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Issue: June 2014
Strumming A Tune Together
Being sons of the legendary Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan are not weighed down by the task of carrying forth the musical heritage and traditions of an illustrious family. They share with Hi! Blitz their contemporary experimentations with the sarod that will help keep this ancient art form alive.
Amaan Ali Khan and his brother Ayaan have been quite busy these days. They just wrapped up an eight-city tour in the US with their famous father, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, where they also performed at the United Nations in New York as well as the Getty Center in Los Angeles. They are readying up a few albums in the genre of electronic music, a field with an exciting growth curve. The brothers will also be performing at the Wigmore Hall and WOMAD Festival in the UK in summer.
Understandably music rules their life, but the two have stood out for their individual styles despite being under the shadow of their famous father. Says Amaan, “From the time we were born, the language spoken was of music. We took the shape of the vessel like water. Though our father has been a strict traditionalist, he’s always believed in adapting to change. Over the years, we have tried our best to make the sarod reach out to a new audience, to an audience that perhaps would not attend a classical concert!”
Having a father for a guru, was the relationship always that of a teacher-student for them? Not really, says Ayaan, “It did take me time to draw the line as to when he was a father and when he was a guru. Abba is an old-timer with regards to many things. For one, even though he is a dear friend to me, a certain protocol in the relationship is always maintained.” Amaan’s views are interesting too. “The relationship with Abba was more father-son than guru-student initially. Of course the change in role for us and for him from guru to father and back to guru is somewhat effortless; however, it is a relationship with two people, like Batman and Bruce Wayne! He has been the most patient teacher and the most loving father. Abba’s teaching and philosophy is beyond music. It’s a way of life. The mantra taught by our parents has been to be a good human being first and good music will follow,” he says. Learning and performing together, Amaan and Ayaan have complemented each other on stage. The brothers state that there is minimal sibling rivalry. “Getting inspired by each other is what I call healthy and one should only compete with oneself. Life isn’t a race. We are not in a Derby,” says Amaan. There is individuality that shines through even when they play together. However, they practice separately. The co-ordination that you see in their music is something that happens live on stage. “For that kind of a synchronisation, you need to be completely in sync with your music partner,” says Ayaan.
There is great work happening on the global music front, feel the brothers. The pace has changed and there is room for collaborations and open mindedness for creativity. They’ve done some interesting concerts and projects, the recent works being their new project Ananta Opus 195 with the Avignon Philharmonic Orchestra, their father’s Sarod Concerto Samagam with the London Philharmonia and for the Avignon Symphony Orchestra. They’ve also collaborated with The Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks, American folk songwriter Carrie Newcomer, Grammy-nominated oud player Rahim AlHaj and also with the National Youth Orchestra of the UK.
Always impeccably turned out in both traditional ensembles as well as western outfits, the two brothers are lauded for their sartorial tastes. For the Hi! Blitz shoot, they don fashion designer Mayyur R Girotra’s couture ensembles and do a dishy turn. As fashion conscious young men, what are their signature style statements? “Be comfortable and don’t try too hard,” says Amaan, while Ayaan adds, “The moment you are comfortable with yourself everything looks good. It’s a state of mind.” And what do they like the most about Mayyur’s clothes? “He’s got a very distinctive approach to style,” says Ayaan, “I value and admire his efforts to keep Indian craftsmanship alive! His work reflects the current fashion trends whilst maintaining a classic world around it.” Amaan adds, “He is one of the few designers whose ideas and work is a fabulous amalgamation of the traditional world and the contemporary world. His aesthetics and vision is something I
With so many new things and so much experimentation happening in the world of music today, have the brothers faced any obstacles promoting their brand of music? “You do end up meeting jokers who don’t know the difference between a sarod and a tabla! Apart from that, God has been kind. We are blessed to be representatives of an ancient art form and have classical concerts selling out all over the world. Like one can’t compare cricket and chess, you cannot compare Bollywood to classical music. It’s like comparing sushi and chicken tikka!” sign off the talented brothers on a light note.
Read more in the June 2014 issue of Hi! BLITZ – the no.1 Lifestyle magazine.
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