An evening of Indian culture in China usually means Hindi movies or jerky renditions of Hindi film music. It was different in Beijing last Saturday.
Popular sarod players Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan performed at the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music here to a packed auditorium of Chinese and Indian music lovers, students and professors.
The audience applauded the flow and the pauses as the two performed two “ragas” and one medley of folk songs from Assam and Bengal, mixing with “Raghupati Raghava” and Rabindranath Tagore’s “Ekla Cholo Re”.
The session was interactive, with Amaan and Ayaan sharing nuances of the “ragas”. The duo explained how they have to keep “filing” their nails to hit the right strains on the sarod strings, much to the amusement of the audience.
It is rare to see an Indian classical music performance in China. That’s mostly because Hindi music finds easy takers among the Chinese. Also, compared to the US and certain European countries, the Indian diaspora here is small.
These probably were the reasons why the two well-travelled brothers performed in China only for the first time last week. Beijing was preceded by a Shanghai concert.
“We are amazed at the response. We did not expect it,” Amaan told HT in Beijing while posing for selfies with Chinese and Indian fans.
Why no concerts in China before? “Probably because no one invited us,” Ayaan laughed. “But we would certainly like to come back”.
It is tentative but their illustrious father sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan might have a concert in China later this year if the logistics could be worked out.
The brothers took part in two music workshops with students and teachers of Chinese classical music, taking tentative steps towards future dialogue and exchanges between musicians from the two countries.
The steps have also been tentative for the four-year-old Chaiti Arts Foundation, founded by two Shanghai-based Indian couples, which organised the concerts.
“The lack of exposure of Indian classical music in China pushed them to create a platform for spreading this genre of music in China,” the foundation said.