Amaan Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash
Lustre Press/ Roli Books
Abba- God’s Greatest Gift to Us is the gift of two devoted disciples to their guru, who happens to also be, their father. A valiant endeavour, Abba falls frequently into the trap of being a mimesis of filial representation of overwhelming regard and affection. Which is what works for the book that is otherwise, part biography, part history.
Abba is composed in seven sections, as The Growing Years, A Family Man, and Footprints in the Sands of Time. Each section dwells long and deep into the metamorphosis of an exceptionally talented young man, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan into a stalwart of the Indian Classical tradition. To add luster to the resilient life history of the Ustad, the book is laced with rare photographs and sketches pertaining to each significant episode of the maestro’s life.
The Bangash brothers regale and educate music aficionados with lesser-known facts, fads, whims and other lively vignettes from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s life. His affection for his pet parrot, his reluctance at donning Western outfits, his instinctive desire to have his kids back in Delhi from boarding school, the persistent courting of his wife and his deference, humility and great love for music come across as instructive and interesting period pieces from a life lived wholesomely. The authors on their part are sensitive to (literally) the innumerable nuances in the actions and responsiveness of their father and guru.
The book becomes a kaleidoscopic experience when the brothers try to separate in their writing consciousness, the guru from the father. So rigorously alive is this struggle that it transports the reader into a world full of conflicts, passion and ardour for the arts. This contrast and eventual conciliation opens a window into the traditional moorings of the Bangash family. All four members are tied together by a refreshingly traditional code that exists mainly due to the family’s secular leanings. Amjad Ali Khan’s wedding with Subhalakshmi Barooah, his brotherly affection towards Girija Devi and his cheerfully liberal approach to life are in perfect concord with the deep ties he feels for his great lineage. The healthy amalgam is symptomatic of the creed of universal love that his music espouses, and that makes him what he is today, a great musician and a humble disciple of…music!
Abba is therefore a remarkably educative odyssey into the life of an artist, whose life is penned with much fondness and sensitivity. It is most extraordinary in its ordinariness.