Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan have put music before glamour or films

Stepping out of the swanky white car, the first thing that caught their attention was the recorded music of the flute that wafted in from the JTpac auditorium. “Is there a performance before ours?” Amaan Ali Khan asked, even as they lugged in their heavy sarod cases. Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan are more than brothers, they are partners in an engaging musical journey, torchbearers of a long, rich heritage. Young, handsome and extremely talented they have not only added an exciting dimension to their music, but have also emerged as style icons.

In the city for a concert, Amaan and Ayaan went through a rather long sound check and even as the audience began trickling into the auditorium, sat down in the green room, with steaming cups of coffee, for a quick chat.

Distinctive identities

Both of them have developed individual and distinctive music identities. Amaan plays with a strong hand ‘enjoys the resonance of the sarod' while Ayaan gives that delicate, graceful touch.

They compliment each other harmoniously, a blend of power and the exquisite.

One factor that binds them is music and of course their adoration for their ‘abba.' Ask them about their music and how different they are from their famed father (Ustad Amjad Ali Khan) and this respect manifests itself.

“Abba has done almost everything that can be done on a sarod. He cut, chiselled, polished his music and we have the diamond now. We have just embarked on this long musical journey. If you listen to abba's music, his recordings down the years, you'll realise how he has evolved. We are still exploring,” says Ayaan, the younger of the brothers.

Amaan is still fidgeting with his sarod. He picks up a couple of strikers from the box, holds them in his hand and asks Ayaan, “Isn't this abba's? Hope he has some of them with him.” Amjad Ali Khan has a concert the same evening in Pune. “Why don't you call him?” asks Ayaan. And while Amaan dials Ayaan returns to the chat.

It is said that popularity of classical music is on the wane. And that the younger generation doesn't really care for it - one reason why fusion music is a hit and why classical musicians now squeeze in time and space for this genre. “Not really true. Classical music is still alive, still draws in crowds. Of course, I don't think it was meant to draw in huge crowds. It was always for an intimate group. I don't think youngsters have turned their back on classical music. I find a sizable number at our shows. I find more youngsters listening and learning classical music these days, especially abroad. A big chunk of our concerts are still purely classical. We do only a small number of fusions. I think we are able to connect with our traditional brand of music,” says Ayaan.

Flings with glamour

Though both Amaan and Ayaan swear by classical music, like any young men of this age, handsome to boot, they have had their flings with glamour. They have walked the ramp, anchored television shows, were voted style icons for music by a leading television channel and were even cast in a film that eventually did not really take off.

Amaan, who stands near his brother replies, “We are through with all that. So many things happened. The film, which was 50 per cent complete and then shelved, cost us more than a year of our music. We still have film and television offers but we have said a firm ‘no.' It was a phase when we thought that this was the way to fame. Later, we realised that senior musicians telling us that what we played was good was more important. We may not get recognised on the streets but this is what we'll do in future - only music, nothing else…”

Ayaan joins, “It's nice to get appreciation from people, for our music, for our looks too. But in the end I think we'll be judged by our music only. If our music sounds good, elegant, we'll be viewed that way.”

Brothers, friends, Amaan and Ayaan may be inseparable on stage. But they have their own lives and passions too.

“I love painting. It started off sketching abba as he did his ‘riyaaz' when I was a child. Then it was a fascination for Ganeshas. I held an exhibition long back in Delhi. Painting is just an extension of creativity. When I paint there's always music in the background, either abba's or mine. I want to work more regularly. It often takes a backseat when you are tied up with music, concerts, albums etc. I would like to do a couple of works to raise funds for charity,” informs Ayaan.

Amaan loves pets and is seriously into horse riding. “This is something I picked up during the shooting of the film. Now I'm wholly into it. I also play polo occasionally. I also love cars, those fast ones; I'm a car-freak.”

And does their abba approve of all this? “He and my mother have never put any kind of pressure on us. They believe in us. And by the grace of God we have been able to fulfil their dreams,” says Amaan.

It's time for the concert. Amaan and Ayaan pick up their sarods and are ready to step on stage. They look elegant, Amaan in his white kurta with some embroidery on it and Ayaan in his bright cobalt blue kurta. Do they still wear what their mother (Subhalakshmi Khan) designs for them?

“Yes. We wear what she makes. A Kalakshetra-trained dancer she has a keen visual aesthetic sense. Earlier, she used to choose our kurtas, our wardrobe. Now, she makes them and leaves us to choose it. But we still feel that abba gets the best ones,” Ayaan says with a smile. Amaan laughs in agreement.