Utpal Borpujari

January 24, 2010

50 classical greats, through the ears of Sarod brothers

By Utpal Borpujari

It’s always interesting to know what influences creative minds, particularly those who themselves have earned name and fame in a chosen field. 50 Maestros 50 Recordings provides such a peek into the mind of two of the most talented young classical musicians of the country, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan, the Sarod siblings. The 192-pager is no detailed biography of some of the greatest classical musicians India has ever seen. It is more of a ready reckoner that gives us a brief life sketch of the legends, even while telling us whose music influenced the sons of Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan in their musical journey. But what adds value to the endeavour is a special audio CD accompanying the book, comprising 50 vintage recordings culled out from various past recordings, making it a unique collector’s album.

Amaan and Ayaan, who had kept away from public performances for over a year under instruction from director J P Dutta for in whose aborted film they were slated to make their big screen debut, used some of their free time well to dig out from their memories the music that took them into the world of euphony.  Presented as a tribute to the masters that influenced them, the book is a perfect introduction for anyone who is interested in getting initiated into the world of the Indian classical music. What makes the brief chapters of each of the musicians interesting is Amaan and Ayaan’s recalling of their personal interactions with them, which is something they have had the advantage of by virtue of belonging to a household that is into its seventh unbroken generation of classical music.

The brothers have made it more interesting by giving description of the recordings that have been included in the CD in a language that is understood by even a lay listener. And what makes this Harper Collins publication important is that they have in one compendium brought together some of the most famous artistes and some giants who have been forgotten outside the hardcore classical world with the passage of time, such as Ustad Ahmed Jaan Thirakhwa, Surashri Kesarbai Kerkar, Maharajapuram V Santhanam and Mogubai Kurdikar, names that the present generation has not even heard of.

The idea behind the book was exactly that – to bring on one platform all the greats of classical music, making it a sort of crash course for new initiations and the Gen Y, even while putting their own memories about their own interactions with many of these greats as well as their music. “The idea was that we could be a bridge between the younger generation and the stalwarts of the classical music world. We are just trying to relive the world of those giants who pretty much laid the foundation of Indian classical music as we know it today. For us, it was a great experience, as doing a book of this nature is a great honour,” says Ayaan.

Agrees Amaan, “We are young musicians, connected with the youth. And while writing this book, we kept in mind any newcomer who would want to be in the trail of Indian classical music. The 44 names in these 50 recordings are not mere musicians, these are institutions. For example, Ustad Shahid Pervez is a great sitarist, but we have included Ustad Vilayat Khan. Why? The difference is that Vilayat Khan is an institution. There are 50,000 sitar players who follow him or Pandit Ravi Shankar. We have talked about three aspects – first the recording, then the person and then about our personal rapport with that person. Even if we have not met a particular person, we have met him or her through their music.”

For the duo, as also for everyone else, these names are the primary pillars of Indian classical music. “Every classical musician today owe it to them, because they had the sophistication, the class, the profile, the genius. Whatever else we hear is inspiration, and I can say that in all honesty because we have grown up amidst music,” says Ayaan.

The concept behind the book is to make young people connected to Indian classical music, which is why Amaan-Ayaan have have written it in simple language. “There are not too many technical jargons, and if anyone wants to get initiated into classical music, these names you must know. If you don’t know any more names beyond these, that’s ok,” puts Ayaan succinctly. The only problem while compiling the book was the copyright issues pertaining to a few recordings, because of which they could not be included in the project. But as Ayaan philosophises, “Life is all about some give and take.”

According to Amaan, the book is an accompaniment to the CD, and not the other way round. “It’s a syllabus on CD, the text is the supporting part. Here, we are talking about the recordings that left an impression on us as youngsters,” he says. Yes, among the 50 greats, their father too figures, and without any doubt he should. But according to the brothers, they have tried to be as objective as possible in this. “Our father is just one of the many chapters, as an artiste. It was of course the most difficult chapter to write as he is our father and guru but at the same time the book contains my grandfather and many artistes of his generation, so we had to keep that in mind,” says the two in unison, admitting that they had been a bit reluctant initially when they were approached to take up the project.  “The question in our mind was, do we have the authority to write on such greats? But by the end of it, the way the book shaped up, we are pretty satisfied,” says Amaan.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 24-01-2010)



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