the-south-asian Life & Times               July - September 2010




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Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

– the Greatest Sarod Maestro of Our Times
SALT brings an exclusive conversation with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, which took place in his Delhi residence in May 2010. It was not only about music, it touched upon other issues close to his heart.

His disarming smile, cultured demeanour, soft mannerism, good looks, style, and of course his passionate playing of sarod, have often left audiences, worldwide, entranced and enraptured. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is the world’s most beloved sarod player.

The 65-year-old is a unique blend of form and content, a true Renaissance Man. His iconic shawls and kurtas are matchless. Once, he even presented the shawl that he was wearing to Princess Diana, who may have admired it and said so. His following remains huge.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is the sixth generation of sarod players in his family. His sons Amaan, 32, and Ayaan , 30, also accomplished sarod players, are the seventh generation.

Born in Gwalior into the illustrious Bangash lineage, he was taught by his father and guru, the great Haafiz Ali Khan , a highly respected sarod player. His ancestors, many of whom were court musicians in Gwalior, were originally from Afghanistan, who gradually modified and transformed their folk instrument rabab into the sarod.

The ancestral home in Gwalior has now been converted into a museum of musical heritage, called Sarod Ghar, with an impressive collection of instruments including his ancestors’ rababs. Gwalior is one of the famous dynastic musical centres of North India. It is famous as the birth place and home of Tansen - perhaps the best known vocalist of all times; for the traditions of dhrupad and khayal - the two forms of classical singing; and is the home of the sarod. Gwalior is often described as the Indian equivalent of Vienna - in terms of musical heritage.

Amjad Ali Khan was a 6-year old, when he gave his first recital of sarod. His career trajectory then onwards is public knowledge. He gave a new interpretation to sarod and brought it on the international platform – with performances all over the world, in the finest venues, and at the choicest music festivals. He became an international star by the time he was forty! Innumerable awards, honorary degrees, and national and international honours later, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is still innovating and creating music with deftness and skill – all with apparent ease. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the highest civilian award, by the President of India in 2001.

He married Subhalakshmi Barooah, a rising Bharat Natyam dancer from Assam, in 1976. They have two sons – Amaan – still a bachelor, and Ayaan who recently got married to Neema Sharma of Mumbai. A well integrated family – the face of modern India.

Read the entire article in the print edition of The South Asian Life & Times







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