The Week, June 2012
After my residencies in York University in England and Washington University in Seattle in the past, staying in the Bay Area for three months and teaching at Stanford University is the longest duration of my teaching in any university. We are so proud of all the Indian’s who have been graduates here including the tycoon Mukesh Ambani. I am very happy with the students in my residency. They are all musicians of various subjects like vocal, opera, violin, cello, flute, Oud, Tabla and also young conductors. I am really enjoying working with them. I am not teaching Sarod to all but trying to make them feel music. Most of them belong to the European system of music. Most of the people read and write music. So I am trying to make them experience the Indian oral tradition of music, the world of rhythm and the huge oceanic world of Raga. My son, Amaan has been a great force in assisting me in all possible ways, during this residency. Apart from my concerts within the US, I perform on two consecutive days at the end of the residency including a performance with the Stanford Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Jindong Cai, and at the Mozart and More concert where I present my Sarod Concerto, Samaagam.

I recently received an invitation from the Center for South Asian Studies at Stanford to attend a lecture on Gandhi by eminent Gandhian, Mr Narayan Desai who is now in his eighties. He has written many books on Gandhi. It was an honor to have met and heard his personal experiences of Mahatma Gandhi. It was also an honor to meet American folk singer, songwriter, musician and a prominent activist Joan Baez. I always admired her beautiful voice for longest time. Narayan Desai had very good musicians who were singing kabir bhajans in between the lecture which was a great experience. Like many, I always admired and have great reverence for Mahatma Gandhi. I have perhaps been one of the first few instrumentalists to have played vaishnav janato and Ram dhun on the Sarod on numerous occasions including the 100 years of Satyagrah in Durban in the presence of the former South African president Mbeki and Dr Manmohan Singh and also at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmadabad. In fact, I also invoked a Raga called Bapukauns on the Mahatma’s 125 birth anniversary celebrated at by Unesco in Paris.

Over a span of years now, it has been my desire to compose music for and with children. In the West, music plays an important role in the day-to-day life, beginning with school. It is unfortunate that we in India do not stress on the importance of music, especially at the elementary level. And yet, we grownups are guardians of the culture and traditions of the past. It is our responsibility to ensure that the future generations inherited all that we have inherited. Therefore, culture should percolate to the very roots of society, making the children proud of their heritage. The responsibility to inculcate a sense of music in the young does not rest solely with schools. The task must begin earlier, at home. To successfully influence impressionable minds, music, especially vocal, should be part of elementary education, along with classical dance. A country wide programme of this nature will help the growth of more musicians and dancers and encourage all people associated with the arts.

I have always been surprised that in India, we do not have a popular version of the commonly sung ‘Happy Birthday.’ In 1984, I had recorded an album called; Amjad’s Sarod Sings with Children and created a birthday song in our national language. Music has its own world where both the artist and the listeners are lost in a realm of dreams and fantasies. Have you ever wondered about music? And what its basics are all over the world, the same seven notes are the foundation of music; what to us is Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni is Do Re Me Fa So La Te to the West. These simple sounding notes enraptured the whole world in pleasure. Characteristically, drawing from these seven notes or twelve notes (when flat and sharp) we can sing Bhajans in temples, Qawwali in Dargahs, Hyms in Churches and Shabads in Gurudwaras.

-Amjad Ali Khan