Sarod Maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, a legend in the field of Indian music and having won all possible accolades and recognitions in a career spanning over 60 years, was in Kuwait recently to perform at a function organized by the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC). The event was a perfect platform to showcase Indian music to a Kuwaiti audience as part of cultural exchange and soft diplomacy between the two nations..

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan took some of his precious time off to chat with The Times Kuwait Managing Editor Reaven D’Souza, and impressed us with his strong beliefs of world peace through music

By Reaven D’Souza
Managing Editor

“Music has connected the world,” Ustad Amjad Ali stresses while pointing out that “music can never create divisions.” As one of the undisputed masters of the music world, Indian musician Amjad Ali Khan  has been performing for over 65 years in cities around the world to packed halls of music lovers.

He has popularized the sarod by reinventing the technique of playing the sarod and  has won numerous accolades including a Grammy nomination, the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum and several more. He has also won admiration of audiences around the globe for his mastery of the sarod, a Hindustani classical music instrument, and the innovative ways in which he can stretch the limits of its strings to evoke hauntingly beautiful melodies.

“I have held concerts in Kuwait before, the first was in 1978, then again I was here in 1998 and in 2012 and now in 2023. The interval between performances is clearly too long. In fact, this will be the first time that I will be performing along with my two sons, Amaan and Ayaan, who are the seventh generation of sarod players in our family,” said the maestro.

“Audiences in Kuwait have always been something special for me, their appreciation and empathy for the music being played on stage is inspirational to any musician. When you come to think about it, this is not really surprising. Musical instruments in this area, like the oud, for instance, have a sound quality and timbre that complements the sounds of the sitar, sarod and other Indian classical instruments.”

Recognizing the need to preserve the legacy of classical musicians and their art, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan took it upon himself to set up a classical music museum. “Believing that I have a responsibility to preserve our traditional musical heritage, I have converted our family’s ancestral home at Gwalior into a Museum of Musical Heritage.

Named ‘Sarod Ghar’, this museum displays several Indian classical music instruments used by his forefathers. Many others have also donated instruments belonging to their ancestors to the museum, which has now become a repository for Indian classical music. Acknowledging the legacy of his family in popularizing the sarod, Ustad Khan said, “Twenty years ago, my sons published a book on me titled ‘Abba — God’s greatest gift to us’. Now, I have also written a book about my father and guru, Ustad Hafiz Ali, titled ‘My Guru and our Fraternity’.

He has performed at venues all over the world, including at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Royal Albert Hall in London, as well as at the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2014 in Oslo, Norway. The UN Day Concert 2018 featured Sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan, accompanied by his sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, and the Refugee Orchestra Project. The concert dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi was themed ‘Traditions of Peace and Non-violence’ in the presence of António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.

“India’s musical heritage is a blend of many influences and depicts diversity of our culture, reflects our values of mutual understanding, of tolerance and living together in harmony,” said the maestro, who is only the second Indian musician to perform at the annual UN Day Concert, 52 years after Carnatic vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi’s 1966 appearance.

Peace in the World has always been a priority for Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and this is clearly reflected in all his conversations on the state of world affairs. He expresses deep dismay at war and conflict appealing for everyone to come together and live in harmony.

With his vision of music transcending nations and religions, the sarod virtuoso’s performances always aim to bring peace and non-violence. “Our wealth is music, it is sound without words and there is no manipulation like words,” he points out at the purity of the sound.

Ustad Amjad Ali proudly points out that his twin grandchildren have now begun to perform making them the 8th generation of musicians in the family. Last September the first multi-city concert titled ‘Three Generations, One Nation’ was performed at full houses in Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Chennai, and Mumbai. During the event, the trio — the maestro along with his two sons — performed at the  concert  where they were joined by Ayaan’s twin sons Zohaan and Abeer. It was indeed a proud moment for the Ustad.

Over a life dedicated to music the septuagenarian Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is also known for spreading  peace through his music. A noble soul filled with love and affection, his contribution to music makes him an undisputed master of music and peace in today’s troubled world.

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