Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan soared on melody and rhythm during their concert in Kochi.

The biggest challenge for a sarodiya (sarod player) is to make the instrument sing, perhaps like the sitar. It is this quality that makes Ustad Amjad Ali Khan stand out from the crowd.

Stepping in after his sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan had virtually set the stage on fire, exploring the explosive rhythmic possibilities of the sarod without straying from tradition, the Ustad took over in his unmatched style.

He sensed the pulse of the audience immediately. Instead of playing something that would have gone above their heads and without dumbing it down, Amjad Ali Khan chose to play a raag in a manner that struck a chord with the audience, helping them respond to the raag and imbibe its musicality. He chose Zilla Kafi, one of the flavours of Kafi, an evening raag. A Tagore poem and a folk song were rendered to reveal the contours of this beautiful raga. The Ustad’s approach to the raga was special. As he explored the infinite shades of the raag he moved spontaneously to other shores. There were glimpses of the world of raag Bahar, before returning to his starting point. For him, the raag was not just a musical scale, it was an emotional involvement. With his eyes closed, he let the raag flow in majestic serenity. He infused life into the notes of the scale, bringing the raag alive.

Trained to sing in the early days, Amjad Ali Khan has accompanied Pandit Birju Maharaj and others. So the gayaki ang in his sarod playing is always audible. His improvisations on the melody sent the audience on flights of fancy to the countryside, their life, their music. Gliding his fingernails over the strings of the fretless sarod, the musician created vocal strains, sighs and whispers, occasionally plunging into explosive rhythmic bursts.

The mood created by Amjad Ali Khan was in total contrast to the energetic vibes unleashed by the young maestros Amaan and Ayaan. The seventh generation of sarod virtuosos from this gharana, Amaan and Ayaan have distinctive music identities.

They set the tone for the evening with Khamaj in the three distinctive layas. Playing with a strong hand, Amaan enjoys the resonance of the sarod, while Ayaan prefers to give that delicate, graceful touch. They complemented each other harmoniously.

Tuning his tabla to blend with the trio’s sarod, Satyajit Talwakar matched Amaan and Ayaan as they raced through the dhrut laya.

For the final segment of the concert, the sons joined their father on stage. They traded ideas and shared the spotlight, as they unfolded the contours of Kirvani. More than the raag, the focus was on rhythmic patterns, assertive and elegant. In this segment one got to listen to a rich canvas of multiple timbres, each one of them searching and finding the responsive chords, even as the raag unveiled.