US of A
My first foreign tour was way back in 1963, straight to the US. It was a group with Indian dancers and musicians traveling to the US for over two months. That was also the beginning of Indian Classical music being realized and experienced in America. I remember being so fascinated by the country back then like any youngster. From the mid seventies, I was performing in the US quite regularly. Many of my contemporaries had also set up schools and also lived there round the year and visited India on in the winters for the concert season. This somehow became a trend that worked for them for over forty years.

Of the many tours during that time, I can’t forget my 1984 US tour that went on for more than two months, especially the concert in Boston on 20th April. That concert became very memorable because the Governor of Massachusetts declared 20th April as Amjad Ali Khan day in the State of Massachusetts. I also remember one Indian friend during that tour who requested me to stay on an extra week at the end of the tour as Michael Jackson was coming to his house and he wanted a private concert for Michael which I humbly declined. The reason was that it was over two months and I was dying to come back to India to my family as Amaan and Ayaan were really young. Till date my sons tell me that it was a wrong move!

There was however, one year (1987) when I did not turn up for my tour which was due to various irreparable personal reasons I had with my presenter. This in turn apparently led him to loose a lot of money and also caused me a so called bad name in the concert circles in the US. Though I did a financial compensation to the concerned person in the following year, my new reputation of being ‘unprofessional’ became a victim of mass propaganda!

However, a new chapter started in the US from the nineties for me. This period also saw my sons Amaan and Ayaan debut in the US and perform numerous concert tours alongside me on stage from venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Kennedy Center. By gods grace I also got many I have got honorary citizenships and key to cities of various states.

Concerts interestingly today in the US happen in three ways for musicians from India. The first kind is of course the established lot performing at the big venues often backed by organizers who feel that they are the czars of Indian music in the US. The second kind is the Indian organizers who keep very busy doing many events round the year. Here, the audience is mainly the Indian community in the States. Lastly, the third kind are the house concerts that most young and up coming artists have to do sometimes even while they have a simultaneous tour happening. All said and done, the artists are busy!

Having said so, United States of America truly has embraced Indian Classical Music and listeners have heard the best from India. The post 9/11 phase has indeed been a nightmare for artists to travel anywhere in the world. It becomes so inconvenient to catch an early morning domestic flight after a late night concert wee hours of the morning due to rules of early check ins. I hope and pray that we get peace and harmony all around the world.

-Amjad Ali Khan