The Week, October 2010
It is a matter of great joyous and honour that the whole world is celebrating 150th birth centenary of legendary Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. In my childhood my father who was my Guru, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb of Gwalior introduced Tagore and his musical thoughts to me. According to my father, Gurudev was very fond of my father’s Sarod. On a few occasions he had requested my father to play in his plays and also for his own peace of mind and creative satisfaction. He often requested my father to play only alaap of various ragas.

While in Bengal I got the opportunity to listen to Rabindra sangeet of various musicians and singers. Initially, I was not drawn towards Rabindranath Tagore till the time my dear friend Mr. Arup Kumar Sarkar introduced me to certain songs and gradually introduced me to the great Suchitra Mitra. With the request of HMV (which is Sa re ga ma now) I recorded a CD with Suchitra Mitraji that featured some beautiful compositions of Rabindranath Tagore and the CD was titled Tribute to Tagore.

Historically, classical musicians of India did not have great respect for Tagore because Tagore took liberties of adding certain notes in every raga when he composed his poetry. But with my personal experience, I realized that he took liberty according to the need and demand of his poetry. That’s the difference; only a legend takes a liberty and to him a world compromises of aesthetics and not Mathematics. While preparing and working on the songs Suchitraji and I decided and realized that a genius can only take such a musical authority.

Rabindranath Tagore was well versed with European music and he could play the piano beautifully. His musical training was credited to Vishnupur Gharana. He created the timesless and beautiful institution called Shanti Niketan. I had the honour of visiting Shanti Niketan in the year 1966 and later visited and performed most memorable concerts in and around Shanti Niketan. I feel honored and privileged that Viswabharati University showered their love and blessings by bestowing Desika Uttham (Doctorate) on me. I always look forward to visit Shanti Niketan because one feels the presence of Rabindranath Tagore in that institution

I am grateful to the West Bengal Government especially Revered Somnath Chatterjee, whom I address as Dada who invited me and my sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan to perform in the new auditorium dedicated to Tagore called Geetanjali.

I am very happy today that there are so many young talented Rabindrasangeet singers and Tagore has conveyed the message of love, compassion, romance and unity of the world through his poetry beautifully. In the album of Tribute to Tagore, I had to memorize each and every phrase so that I could do justice to the compositions of great Rabindranath Tagore. Sarod being very difficult instrument it does not have frets or bars like sitar or guitar. The finger board is made of steel and it is absolutely slippery. To bring out the crystal tone or human expressions, I have to press the strings with the edge of my left hand finger nails. In my right hand I hold a plectrum made of coconut shell which is called Java. Among the songs of Tagore, my most favourtie ones are Aami tare khuje berai, Kaun khela je khelbo kokhon, chander alo and ekela chalo re.

It was always a taboo to play a song on the Sarod the way it has been sung by a singer. With the blessings of my Guru and God, I have been able to sing these songs through my Sarod the way Suchitra Mitraji sang. After playing the complete song phrase by phrase, I improvised within the discipline of the musical notes of the song. I am very happy and honored that our CD, Tribute to Tagore, has reached all over the world, especially among the Bengali community who love Rabindra sangeet. I look forward to recording more songs again with a talented singer. I wish a very prosperous and happy Durga puja to all the devotees of Maa Kali and also to the people who are celebrating the 150 years of the monumental icon whom we call Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.


Amjad Ali Khan