Sunday, October 2, 2011

Prisoner of Conscience: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Red Fort evening

A couple of weeks ago I posted an album of the acclaimed sarodiya Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan of Gwalior.  Tonight I’m proud to share with you another stunning set of this gorgeous instrument, played by Hafiz Ali’s son, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was born on 9 October 1945 at Gwalior and was initiated into music at the age of 5 by his father, the reknowned Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. At age 11 he was participating in important concerts like the Sadarang Sangeet Sammelan in Calcutta. At 15 the prestigious Prayag Sangeet Samiti declared him ‘Sarod Samrat’. Amjad, the child prodigy has since won scores of awards and honors.

At 25 he was presented the UNESCO Award by the International Music Forum (Paris) and at 29 he was honoured with the Padma Shri by the President of India becoming one of the youngest recipients of this Award. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan has performed extensively in India and abroad. In this his 9th albumb with HMV, he tells listeners about his investment with Music, explaining the ragas he has played.

My dear friends,  More music festivals are held today, and larger audiences point to the fact that those who have cared to involved themselves in music have been amply rewarded. Young people often tell that they ‘understand’ film and pop music whereas they find classical music difficult to follow. Perhaps it is simple to follow words rather than notes, but ‘getting initiated’ always takes time. Listening itself constitutes a major part of learning classical music.

Indian music comes alive in the moment of performance whee the audiences inspires the artiste to elaborate the rag in unexpected ways. This mutual attentiveness should not be underestimated. I too began my music career listening to my father, often reluctantly.

Perhaps this explains why my album is called, Prisoner of Conscience. When I started learning music at the age of 5, the notes of a rag used to trap my body and soul. I wanted to break free but my father/guru was firm. Operating with the constraints of the notes, time taught me how to stretch my boundaries, to redefine my skies. I had consciously and willingly offered myself as a prisoner to this challenge.

I invite you to enter this wonderful prison and discover your freedom. For the benefit of new listeners I would like to mention that the sarod in its present form, was derived from an Afghan folk instrument called the Rabab. The credit goes to Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash, a revered ancestor of my family. My own sarod, differes from the previous ones in as much as it has only 3 large pegs on either side instead of four.

It is fortunate that the musical tradition in my family has remained unbroken for six generations. My sons Amaan  and Ayaan, are the seventh, and it is my greatest wish that they continue and enrich this legacy. The options and temptations in this world are many but the music passed on as a precious heirloom cannot be frittered away without guilt.

My father Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Saheb was my guru. He belonged to an illustrious line of sarod players at the court of Gwalior. He had learned from eminent masters like Ustad Nanne Kha Saheb (my grandfather), Pandit Chukka and Pandit Ganeshilal (said to be descendants of Swami Haridas) and Ustad Wazir Khan Saheb of Rampur, a direct descendant of the great MIyan Tansen, singer at Akbar’s court. By a long line of descent my own training is thus traced back to the pristine Senia Gharana.

On side 1 of this album I have played Raga Shahana sometimes called Shahana Kanhra. There are four compositions, the first in a slow tempo set to ihap taal (a cycle of 10 beats), the second in medium teen taal (16 beats), the third in a somewhat faster ektaal (twelve beats), and finally the drut to a fast teen taal. The beautiful rag  dates back to the 17th century and is said to have been composed by Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the great Sufi saint who attempted to combine the Persian and Indian music systems.  Usually Shahana is a favourite of the vocalists but its lyrical flow also takes well to instrumental music though more subtly.  Most of its bandishes (compositions) are based on khayal ang (a vocal style).
On side 2 you will hear rag Tilak Kamod, a more familiar rag which vocalists often sing in thumri form. The origins of this popular but difficult rag are shrouded in history. Its emotions vary and recur, creating a lilting effect reminiscent of folk music.
This rag blossomed at the court of Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur, the royal pupil of Ustad Wazir Khan. The slow vilambhit gat and the fast drut are both set to the 16 beats of the teen taal.
 In this album too I introduce to you a talented young tabla player Shafaat Ahmed Khan, son and student of Ustad Chamma Khan of the Delhi gharana.  I hope you will enjoy our music. (Amjad Ali Khan, 1980) 
(from the Liner Notes)

            Track Listing:
01.  Raga Shahana
02.  Raga Tilak Kamod
Listen here

1 comment:

lonely sherpa said...

Link gone dead. Missed the album.