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Alam Khan follows in his father's footstep

The son of Swara Samrat Ali Akbar Khan says Indian audiences are very receptive to elaborate renditions of little-known ragas.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 15:52 IST

Alam Khan, the son of Swara Samrat Ali Akbar Khan, has been learning the sarod from his father since he was seven. A self-confessed Jimi Hendrix fan, he made his stage debut in 1998 at the Spirit of India Festival, at the Ali Akbar College's 30th anniversary in America. He has since accompanied his father in performances at the Jodhpur Palace and the Dover Lane Festival in Kolkata. Khan's maiden Mumbai performance got postponed due to the Airport Authorities employees' strike, and he should hit the city anytime now.

His grandfather, Baba Allauddin Khan, was an iconic figure. To sit alongside and be looked at as the offspring of someone who Yehudi Menuhin refer red to as "the greatest musician in the world" should be a nerve-wracking thing.

There is a lot of pressure, but I just do my best and will continue to do so. I don't know if I'll ever be a good musician, forget about being even close to him, but I'll keep learning. A big challenge for classical musicians in India is to get recording opportunities by established labels. Do you have to deal with the same problem?

Not really. Labels like Music Today have been very forthcoming in wanting to publish abbaji's work, but that apart, under my own Alam Madina label (which he runs with his mother Mary) I have released live concert and studio recordings abroad. Fusion seems to be picking up in a big way to broad base the cerebral appeal of classical music. Are you getting into it as well?

Not now. As of now, it's purely a classical evolution that I'm looking at.

Maihar gharana students quite often rue the disappearing of the Maihar band. Will we ever g et to see a revival of sorts of the classical instrumental orchestra pioneered by your grandfather?

At the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music, last year we put together an ensemble of sitars, the cello, sarod and played quite a few of dad's compositions from his world music album Journey.

I also have collaborated with a few of his students at live concerts, but it's too early to talk of a Maihar band revival in the truest sense of the term. Baba Ali Akbar Khan, in his restrained expositions, used to philosophise in his melodies. Among the current lot of sarod players, don't you think the understated playing is losing out?

There is no losing out at any count. But yes, I do see that musicians have a tendency to show off speed (why? I have no clue!), and while the jhalas are great crowd pleasers, the simplicity of well etched out single notes is far more poignant. Something which I consciously try to incorporate. Do you feel you have to play simpler ragas for audiences as a Yaman or a Bageshri is more universal than the complex ragas?

I do hesitate to play very heavy ragas in certain international concerts, but Indian audiences are very receptive when it comes to long and elaborate renditions of little-heard ragas. But to gain that kind of comfort level, the initial groundwork is paramount. I hope my live concert career enables me to get that platform.