Exchanging notes

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by eminent conductor David Murphy has been jamming with sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan for the past three years and Friday evening saw the final leg of their India tour.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: February 23, 2009 3:37:36 am

The Scottish orchestra and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan create a unique jugalbandi

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by eminent conductor David Murphy has been jamming with sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan for the past three years and Friday evening saw the final leg of their India tour. Siri Fort auditorium was choc-a-block for the Seagrams 100 Pipers concert titled Samaagam. The notable guests included Pt Ravi Shankar,Murphy’s mentor. “For me music is about connecting souls through sounds,so that no word needs to be spoken,” said Murphy.

The 40 musicians of the orchestra started the evening with a seven-minute Mozart piece,followed by Beethoven’s cheerful Symphony 8. Khan took the stage with a solo performance. Taking off on his sarod,he gave a glorious start with a short alaap and bandish in Raag Zila Quafi. Thereafter,he recreated the flavours of Bengal by strumming a famous Tagore song,Ekla Cholo Re,accompanied by percussionist Tanmoy Bose.

The final 45-minute piece,a blend of many ragas,had the smooth intensity and harmony of an old Indian classic by Madan Mohan. Performed in perfect synchronisation by the cellos,violins,saxophones,sarod and tabla,this piece was special for Khan because it was the first time that he had defied Indian classical music’s oral legacy. “In Indian classical tradition,music is never written for a performance. Unlike western musicians,an Indian classical performer plays from memory and improvises along the way. But,we had to write down the music for the orchestra. I have been a purist all my life,so writing down the piece was a new experience for me,” said Khan.

The foreign players,too,seemed to have grasped the nuances of Hindustani classical jugalbandi. The evening saw several impromptu pieces between the Ustad and the foreign instrumentalists. “Indian classical music has taught us improvisation. Playing notes that have not been rehearsed is something new for us,” said Murphy. The perfect partnership in resonance ended with a jhaala on sarod along with the orchestra,creating a unique disposition. “For me,this is musical flirtation,” smiled the Ustad. For the audience,it was love at first sound.

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