There was a time when there were about thirty music festivals every year all over Kolkata. In the year 1958, I was invited by prestigious Sadarang music conference to perform A solo in the morning session. My father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb was scheduled to play in the late night session. Few names of yearly music festivals (ironically called conferences)I still remember are All Bengal music conference, All India music conference, Tansen music conference, Park circus, Madhya Kalikata, Uttar Kalikata, Nishith, Suresh sangeet samsad, Uttarpara Sangeet Chakra etc. Now among the oldest music festivals only Doverlane Music Conference takes place every year from 22nd to 26th January. Lots of NRIs from all over the world always attend this prestigious music festival. In fact, they plan their trip keeping the dates of this festival in mind!
For longest time, out of love and reverence, music festivals in Bengal addressed and printed my name as ‘Ostad’ Amzad Ali Khan. Every corner of Bengal made me feel at Home and encouraged.
I have experienced the meaning of Bhakti and Surrender in Bengal. Maa Kaali onwards to Ramkrishna Param Hans dev, Maa Sharada, Shri Arobindo Swami Vivekanand to almost cult figures like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray. They are very much alive even today and they will always be the symbol of Bengal. For me, the interests of people in tradition the culture matter the most and Kolkata excels in these aspects. Their respect for art and artists is truly exceptional. The historic and religious places in this city have surpassed their own time. I have had the good fortune of visiting the Kalighat temple, Dakhineswar, Belur Moth and of course the evergreen Victoria memorial. I have been deeply inspired by the folk music of Bengal. Over two decades now, it has become a part of my concerts. My respect and admiration for the great Rabindranath Tagore made me record an album called Tribute to Tagore where I have played over ten beautiful songs composed by him. In 1971, I became the first musician to perform a solo nightlong concert that went over nine hours in this city and after thirty-two years, another nightlong took place in 2003 that had my sons, Amaan and Ayaan perform solos before my concluding item. This undoubtedly proved the quality and strength Kolkata music lovers have to hear three Sarod recitals one after the other! This was perhaps the heaviest and challenging classical music night! The most beautiful thing that this city did was that it made me meet my wife Subhalakshmi in 1975. I saw her brilliant Bharatnatyam performance and we got married the following year in Kolkata.
Even during the British rule, Kolkata was the great attraction for music and Dance. My father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb use to spend lot of time in Kolkata. According to him, there were few other contemporary musicians like legendary Sitar Player Enayat Khan Saheb, Vocalist Fayyaz Khan Saheb and Vocalist Abdul Kareem Khan Saheb, Smt Kesar bai Krekar were the heroes of every music festival.
The thirties onwards, there were more chamber concerts or private music concerts (Baithaks). As a young boy, I had the honuor of listening to so many great musicians! All over India it use to be a dream of every Patron of music to bring the best musician to there palatial house. I personally enjoyed playing so many chamber music concerts all over India, especially in Bengal and Maharashtra,
Every young musician or Dancer even now tries their best to appear in kolkata. I am very fortunate that from the age of twelve I gave my maximum concerts in Bengal. The people of Bengal are emotional; often they have shown displeasure by reacting in cricket stadiums, theatres or cinemas if they act is not up to the mark! In my young days while sitting in the audience in music festivals, I have seen artists been shouted at from the Balcony with terms like Ata ki hochche? (What is happening), Ektu mon diye Bajaan(please play with heart and soul). I was so shocked to experience that conversation between the audience and the Artist. Even today, I am quite tense and nervous when ever I am on the stage, especially in kolkata.