A digital future for Indian classical music

In conversation with Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“I can’t remember a particular day that I was initiated into the world of music,” Amjad Ali Khan says. “It was a part of me from as early as I can remember.”

Amjad Ali Khan gave his first recital of the Sarod – the lute-like instrument for which he is famous – when he was six years old and he’s been a highly significant figure on the Indian classical music scene ever since. He is the sixth generation in a Bangash lineage of musical maestros, but this doesn’t lie heavy on him: “I came to inherit from [my father, Haafiz Ali Khan] the legacy of five generations of musicians as naturally as a bird taking to the air. Music is the greatest wealth that I inherited from my forefathers – one that I am constantly sharing with my disciples.”

Bristol audiences will get the chance to see this interplay of generational knowledge and musicianship for themselves on the 4th of February at St George’s. Amjad Ali Khan will be playing with his two sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, in a special UK mini tour produced by Bristol based Asian Arts Agency.

The performance will be a unique opportunity to gain an insight into a maestro’s approach to and belief in the power of his music, and in the growing transformative power of Indian classical music as it leaps into the modern digital era.

“Like cosmic divinity, music knows few barriers or boundaries,” he says. “However, often in the race for cultural superiority we pit one order against the other. The antithesis of this conflict phenomenon is fusion music, a rage among the current generation of music-lovers, which sees the world as a global village.”

He himself, he says, has always admired European classical musicians like Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, while Indian Classical music may be compared to jazz in the sense of freedom and improvisation it brings to both its performers and listeners.

In recent years, though, Indian Classical music has led to explorations within digital and electronic genres, a fusion that Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan have been involved with over the years. Amjad says, “Besides playing classical music, Amaan and Ayaan have made albums of experimental music, too. I have really enjoyed their collaboration with guitarist Derek Trucks, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and cellist Matthew Barley.”

“The message of Indian Classical music is freedom within the discipline,” Amjad says. “My Sarod concerto for example has been aimed to preserve the essence of both Indian and Western traditions so that they can flow into each other without artistic compromise.”

The show in February will be a very special night indeed. “As I often say,” Amjad finishes, “every raga has a soul, and every musical note is the sound of God.”



Amjad Ali Khan

Wednesday 4 February, 8pm