Ustad Amjad Ali Khan on being part of the Do Right campaign, aimed at inculcating values in children
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is relaxed and cheerful at the interview. The bright smile tells us that the sarod maestro is in a happy space.
He, along with his musician sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, who take the legacy of the Senia-Bangash gharana forward, features in a television commercial of the Do Right campaign. Launched by Tata Capital, the commercial is available online; it is yet to hit television screens. It aims at spreading awareness about ethics and morals among young minds, especially the 8-12 age group.
“I saw a lot of violence while growing up. I was witness to the Partition. I grew up knowing about the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My children were growing up when Babri Masjid happened. I believe violence impacts young minds. I still feel very afraid in some situations. The need of the time and the challenge is to keep young minds inspired and positive,” says the Ustad of the commercial. The campaign’s signature song, “Karein wohi jo ho sahi” is written by Gulzar and has been composed by Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa.
The Khan musicians have created an instrumental version of the song in which the trio feature.
“With both parents working today, they hardly get to spend time with their children. But my wife and I were unemployed parents. So, we spent a lot of time with our kids. I remember by the end of my tours, I would be desperate to come back home and be with my family. In 1984, I was touring the U.S. and the last stop was LA. I was told to extend my stay by a week as Michael Jackson would like to hear me play. But I refused because I really wanted to head back home,” recalls the musician, adding with a chuckle, “But my sons later told me that I had missed an opportunity.”
Lunch is waiting at home and he likes everything that his wife Subhalakshmi Khan, a well-known Bharatanatyam dancer makes, particularly Assamese food. “I prefer traditional Indian food. Earlier and even now people make butter from cream at home. Simple and basic dal chawal turns divine if you put that one spoon of ghee in it. There are certain aromas that you grow up with and they stay with you forever,” remembers the artiste who is also quite fond of green chillies.
The composition “Karein wohi jo ho sahi” required them to play the sarod at a pitch higher than usual. “We usually play at C but here we played at D. Initially I thought I couldn’t but my sons helped me change my mind because I felt you were torturing the instrument,” he adds.
“I think, given today’s state of affairs, music can be an effective tool for so many things. People have forgotten to be tolerant. Music teaches you that. When we tune our instrument, we too get tuned. The seven notes are connected with the most important cells of our mind. Every child must be made familiar with these seven notes, they should be taught sargam.”