagam’. It implies a confluence of cultures, and is indicative of Khan saab’s belief that good music is created through collaboration.

His performance will also draw on many of the ragas that Khan saab has composed. Indeed, his repertoire of ragas is vast, including Swar Sameer, Subhalaxmi (named for his beloved wife Subhalaxmi Khan, as well as the legendary vocalist MS Subbulakshmi, of whom the ustad has been a fan since childhood) , Ganaesh Kalyan,  Bapu Kauns, Haafiz Kauns (named after his father),  Rahat Kauns (named for his mother), Shivanjali, etc.

Shivanjali, to Khan saab is among the more unusual ragas; it uses both dhaivat(s) and nishad(s). Then there is the Ganesh Kalyan, of which he says: “It was a dhun I used to sing without realising what I am singing… a new tune, new melody. I later named it Ganesh Kalyan. There are radical musicians who tend to be critical (and say) that new ragas can’t be created. I don’t believe in that. I feel there is no full stop to creativity.”

Khan saab’s Music For Vision concert begins with Ganesh Kalyan, and draws on Subhalaxmi and Swar Sameer, apart from many other Indian ragas.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s musical journey began very early; he gave his first sarod recital at the age of just six. A disciple of his father Haafiz Ali Khan, the maestro was born into the Bangash lineage entrenched  in the Senia Bangash School of music. He represents the sixth generation of this artistic house. His sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan have followed in his illustrious footsteps and forged their own identity as well known musicians as well.

Ask Khan saab about his musical inspirations, and he gives credit to his many listeners. It is the audience, that motivates and inspires him, the sarod virtuoso says.

Unlike some purists, Khan saab also does not distinguish between popular and classical music. “Music is music,” he says, simply. “I want to communicate with the listener who finds Indian classical music remote.”

For details on the Music For Vision concert, click here.

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