August 5 2014
Unquestionably one of the greatest musicians of our time, Sarod pioneer and legend Amjad Ali Khan was in London to perform recently and www.asianculturevulture.com was lucky enough to witness a true genius at work…
TUCKED away from the bustling streets of central London in the Wigmore Hall, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (Khansahib) presented a colourful and diverse array of raags in tribute to his illustrious father, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan.
“For my father, there was no question of a life outside music. Life itself was music and music was life. And so I came to inherit from him the legacy of five generations of musicians as natural as a bird taking to the air.”
With the sweet and skilful tabla accompaniment of Satyajit Talwalkar, Khansahib first rendered the evening raag, “Shyama Gauri” that he crafted himself. Sometimes playful, sometimes solemn, the echoing phrases across the octaves evoked memories of Khansahib learning from and conversing with his father.
Next, Khansahib demonstrated how musicians ‘sing’ through their instruments. After a short ‘alaap’ or introductory section, the composition in Raag Kedara flowed through his husky vocal chords and was seamlessly transferred onto the fretless fingerboard with expert sliding vocal style known as ‘gayaki’.
After a medium paced twelve-beat time cycle, Satyajit Talwalkar shone in a tabla solo that ingeniously mirrored the melodic movements of the sarod.
Known for presenting numerous short pieces rather than an extensive exploration of a single raag, Khansahib gives his audiences a taste of many different moods.
“My father did not believe in a long interpretation of a raag. He was known for the purity of his raags and also for the aesthetic sense, preciseness, colour and beauty in his music. He did not believe in too much elaboration and extended improvisation… I believe that by playing the essence of a raag for a shorter period, you are not diluting it. I believe in being traditional and not conventional.”
By depicting many different raags, the audience is certainly taken on a journey. With a powerful rendition of “Miyan ki Malhar” and an addition of a tarana (a classical Indian music composition) in Raag Bahar, Khansahib’s melodic strains and Satyajit’s expert and attentive rhythms painted scenes of the seasons in India.
After the interval, the enveloping sound of the Taanpura drone returned, as it had been faulty in the first half. Khansahib loves to bring lighter compositions and folk tunes to the mix of his presentations and it was interesting to see how he expanded a well-known Tagore poem with classical improvisations.
To contrast this, he played a raag he created and named after his father, “Haafizkauns”. Serious and reflective, yet still charming, the slower tempo of the piece gave a more meditative feel, perhaps giving glimpses of how Khansahib perceived his father’s personality.
As a finale piece and what seemed to be one of Khansahib’s favourites, Raag “Zila Kafi” had a beautiful mix of vibrant phrases with particular notes that left an impression of the instrument’s Persian roots. With fluid and fast rhythms, the ending was tightly executed as was with all the pieces. Both virtuoso musicians were clear and sensitive in responding to each other, resulting in a partnership that is essential in making an Indian classical concert a success.
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan played the Wigmore Hall, London on July 25.
Main picture: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (Khansahib) by Suvo Das
- He returns to India to perform from August 14-September 4 and can then be seen in the US from September 6-27. Exact dates and venues are on this section of his website http://www.sarod.com/tours.html
- For concerts at Wigmore Hall: http://www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/whats-on