Ustad Amjad Ali Khan: Unknown facts about the sarod maestro

Updated: Oct 09, 2019, 16:19 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

On Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's birthday, we've decided to shed some light on the legend. It is important that classical musicians like him can jump out from our textbooks and jump into our playlists

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

There's just something about classical music that makes it stand the ultimate test - the test of time. These days, when electronic music dominates this generation’s playlist, classical music has taken a backseat. Which is why on Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s birthday, we've decided to shed some light on the legend. It's important that classical musicians like him can jump out from our textbooks and jump into our playlists.

He learnt sarod from his father (who was taught by Tansen's descendants) at an early age

Music runs in Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's blood. He learnt the tricks of the trade from his father Hafiz Ali Khan from an early age. In an interview with, he said, "I cannot remember a particular day when I was initiated into the world of music. It was a part of my life from as early as I can remember. Indeed, I can't think of a moment when music has been separated from my life." Interestingly, Hafiz Ali Khan was taught by the descendants of Tansen (one of Akbar’s navaratnas).

His personal life was tumultuous

At a young age, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan fell in love with an older woman and a divorcee. His family did not approve of this relationship, but it went on for 8 years. The woman didn't want to marry him, and this led Khan to take up drinking heavily. After his father became ill, he married another woman but wasn't compatible with her. He also kept seeing the older woman. Ultimately, his marriage ended and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is still ashamed of his behaviour during this period. After this, he fell in love again and married Subhalaxmi (a Bharat Natyam dancer) in 1976.

He has written a book called 'Master on Masters' about some of the greatest Indian musicians

Available on Amazon, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's book is a must-have for any classical music enthusiast. In it, he elaborates on the style and music of 12 amazing musicians of the 20th century namely Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Begum Akhtar, Alla Rakha, Kesarbai Kerkar, Kumar Gandharva, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Bhimsen Joshi, Bismillah Khan, Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan and Kishan Maharaj.

His ancestors invented the sarod

Yes, it was modified from an instrument called rabab in order to express the 'very subtle nuances of singing'. In an interview with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Khan said that there was always a reason when instruments were created - what the veena could not express, sitar did. What the rabab could not express, sarod did."

He had once lost his sarod on a British Airways flight

Unfortunately, the British Airways staff had once misplaced his sarod and it was a source of anxiety for the legend. On June 28, 2014, at Delhi airport, Khan found that his sarod was misplaced by British Airways. He waited there for 4-5 hours but to no avail. Thankfully, the sarod was ultimately recovered much to Khan’s relief.

His sons are carrying his legacy forward

Khan's two sons - Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash – are great musicians too and they are responsible for attracting many young people to classical music.

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