Like father, like son
Ahead of a concert where gurus play with their shishyas, Amaan Ali Bangash - sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan's elder son - opens up about his family and craft
There is a certain level of frankness with which Amaan Ali Bangash — sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's elder son — opens up about his childhood that dispels any preconceived notion one might have had about him being pressured into following in his father's footsteps. That's because, when we view from the outside the parent-child relationship that such famous duos share, it's all too easy to discount the role of the mother. "It was a very relaxed atmosphere in the house, you know, because my mother's side of the family didn't have a musical background. So we had more of a natural upbringing. Also, I wasn't that close to my father's family. I mean, I know them and love them, but we weren't interacting every day. I was more in touch with my mother's relatives. So there was a balance, or normalcy, in our daily lives," he tells us.
But does that mean that Ustad ji took it upon himself to thrust the sarod in Amaan's hands from a young age? Not quite, because it's an instrument that is closely linked with their family tree and Amaan gravitated towards it in — for the lack of a better word — an organic manner. It came as naturally to him as brushing his teeth in the morning, he says. His morning riyaaz with a tabla player was part of his daily regime, like going to school was. "But slowly, as you get involved in it, it becomes a sort of addiction. You don't realise when it is that the music has started flowing in your system. Then suddenly one day, when you don't play, you start missing it, and the day feels incomplete. So, that's how it started for me," he says, ahead of a concert that's part of a festival called Aadi Anant, meant to showcase the guru-shishya tradition in Indian classical music, where he will perform alongside his father and brother, Ayaan.
Amaan Ali Bangash
At the same time, however, Amaan is deeply conscious of the head-start he got in life thanks to his lineage. He confesses that had he not been born to a master, he might have taken another 50 years to get to where he is right now. And he adds that the only reason he has made Delhi his long-term home is the love he has for his parents, who are based there. "Had it not been for them, I would have stayed in Bombay or Calcutta, where creativity is born every two minutes. Delhi, unfortunately, is a power and money-driven city. So, my struggle as a child was to find myself. I was one of the only kids [in my peer group] whose father was sitting at home without a 9-5 job, you know? The culture here is, 'Kitne paise kamaa liye? Zameen kahan hai? Gaari kahan hai?' And growing up in that sort of an atmosphere was a bit challenging for sure."
It's to his credit, then, that he stuck to his craft without letting any apprehensions creep in, despite music being a profession that often entails an uncertain future. "If I had to describe it, music is like cooking food — there is no assurance that it will come out well. You might like it, but someone else might not. And it's not like being a doctor either, where if you have fever, it's a proven thing that a Crocin will sort you out. One plus one isn't two in music. That's how I'd put it," he explains.
"But yes, we are blessed as a generation to see Amjad Ali Khan Saab, or Zakir Hussain, or Hariprasad Chaurasia or Ravi Shankar ji. They are the musical courtmen of God, I feel, who descended on the planet to tell you how the sarod, tabla, or sitar should be played," he says, adding in the same breath, with a tone of regret, "But I also feel that my father hasn't been very fortunate when it comes to certain things."
What are those, we ask him. "Yaar, a lot of people copy my father's style of playing. They follow him. But they don't give him credit. A lot of musicians have learnt from my father, but today, they conveniently ignore his contribution. It's sad. I get angry when I think about these things. But again, God is watching. It's like being a thief — you steal, you run, you hide, but then karma catches up," he answers, adding that maybe one day, he too would like to don his father's hat of being a teacher. "It's just that I am not ready yet. There's so much more for me to learn."
His master's voice
The ongoing Aadi Anant festival is the eighth edition of the annual NCPA affair. Apart from Amjad Ali Khan and his sons, other guru-shishya combinations who will perform include Zakir Hussain and his nephew, Shikhar Naad Qureshi, and Hariprasad Chaurasia and Rupak Kulkarni.
ON December 2, 6.30 pm
AT NCPA, Nariman Point
COST Rs 500 onwards
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