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)


December 30, 2009

Amaan-Ayaan still keen on films despite aborted debut project

By Utpal Borpujari

The bitter experience of a shelved film debut notwithstanding, Sarod’s young heirs Amaan And Ayaan Ali Khan are still keen on acting in movies, even if just for some “creative flirtation”.

Amaan and Ayaan, the sons of Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and former danseuse Subhalakshmi Barua Khan, were slated to make their big screen debut against twin modesl Tupur and Tapur Chatterjee in a romantic action drama by J P Dutta of Border and Refugee fame, but the project was aborted due to financial problems.

The brothers kept off their public performances for more than a year under instruction from Dutta, who wanted to reduce their public appearances till the film was released, but now they are back in action, performing in public again.

“It (the Dutta film) was a bad and a sad experience. This is the first failure venture of us, and we had a very bitter experience,” Amaan, the elder sibling, told Deccan Herald.

The latest public performance by the duo was in the capital a couple of days ago to mark the launch of “50 Maestros, 50 Recordings” authored by them and published by Harper Collins, chronicling work and life of 50 greatest classical musicians India has ever seen.

“In the run up to the making of the film, we trained hard, going to the gym for two hours every day, and waking up at four in the morning to learn horse riding. There was no time for music, and though we did not get disconnected from music completely, we were also not loyal to it,” says Amaan.

But as Ayaan puts it, both the brothers are keen to act in films despite what he terms as “the ugliest experience” for them. “We are open to film offers, because of the time and energy we have put in to prepare for the aborted project. We just won’t let it go waste,” he says.

Amaan, almost in perfect harmony of a jugalbandi, adds to it, “This was a bad experience we faced. But either you take it as a disadvantage, or turn it into an advantage. For musicians, pain is a very good thing, as music becomes more soulful. I would like to believe in that.”

“But we are not for doing films as an alternative career, but more as a creative flirtation,” he says, as both brothers point to classical music greats featured in their book who have acted in films without compromising on their music – M S Subbulakshmi, Ustad Zakir Hussain, T R Mahalingam, Balamurali Krishna et al.

(An abridged version was published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-12-2009)


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