Ustad Amjad Ali Khan gives tips on Indian classical music

Maestro weaves magic: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Photo credit: Special Arrangement  

Like thousands of his shagirds (disciples) across the globe, the much-awarded sarod guru Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is revisiting old recordings of gifted vocalists at this time of the lockdown. Here’s his playlist for you to follow.


The Ustad says the earliest version of classical music came to us in the form of Vedic chants. Permutations and combinations of the scale of 12 musical notes take the ‘shape’ of ragas, which he says have an impact on our body, mind, and soul. The Ustad says that while musicians in South India have the freedom to play or sing any raag, North India has specific morning or evening raags. “These are all conventions; there is no logic. Raag Darbari is sung at night, while raag Jaunpuri is sung in the morning, but both have similar musical notes.” He suggests that we try playing both, to see the effect it creates and in time, perhaps North Indian musicians too will enjoy the freedom to perform any raag at any time. He also suggests playing the same raag by different musicians.


“My mind constantly lives in a world of sound and rhythm. From birds chirping to the sound of the rainfall – all this is music. There may be any number of scientific explanations about pitch and vibrations but it is difficult to explain how sound becomes music.” During the lockdown, “I do riyaz (practice) with my sons Amaan and Ayaan and teach my grandchildren Zohaan and Abeer the nuances of music.”

Classical music

The sarod maestro says that lockdown has given music lovers an opportunity to listen to Indian classical music – pure sound that emanates from the veena, sarod, violin, sitar, tabla, mridangam, a symphony, and an orchestra. “The second kind of music is based on our text — the lyrical language of a story,” the language of which he feels creates barriers. Listen to orchestral music, symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. There is no logic or reason to listen to any genre of music including Indian classical music.“ He suggests that this is the time for change: to break down the barriers of calling music from the South Carnatic and music from the North Hindustani. “The terminology...creates barriers. For future generation, we should call our music — Indian classical music of the South and Indian classical music of the North.”

Three-minute recordings

“I grew up listening to greats like my father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb,” he says, adding that they were played on shellac discs and ran for three minutes. “We listened in enchantment to recordings of musicians like the late Bade Ghulam Ali Khan or D. V. Paluskar then recorded 40-50 years before. These three minutes of recordings possess three and a half life times of pure bliss. That is because the art was greater than the recording technique,” he says. You could take out vinyl records of classical greats in the brightness of the morning. It will give you the time to and light to clean them well. “From my childhood I have only been listening to vocal music.”

Stalwarts to listen to

The Ustad enjoys listening to Vidwan Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, MS Subbulakshmi, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Vasanthakumari, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan sahib. Ustad Fayyaz Khan saheb, Ustad Alladiya Khan Saheb, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. Pt. Kumar Gandharv, Pt. Krishnarao Shankar.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:56:34 AM |

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