Do Re Mi
I always admired the system of Western Classical music (In the history of Western music, the term ’Classical’ means the time between ca. 1760 and 1820) Their ability to read and write music has always fascinated me immensely. The greatest achievement here, apart from the Solo performances, is to jointly perform with a large number of musicians as an orchestra. Hats off to their discipline and capacity to produce something so beautiful collectively! I salute their gesture of honouring the artists with a standing ovation even if they are not too old. I am happy to see this culture being adapted in India too which is very heart warming. Every time I visit countries like Austria or Germany, I feel spiritually uplifted. I am overwhelmed when I think of how many great composers, conductors and musicians these countries have produced.

My first tryst with getting involved in an Orchestra was in 1984. This was soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The government of India requested me to compose an orchestral piece. I had to visit All India Radio because they use to have an orchestral group called Vaadya Vrind. I composed the Orchestra and named it Priyadarshani, which was also her name performed most beautifully by all the Artists at All India Radio.

Once again in 1990, I was requested to compose for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. I composed a piece called Tribute to Hong Kong and it was conducted by Mr. Fu Ku Mora. I was a performer in the Orchestra too and it was indeed an experience to have rehearsed portions which to an Indian classical musician is quite unusual. More recently I have just finished work for a Sarod Concerto which will, god willing, premier soon. I am enjoying working with brilliant European musicians and we have several concerts lined up in the near future. People who have been following my work must have noticed that I kept away from collaborations and experiments for the longest time in my career. This was however very unintentional as I have always been a very open minded person both musically and personally.

I have taught at many Universities in the US and in Europe. My first professorship was in York University in England in 1995. I spent a month there teaching students who were learning Western Classical music. Here too, I prepared an Orchestra where all the students performed the pieces they had learnt in the University Hall at the end of the course. I recall an interesting incident after the concert at York University. I asked Prof. Niel Sorrell, the head of the music department as to why the Vice Chancellor of the University did not meet me after the concert as he was in the audience. I understand that as he was coming up to meet me he said’ I don’t think that I am properly dressed to meet the Maestro!” I thought that this was an ultimate way to show respect not just an artist but to any person we are meeting for the first time. I have often been critisized for giving a lot of importance to the kurtas I wear on stage. Though my wife Subhalaskhmi is to be credited for this, I feel that visual appeal is never a disadvantage and only adds to you as a performer. Whenever or wherever I taught, it was not Sarod but music in general. There is a world beyond reading and writing music. I constantly try that music should be experienced, realized and felt. Almost like god almighty who is with us, around us and watching us at all times. We only have to feel and realize it.

I felt very happy and proud when BBC Magazine UK declared my CD of Raga Bhairav as one of the best 50 CDs on Classical Music of the World in 1996. Historically, only European music was considered in this category. Asian and Indian music was always under the caption of World music. I am a bit saddened by India’s inclusion in the World Music category. Every time I visit a record store any where in the world, Indian classical music is always found in the World music section. Now this has also become a category for many awards including the Grammys. I hope and pray that people who are running the music industry realize the importance of our music and it’s a ancient history. I hope that one day we have our own category of Indian Music.

-Amjad Ali Khan