It’s been 26 years since the Massachusetts administration declared April 20 as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Day, after being overwhelmed by a live performance by the sarod maestro. But the Ustad remembers it like it was yesterday. “Governor Michael Stanley Dukakis had come to watch me perform at a concert in Boston and was thrilled. He felt that my music enriched the audience and declared it as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Day,” he recalls.
This isn’t the only honour that the US has bestowed on him. He’s received honorary citizenship of Houston, Nashville and Tulsa, and a doctorate from the New York University. But Khan doesn’t measure success by awards. In fact, the Grammy-nominated musician feels nothing matters more than audience’s appreciation.
“My greatest award is when my concert is well-received, and when the crowd gives my music a standing ovation,” Khan smiles. At the same time, Khan points out that it would be a “huge incentive” to young Indian musicians if the government appreciated their contribution to the arts. “Our government should encourage musicians when they are young, so it gives them inspiration to perform better,” Khan says. “For example, in sports, by the age of 25, sportsmen get awards and make money, whereas artistes sometimes get recognised after they’ve become too old to perform.”
Khan reveals that he’s been trying to get a road in New Delhi named after his father and guru, renowned sarod player, Haafiz Ali Khan, but the government hasn’t obliged him yet. “I’ve been requesting the Prime Minister, and the Chief Minister of New Delhi, to dedicate a road to his memory, but they’d much rather have roads named after politicians,” he says.Back from a Europe and US tour, he’s now writing symphonies for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.