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Indian sarod maestro divides the world’s music into two camps

From left, Amaan Ali Khan, Amjad Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan will perform a concert on Tuesday at Albuquerque Academy. (Courtesy of Suvo Das)

From left, Amaan Ali Khan, Amjad Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan will perform a concert on Tuesday at Albuquerque Academy. (Courtesy of Suvo Das)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — East Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan divides all music in the world into two camps.

There’s instrumental and wordless vocal music and then there’s music with words. The former, the Grammy-nominated Khan said, is pure sound.

“I often feel indebted to God and say thank you that I belong to the world of sound,” he said in an interview.

That sound incorporates what he called “the slides and glides” that the voice makes. And they’re the most important feature of East Indian music, he said.

“To appreciate our kind of music, you don’t need to have extra knowledge,” Khan said. “If you can appreciate Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, symphony music, you will be able to enjoy and experience our sarod trio.”

Khan will play the solo sarod and sing wordlessly in the first half of a Tuesday, Sept. 23, concert at the Albuquerque Academy. The sarod is a stringed instrument related to the guitar.

In the second half of the concert, his sarod-playing sons, Amaan and Ayaan, join him.

Khan acknowledged that people more quickly understand songs with words.

“The songs becomes popular – the songs of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga – because of the text,” Khan said. “But at the same time, there is an old saying that language creates barriers.”

Still, he thinks of all the musicians in the world as being part of one beautiful family because they use common musical notes.

On Khan’s current Sarod Project tour, he’s trying to explain about the instrument and music being produced.

“All three of us are committed to the purity and appeal of the music. Music should be appealing and the sound of the sarod should have a message of peace, tranquility and harmony,” he said.

“We generally don’t impose the moods of the music. We leave that to the audience.”

Khan stressed that though the musicians are providing entertainment, audiences can also have a spiritual experience by listening.

He also has been collaborating with symphony orchestras. The first such collaboration was with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1980s. More recently, he performed with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which resulted in a 2011 CD titled “Samaagam.” Khan said it is the name of a concerto for sarod and orchestra and the word means confluence of cultures.

He said he would like to work with the New Mexico Philharmonic.

Khan has been the recipient of many awards, including UNICEF’s National Ambassadorship, the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government and India’s second highest civilian award.


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