Meeting of minds

For Ustad Amjad Ali Khan,it’s a “musical flirtation”. The ustad who’s just kicked off the Samaagam tour in Mumbai on Sunday...

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published:February 10, 2009 2:27 am

East meets west in Samaagam,Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s first-ever sarod concerto

For Ustad Amjad Ali Khan,it’s a “musical flirtation”. The ustad who’s just kicked off the Samaagam tour in Mumbai on Sunday,in which he collaborates with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and renowned conductor David Murphy. He is very upbeat about his first tie-up with western classical musicians.

From the spontaneous applause and cries of approval that the audience sprinkled on the performance on Sunday at the Tata Theatre in the National Centre for Performing Arts,it is clear that the concert’s debut in India is a resounding success. The next leg of the tour will see the concert taking place in Kolkata on February 11,following which it’ll travel to Hyderabad,Bangalore,Chandigarh and Delhi.

The sarod maestro admits to being always a little wary of collaborating with western musicians. “I grew up listening to a lot of Bach and Chopin and other great masters and their music always moved me. But I was never sure if the Indian classical and western classical disciplines could ever merge fruitfully,” he says. A lot of the apprehension,he says,is because of the difference in the way the two kinds of music are performed. “Fifty musicians,perfectly in tune with each other and creating such beautiful music— that’s not an easy feat,” he says,of western classical musicians. “It requires the kind of discipline which we have yet to master. Indian musicians are too individualistic and egoistic. Besides that,western musicians rely on notations and sheet music and need a conductor to guide them,whereas we don’t. Also,there the composer,performer and the conductor are three separate entities,whereas here,classical musicians are three-in-one. So when the methods vary so much,working together becomes a very difficult process.”

The maestro,however,overrode his apprehensions and when the opportunity to write a sarod concerto for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra arose,he took it. “I was not sure what a piece of music,written for an Indian instrument,would sound like when played by a western orchestra,” he says,“but once I heard them play,it sounded so beautiful that all my fears were laid to rest.” The success of the concert in Scotland further cemented his conviction that this is something that Indian audiences would enjoy as well. Samaagam,he explains,is very different from previous collaborations of eastern and western music. “Usually,such music is very percussion-based,whereas,Samaagam is melody-based,like the works of Bach and Beethoven.”

The Samaagam concert features three separate segments—one where the orchestra performs pieces by western greats like Mozart and Beethoven,the second being a solo performance by the ustad and the third section where the maestro and the Orchestra join forces for a jugalbandi.

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