In Rapture with a Sarod

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, the world’s finest Sarod exponent and his brilliantly talented youthful sons Amaan and Ayaan engage you in an unforgettable conversation on their Sarods. MUHAMMED NOUSHAD listens to them at Calicut beach. Photographed by ABID ABOOBAKER.

Father and sons: Sarod  lives on.

Father and sons: Sarod goes on..

With certain fingers, a Sarod is more than an instrument and music is more than music. Longing is more than what you thought it was. When Ustad Amjad Aali Khan sits with his sarod and his fingers move along its strings, the sarod sobs, weeps, cries, wails, grumbles, groans, murmurs, smiles, laughs, giggles, yells and sighs. And in the ceaseless ascent and descent of all possible human emotions to its noblest fullness, it just leaves you in tears. As your soul is in a state of elatedness and  tranquility. Music is the only language that doesn’t need a translator. It brings about a profound longing inside your soul. It is one of those rare moments when melancholy allows you to grow cathartically inside for an emotional solace.

The Sarod maestro was in Calicut beach’s open stage, with his sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, in a concert organised as part of the 16th Malabar Mahotsavam. The concert began with Amaan and Ayaan presenting a half an hour duet on their Sarod. Having rendered both fast and slow-paced ragas, they invited their guru and father for a soulful solo. His first rendering was a traditional Bengali song, originally composed by Rabindra Nadh Tagore, and improvised by him. With rich use of Bengali folk tunes and the Bihu rhythms of Assam, the song was touching and marvelous. Second, he recited a popular north Indian devotional song, as a tribute to the soul of the girl who was recently killed in Delhi after a brutal gang rape. The third and last song by Ustad was a tarana composed by himself as a homage to famous Sufi poet Hazrat Amir Khusroo. He sang it first vocally and then shifted to playing it on Sarod. The last segment of the concert was a trio in which the “world’s finest Sarod exponent” and his brilliantly talented youthful sons engaged themselves in an unforgettable conversation on their Sarods. The father Sarod would start in a particular raga and mood to create staccatos to which the sons, first separately and later together, would reciprocate in the equal vein and vigour. This lucid and vibrant jugal bandhi was one of the liveliest and loveliest moments of the concert. Indeed a therapeutic music from an ageing father and his replenishing sons.

The crowd in Calicut, renowned for its warmth and receptivity to Hidustani, was in high spirits on the night when Ustad and his sons performed. The Ali brothers give immense hope to the Hindustani lovers that the Bangaash musical tradition and the rare feelings that only Sarod could evoke have great future to wait for.

[This was published in Interactive in February 2013:]

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