Young sarod artistes, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, sons of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, have developed a loyal fan following for themselves over the years. In an interview with HT Café, the brothers talk about classical music, their relationship with their father, and their competition with each other.
How has being a classical musician influenced your life?
Amaan: The whole journey of becoming a classical musician changes you as a person. It calms you down, makes you humble and spiritual. It’s a religion by itself.
Ayaan: We were fortunate to be born in a household where music was in the air we breathed. At every stage of our life, our father categorically conveyed to us that music is the greatest wealth he has. That stayed in our subconscious, even though we were not told that we had to become musicians.
Did you ever want to pursue any other profession?
Amaan: When you are growing up, your parents enrol you in some extra-curricular activity, which in our case was music. I don’t know when that tuition became a hobby, when that hobby turned into a passion, and when the passion became a profession; it was a very natural process. It was never forced onto us, but it was obviously expected of us. When you are born into a musical family, where your uncle is a musician, your grandfather was a musician, and your father is a musician, there are comparisons. And if Ayaan bhai and I did not do this [learn music], there would have been a big question: why didn’t you do music?
Ayaan: When we were young and went to concerts, very senior people would come up to us and say that they had heard [our grandfather] Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan saab and our father [Ustad Amjad Ali Khan], and they were waiting to hear us. So they expected [us to play music as well]. And as you grow, your awareness grows as well. When you are young and on the stage, you look cute, you love the attention, but it’s beyond that. Amaan bhai and I never took our stage for granted. We have always tried our best.
How is your relationship with your father on the stage?
Ayaan: On the stage, he is our father, but he is like a teacher as well. When I am accompanying him on stage, and when he looks at me, it gets very intimidating. The change from the role of a guru to a father is very effortless [for him]. Similarly for us, the change from the role of a son to a student is very effortless. As we grew older, we started our own journey forward.
Amaan: His aura is so strong that for anybody else around him, it becomes very difficult to perform.
Are you competitive with each other?
Amaan: We are competitive in a beautiful and inspirational way.
Ayaan: I think we draw inspiration from each other. We have found our own journey. We have our likes and dislikes. Our natures are extremely different and your nature is reflected in your music. So even though we have got the same training, Amaan bhai would execute the same composition in his own way. I am not saying we have our own styles, but because we are different human beings, we have our own voice and vision.
The whole journey of becoming a classical musician changes you as a person.- Amaan Ali Bangash, sarod player
In western countries, we have a lot of orchestra performances, but in India we have more solo performances. Why do you think that happens?
Ayaan: Western music has a very unique tradition of having a written score. All these great musicians such as Mozart and Beethoven had the culture of writing orchestra. In India, we evolved from folk music to classical music. It was all an oral tradition; it was all improvised. Now, we finally have a few orchestras in Mumbai, but I think by nature, we don’t have the kind of DNA to be an ensemble.
What are you currently busy with?
Ayaan: We are releasing an album next month with a rebab virtue. It’s called The Journey: Rabab To Sarod. It shows the journey of the sarod from rebab, because the sarod was initially modified from the rebab. This [the modification] happened in Central Asia and it then came to Madhya Pradesh. We have tried to convey the story through music. The album will feature a brilliant rebab player from Afghanistan who now lives in exile in Germany, as all the artistes from Afghanistan have migrated. His name is Daud Khan Sadozai. In this album, abba (father) has played one track, so he has kind of blessed the album.