Time for a world full of compassion, peace: Amjad Ali Khan on COVID-19

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    By Siddhi Jain

    New Delhi, April 1 (IANSlife) Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, feels the Coronavirus is, “almost like a big earthquake that has shaken the entire world.”

    “All the musicians and artists of the world are like a close-knit family. The past always continues contributing to world peace and harmony. But unfortunately, in the 21st century, we are killing in the name of religion.”

    “Today, the so-called human beings have indeed become the most ferocious animals! I request each and every person to re-discover themselves during this quarantine period. Why can’t we respect all the religions of the world? India was known for truth, sincerity and for the ability to be able to surrender. ‘Praan jai par vachan na jai,’ (my word is my honour) they used to say! The very reason for our present-day sufferings is that we have deteriorated as human beings. But, now I feel the time has come to create a world full of compassion, kindness, peace and harmony, and particularly so for our younger and future generations to come,” the Ustad told IANSlife.

    He expressed his thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “concern, help, guidance and for the much-needed nationwide lockdown”, and hopes that, “we shall all be Corona free very soon.”

    The musician is mentoring young artistic talent in the country in association with Young Artiste 2020, an ongoing nationwide talent hunt competition. Excerpts from an IANSlife interview with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

    You have always called yourself your father’s student. What are your earliest memories of learning to play Sarod under him?

    Khan: The meaning of education in our family was Indian classical music connected with deep routed traditional values, spirituality, commitment, dedication and total surrender to the God Almighty and the Guru, who was my father too, legendary Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb. I cannot remember a day that I was initiated into the world of music. It was a part of me from as early as I can remember. Indeed, I cannot think of a moment when music has been separated from my life. It is a way of life.

    My father, the legendary Sarod maestro, Haafiz Ali Khan lived for music. For my father, though, there was no question of a life outside music. Life itself was Music and Music was Life. And so, I came to inherit from him the legacy of five generations of musicians as naturally as a bird taking to the air. The music, I know is the music given to me by my father. This is the music I know. Everything I have played in my entire life can only be a result of the legacy that has been bequeathed to me by my father. The ‘guru-shishya parampara’ (mentor-student) is a very appealing and is a sacred title.

    What’s the role of an able guru in a student’s life and career?

    Khan: ‘Shishya’ in Hindi and ‘Shagird’ in Urdu have the same meaning which is student. This age-old relationship is diluting and also dying fast. The role of Guru was challenging and equally challenging was the role of the student. Most of the established musicians today belong to this era and time. There used to be test of a Shishya’s patience and dedication. Eventually very few Shishyas or followers could survive those vigorous and emotional tests. India is the only country where we had various kinds of Gurus in every field. Unfortunately, some Gurus have taken advantage of their innocent followers.

    To achieve anything, you need determination and hard work. The greatest example is the Guru Dronachrya and Eklavya relationship. Though the Guru was helping his favourite Shishya Arjuna but with determination, devotion and love for the Guru Eklavya also achieved what he wanted.

    Please tell us of your association with Young Artiste.

    Khan: Young Artiste is a great opportunity for students to showcase and nurture their talents and is the need of the hour. To continue our tradition and convention of music whether classical, folk, music or film music, we need younger, committed and dedicated musicians. According to the medical world, music is a therapy today. Children should be connected to appealing music.

    Through appealing music plants grow faster, cattle give more milk. Even for ten minutes children should listen to music with full concentration to receive its positive benefits. It is the duty of every parent and school teachers to find out creative instincts in every child because it is very healthy for the mind and body of the child to express his creative instincts.

    Every human being is born with sound and rhythm. Some realize this and some don’t. The heartbeat is an indication of rhythm and what we speak; conversation, recitation, chanting and singing is all part of music. These days are cultural organizations are taking responsibilities to provide musicians and dancers to the schools and colleges. In the name of promoting Indian classical music and dance in the schools and colleges these organizations are getting huge grants from the government and private corporate houses.

    Classical music is not a shampoo or a toothpaste which you can promote. You don’t need to promote music. It grows on you like a beautiful perfume. You cannot prevent it from growing on you. My request to these organizations is that please don’t humiliate Classical music by imposing it on people who have no respect for it. Every college or school should take the opinion of the students as to which classical musician they would like to invite in their institution. I think it’s the duty of every Principal or Director to take the opinion of the students regarding what kind of cultural activity or even what musician should be invited to their institution. Cultural organizations tend to have their own favourite musicians and dancers and they are all imposed on the students of schools or colleges.

    In a concert in Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium last year, you were overwhelmed to perform. What makes you connect so deeply with music and the Sarod?

    Khan: At a concert, listeners come to listen to music. They can always google the artist! An award or a decoration doesn’t make you a greater artist. To be a musician is in itself a blessing as you are really not answerable to anyone but yourself. For those few hours when you are onstage, you are in a creative frenzy, sometimes supernaturally unreal. There are times when you get off stage only to realise that something special happened up there on stage that day. It’s a blessing to be in a profession of what you love doing. It is also a non-debatable factor that music is indeed the best way to connect to that supreme power that we have never seen. Be it any religion, music has always been the pathway to spirituality. Like cosmic divinity, music knows few barriers or boundaries.n

    Indian classical music is making a mark globally. Your thoughts on its presence worldwide?

    Khan: Musical vibrations can convey moods and emotions and have the ability to mould and shape our consciousness. Different types of music can have different effects on the mind-both positive and negative. Our mind is like any living organism. It must be nurtured and needs stimulation to develop and grow. Music is one of the most important ‘food’ for the intellect. Each musical note is connected to this most important part of our minds. Music has many faces. Conversation, recitation, chanting and singing are all part of music. Music can be either vocal or instrumental. Vocal music appeals to most of us because of its poetical or lyrical content. Instrumental music on the other hand, such as what I play on the Sarod, is pure sound.

    It needs to experience and felt. Since there are no lyrics, there is no language barrier between the performer and the listener, and that is why instrumental music transcends all barriers.

    What are your thoughts about the young musicians of India, who juggle a lot alongside learning music? Do you find enough young talent in music?

    Khan: I very strongly feel that today there is an audience for all kinds of music. The main reason for the people to attend a concert is that they love their favourite artist. Age does not matter, because our music and the relationship are timeless and ageless. I am so happy to say that there are so many young talented musicians all over South and North especially in the generation of (my sons) Amaan and Ayaan.

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