The Maestro Speaks

Samagam:
A Concerto for Sarod

By Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

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In my early teens, after a concert in Kolkata in the early 60s, the great legendary music director Rai Chand Boral, who was a great admirer of my father, Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb, came backstage and told me “With your music, I visualize a symphony and one day, I see you doing that with your music.” I took his blessings and with passing time, forgot all about his comment.

Right from my childhood, I understood the vastness and the oceanic depths of music. I feel that the twelve musical notes are powerful and vibrant like the sun and all the harmony around them is like its rays. Just like light and shade! I always had a great desire to create a Sarod Concerto for the longest time. As I have mentioned earlier, I have always admired the richness of European Classical music. Be it Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky; the works! Many of my fellow Indian musicians have worked or collaborated with many interesting artists in the past. In fact, even my sons, Amaan and Ayaan surprised me with their venture into new age music with albums like Reincarnation, Truth, Mystic Dunes, Passion etc which I feel have been milestones in their careers.

I was very happy and honored when the Scottish Chamber Orchestra approached me to write a Sarod Concerto for them. David Murphy, a noted conductor from UK was to conduct the entire concerto and would also put my thoughts together. David has a great regard for Indian Classical music so he could understand and read my vision. After nearly a year’s work, I decided to name this project Samagam-A concerto for Sarod.

Samagam premiered in the month of June in the Orkney Islands in Scotland at the St. Magnus Festival to a full house. It was also featured in a solo concert the following day at the festival. It was indeed an emotional moment for me that Amaan and Ayaan detoured from Belgium between their concerts and were present for the opening night of Samagam. The premier of Samagam also coincided with the ongoing City of London Festival. London is again a city with which I have had a relationship for over thirty years. The venue for the Concerto was Mansion House, where historically, the Mayor of London resided. By the benevolence of the heavens, Samagam has been a very successful project of my life. I hope that we are able to bring it to India very soon. I also collaborated with a very fine young Cellist, Claudio Bohorquez in two performances in London at Inholders Hall and at the Shambhala Centre.

The western world also truly makes you realize the deep respect and honor that they have towards a classical musician. On many occasions, I have experienced the graceful gestures of people from all over the world graciously coming forward to offer to carry my Sarod while traveling or going from the hotel to the concert venue. Even during the rehearsals of Samagam, the head of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra came up personally to pick me up and offered to carry my Sarod in hand. The respect for music comes from within, and egos and the power games take a backseat.

Following concerts with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and a few solo concerts in Europe, taught at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque all of July. I have taught in several Universities in the US and Europe in the past. It’s just something I enjoy doing. I am not teaching Sarod but just music and its appreciation. The students are from all backgrounds of music, be it Western classical, jazz etc. My purpose of teaching is how to realize music and how it affects us in our day to day lives.

Life does take a full circle. When I look back, I remember with great reverence the visualization and suggestion for my music by Rai Chand Boralji. feel once people love an artist, they love whatever he or she does. So whatever musical endeavors I do are all with the blessings of the Almighty and those music lovers who appreciate my work.

This article courtesy of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and The Week.

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