Young sarod maestros Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan, the sons of legendary sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, feel Indian classical music has an edge over its counterparts “in terms of years”.
“Indian classical music is ancient. The music has had its origin during the Rig Vedic times. We don’t think it would be fair to say that Indian music is superior to any kind of music. In our system of music, spirituality coincides very closely with music, which makes it unique over most cultures,” Amaan told IANS in an interview.
The Khan siblings released their second book, ‘50 Maestros, 50 Performances’ (Harper Collins), an anthology chronicling 50 best performances by as many top Indian classical musicians, at a function at The Ashok hotel in the capital Monday evening where they gave a scintillating concert. The book was launched by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor.
The book is a tribute-cum-musical journey through the pages of the Indian musical history of the 20th century, featuring masters like Begum Akhtar, Bhimsen Joshi, Enayat Khan, Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and M.S. Subbulakshmi.
Ranging from the traditional gharanas of both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music of north and south India respectively to contemporary fusion, the brothers record the most influential performances by the artists, interspersing it with anecdotes, rare photographs from the Khan family archives and a Compact Disc with selected recordings chosen by the authors.
The Khan brothers represent the seventh generation of the Senia Bangash school of music.
“The book talks about the monumental icons who have given the colossal music industry the structure and shape that exist even today. The artists that we have listed in the book are the people who made a difference and paved the way for the coming generation — like torch—bearers. The book is a salutation to all the greats,” the siblings said.
Indian music, say the brothers, is the only tradition where “musicians glide from one note to the other”.
“We don’t need to read or write music and it is an oral tradition passed down the generations. That makes it richer,” they said.
The two, who have performed all over the world and have experimented with all forms of music, refused to be drawn into “controversies over comparisons and artistic analysis”.
“It is not fair for us to make an analysis of any kind. Every artist is great in his or her domain. Rankings are not an aspect that is realistic or logical in this world. All the artists in our book are toppers. They are icons and inspirations,” the duo said.
The book, the brothers said, was full of interesting anecdotes.
“There are so many. The good part is that in a profession of this nature, where you get to travel so often, you meet the most interesting kind of people all over the world. We remember a time when a concert took place on a boat in the middle of an ocean. It was exciting. On another occasion, we played at the Taj Mahal. It was like a dream. Playing for Prince Charles was also memorable,” Ayaan said.
It took the brothers six months to put together the book. “We worked with an editor, who was into music herself. It was not easy to choose the recordings as this was what we grew up listening to,” the brothers said.
Throwing insights into the making of the book, Amaan said, “The proposal for the book came from Harper Collins at a time when we were not accepting concerts for a few months due to a project — which was supposed to be going on at that time but kept getting delayed. It was a movie project which was shelved after five schedules. We had a lot of time to listen to music and write. It was also a time to retrospect on the music we listened to in our growing up years.”
The brothers feel their parents have been the guiding force and pillars in their lives.
“Whatever we are today is because of them. The atmosphere of music that we grew up in and the guidance to become good human beings comes from them,” they said.
Despite the fact that they are siblings, the brothers admit to having “individual concepts and approaches to music”.
“We do not think alike. So to sound different is only natural. The book has been a very exciting project, though this has been our second one,” they said.
The first book, a biography of their father Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, ‘Abba: God’s Greatest Gift to Us’, was released in 2002.
The brothers have a few albums lined up this year. “We are also collaborating with an Australian all—girls’ band called the ‘Maskes’ this season,” the siblings said.
And who is their favourite musician? “All the 50 in the book — but our father always tops the list,” Amaan and Ayaan quipped in unison.