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Cut performance to prevent boredom: Amjad Ali Khan

Pushing for change with continuity in tune with the contemporary digital age, sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, who launched his book, ‘Master on Masters’, at the Nehru Centre, said most performances, after about an hour, become repetitive, which makes people drift.

art and culture Updated: May 27, 2019 10:56 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
Amjad Ali Khan,ragas,classical music
British conductor David Murphy, Amjad Ali Khan, India’s high commissioner Ruchi Ghanshyam at the sarod maestro’s book launch in the Nehru Centre in London on Saturday.

Exponents of classical music should opt for shorter performances instead of the conventional long-drawn exposition of ‘ragas’ lasting hours – sometimes overnight – to prevent listeners being bored, sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan said here on Saturday.

Pushing for change with continuity in tune with the contemporary digital age, Ali Khan, who launched his book, ‘Master on Masters’, at the Nehru Centre, said most performances, after about an hour, become repetitive, which makes people drift.

He said: “I distinguish between convention and tradition. No one questions convention in our classical music or any religion. One must keep in mind that no book or shastras ever mentioned how classical music should be presented.”

“By bringing it in sync with the times, one cannot be faulted for diluting it (classical music). I believe in being traditional, not conventional. I recorded an album in the early 1980s of short pieces around ‘ragas’, but was criticised – I am happy this has now become a trend”.

Ali Khan, 73, regretted that the ‘guru-shishya parampara’ that was the hallmark of classical music through the centuries, has almost collapsed now. The commitment needed is not there, he said, with some students more keen to be overnight stars or ask gurus to be introduced to top corporate leaders and businessmen.

After the book launch by high commissioner Ruchi Ghanshyam, he discussed memories of the 12 legends mentioned in the book with prominent British conductor David Murphy, who has collaborated with Ravi Shankar and Ali Khan, among others.

The first such book in English by a leading exponent describing interaction with the icons, it narrates some of their less-known aspects and incidents, including the time when shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan missed his morning ‘namaz’ while engrossed in the author’s performance during an overnight concert in Varanasi: ‘Sangeet bhi to ibadat hai’ (music is also a form of worship), he told himself and stayed back.

The 12 legends discussed in the book are: Kesarbai Kerkar, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Begum Akhtar, M S Subbulakshmi, Bismillah Khan, Alla Rakha, Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi, Kishan Maharaj, Kumar Gandharva and Vilayat Khan.

“I miss their presence. I had a personal equation with them, grew up listening to them, participated in the same festivals they were performing in. It is not usual today for an artist to write about the great works of other artists, especially if they are not one’s own guru, father or kin”, Ali Akbar said.

First Published: May 27, 2019 10:55 IST