MUSICSCAN: The raga sketches may have been brief, but the music had Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's magical touch.
To attend a live performance of a musician who has become a legend in his or her own lifetime is always a thrilling experience. And if there are two such events, the occasion is all the more memorable.
It was so in the context of the Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2009 organised jointly by Carnatica and Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha this past fortnight where we had the pleasure of listening to a sarod recital by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan within a few days after a violin recital by Prof. T.N. Krishnan accompanied by his daughter Viji. Of course, Krishnan was performing in a familiar venue where he could give full expression to his usual 'Ragopasana' (this time projecting grand visions of Kharaharapriya and Sankarabharanam)
Ustad's unique touch
But Amjad Ali Khan found himself in a quite unfamiliar ambience where he chose not to elaborate the Northern melodies in the usual manner. Instead, he just gave us quick demonstrations of traditional Hindustani ragas such as Shiv Kalyan and Maru Behag. He also allowed us a glimpse of the raga Subhalakshmi, which he has composed in his wife's name. But no matter how condensed these melodic versions were, the music certainly had the Ustad's unique and brilliant touch.
There's an old story in Western music circles about how the legendary conductor Toscanini was asked by a reporter to specify the most memorable compliment he had ever received in his life. The answer was: "Well, there was this beautiful lady who came up to me after a concert and said: 'Maestro, you look so handsome today!' That was the most memorable compliment I have ever received!"
Perhaps Amjad Ali Khan will find this occasion equally memorable for a similar reason. Among the compliments lavished on him by several speakers in a brief session of felicitations preceding the concert, was a special one from vidushi Sudha Ragunathan: "He is not only a king of Hindustani music, but also looks like a king!"