My father was misunderstood: Amjad Ali Khan
It was only typical of a man who cared less for the comforts of life and more for the well being of ragas to ask the then president of India, Rajendra Prasad to protect the sanctity of raga 'Darbari Kannada' from the onslaught of new age liberal treatment.
This was the legendary sarodist Hafeez Ali Khan, the father of Indian classical musician, sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, "who was misunderstood" for fighting for good causes.
"I accompanied my father to Rashtrapati Bhavan when he was to be decorated with the Padma Bhushan," Amjad Ali Khan said.
The president inquired my father about his well being. He asked, "Koi takleef (any problem)?", Khan said.
"My father replied, 'Main thik hun, aap raag Darbari Kanada ko bachaiye (I am well, please save raag Darbari Kanada)'," he noted.
"We lived in a rented house in Delhi. Perhaps the president meant that and asked again, but my father continued with the same request and was satisfied only after he received assurance that the government will do its best in that respect," the musician said.
The story was narrated by Amjad Ali Khan himself as he launched the book, 'My Father, My World', at the AKLF 2014 here.
"My father was anxious about how people were taking their liberty while singing the raga. He was so innocent... He thought the government would pass some kind of legislation in the parliament that would make people stick to the protocols of classical singing," reminisced the maestro.
Reliving his memories in a post launch session with writer and vocalist Amit Chaudhury, Ustadji said, "I would be frustrated after Jugalbandi sessions with sitarists as to why the same resonance could not be created with sarod."
"I asked my father and he taught me the way to do it, but he also told me that every instrument has its own limitations and so has sarod."
Ustad Hafeez Ali Khan always went an extra mile, to help those who served music, said the sarodist.
"In one of my trips to Pakistan, a man told me that during one of the performances of Ustad Vilayat Khan, my father had gone up to the stage to ask the audience to support him as his father had just died."
The book had come after the author's sons Aman Ali and Ayan Ali came up with a book on him who is also their guru.
"I was inspired by them to write this book," said Amjad Ali Khan and appealed to the cultural ministry of India to do justice to all creative people and record their lives and works.
Being the son of a father who gave liberty to experiment with his music, Khan is credited with many genre-defining records.
" It is my 'Dharam' to sound like my father, it is easy to sound like one's guru, but my father never imposed his style of music on me. He said ' Son I did what I thought was correct, now you should do what you think is'", he said.
Interspersing the discussion with his own demonstration of ragas, the Ustad touched various aspects of music.
About the importance of Laya and Taal, the maestro said,"We have a saying in the annals of musicians that one who goes 'betala' is not pardoned and the one who takes the pain to maintain the 'tal' is forgiven."
"Laya is inseparable from life. Even our heart-beat is rhythmic and if that rhythm is lost, life ceases to exist," he explained.
The maestro took the occasion to request the government to commemorate the 'Greats' of music through festival as most 'shagirds' don't want to name their gurus nowadays unlike the past.
In the context, the sarodist recalled how Pandit Bhimsen Joshi would recognised his father as his guru during his performances.
"Pandit Bhimsen Joshi had learnt music from my father for three years and came to 'Sarodghar' at Bareily, and he always welcomed us at invited us to Pune where he lived."
Lamenting at the deteriorating musical taste of people, Amjad Ali Khan said, "I am saddened by the type of music played at the Rashtrapati Bhavan."
"Film music found a place at the luncheon organised by the president's house in the honour of the king of Bhutan, instead of Indian classical music which is the mark of our identity."
"I would like them to correct this," said Khan as he appealed to the president's house to play 'the right kind of music'.
Khan said he was amazed and impressed by Sachin Tendulkar's taste of music when he requested Lata Mangeshkar to sing 'Mera Saya' based on raga Anandi at a grand party thrown by the Ambanis to honour his hundredth century.
Expressing his regret at the popular way of singing, the sarod maestro said,"People have lost the patience to 'sit and sing' and now sing and dance together."
With the advent of television," people see music, earlier they listened it", hinting that the musical performances are now more a treat to the audience's eyes rather than their ears.
Thanking Roli Books for publishing his memoirs of his father Ustad Hafeez Ali Khan, he hoped that more musicians will write books on their teachers.
(Posted on 11-01-2014)