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I am still a student, I have to learn so much: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan says this is just the “beginning” of his musical journey. He talks about the bond he shares with his father Haafiz Ali Khan, his connection with Bollywood and more.

bollywood Updated: Oct 29, 2016 08:41 IST
Rukmini Chopra
Rukmini Chopra
Hindustan Times
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan,Sarod player Ustad Amajd Ali Khan,Lata Mangeshkar
Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan recently performed at a concert in Mumbai, that was held to spread awareness regarding cataract blindness.(Ajo, Amrit, Saurav)

Legendary maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is revered across the globe. Unlike most classical artistes, the sarod maestro has transcended generations to bring his music into popular culture. The instrumentalist, along with Indian conductor George Matthew, recently performed at a concert in the city. In an interaction with HT Café, Khan talks about music being his greatest wealth, the ban on Pakistani artistes, and his Bollywood connection.

There was a documentary made on you that won a popular film award. How open are you to the idea of a biopic being made on you?

Film-maker, writer and poet Gulzar saheb, as I fondly call him, made a documentary on me, titled Amjad Ali Khan, in 1990. He got an award for this documentary the following year. Gulzar saheb’s vision and canvas was so unique. He captured my journey, my mind and my feelings. The documentary depicts that music is not a profession for me; it is my passion. It’ll be interesting to see a biopic [on me].

Amjad Ali Khan says that he is thankful to God for all the love that has been bestowed upon him.

You are a Padma Vibhushan awardee, and have earned immense admiration from audiences across the globe. Do you find it difficult to handle fame?

Every award at every stage of one’s life is like an encouragement, and a testimony of your journey. I thank God for all the love that has been bestowed upon me. However, I am still a student and have to learn so much. This is the beginning.

Do you think instrumental music has the scope of becoming as popular as vocal music?

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan performing during Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Festival 2016 at Cross Maidan in Mumbai, India. (Anshuman Poyrekar/ HT Photo )

Music can either be vocal or instrumental. Vocal music appeals to most of us because of its poetical or lyrical content. Instrumental music, on the other hand, such as what I play on the sarod, is pure sound. It needs to be experienced and felt. Since there are no lyrics, there is no language barrier between the performer and the listener, and that is why instrumental music transcends all barriers. Musical vibrations can convey moods and emotions, and have the ability to mould and shape our consciousness. Different types of music can have different effects on the mind — both positive and negative. Our mind is like any living organism. It must be nurtured, and needs stimulation to develop and grow. Music is one of the most important ‘food’ for the intellect. Each musical note is connected to our minds. Music has many faces. Conversation, recitation, chanting and singing are part of music.

Watch: A performance by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

You have shared a very close bond with your father, sarod player Haafiz Ali Khan. What is the most important lesson you have learnt from him?

I cannot remember the day that I was initiated into the world of music. Music was a part of me from as early as I can remember. I cannot think of a moment when music has been separated from my life. For my father, there was no question of a life outside music. I inherited the legacy of five generations of musicians from him. Music is the greatest wealth that I inherited from my forefathers. I believe in blessings and hard work. We can only do our best and leave the rest to the power up there. Music is a way of life. It’s not a profession, but a passion. In a traditional musical family, most of the kids become responsible early in their lives and they have the highest order of family pride.

Watch: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan performing with Amaan and Ayan Ali Khan

You have made a mark with independent albums. How open are you to working on film music?

I have always had dear friends in the Indian film industry. I have spent some wonderful moments with great music directors and singers such as OP Nayyar, Asha Bhosle, Madan Mohan, Lata Mangeskar and Hemant Kumar. I appear as myself in Sai Paranjpye’s film Sparsh (1980). However, with regards to film music, there wasn’t any offer that appealed to me. It will be great to work on a subject (Bollywood music project) that I like. It will need to be someone (composer) who thinks outside the box.

First Published: Oct 29, 2016 08:40 IST