Indian classical music star performs at Egyptian

Thursday , September 25, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

For Amjad Ali Khan, the music he plays with his sons on the sarod is a gift from God. In fact, Khan said that without music, he would cease to be a person.

“I am nobody without my instrument,” Khan, a classical Indian musician, said in a phone interview. “My music is life, sort of my expression of my life.”

Khan and his two sons are known around the globe for their mastery of the sarod, a 17- to 25-stringed instrument. This instrument has taken Khan from his home in New Delhi to the ancient churches of Scotland, the busy streets of New York City, and now to Ogden.

On Sept. 27, Khan and his sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, are bringing their musical mastery of the sarod to Peery's Egyptian Theater. The trio will be accompanied on stage by two percussionists for a national tour known as the Sarod Project.

Family business

Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan shoulder the seventh generation of a tradition of becoming maestros of the sarod at a young age. Amjad Ali Khan was only 6 years old during his first sarod recital, and now celebrates more than 60 years of performing his sacred instrument. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Khan’s first concert in the United States.

For the first half of the concert, Khan will perform a solo with the notes coming from his sarod hanging in balance with the percussionist. The second half of the recital will feature the next generation of Khans dueting in a raga, a musical melody common in Indian classical music.

The last portion of the concert will feature Khan and his sons performing an impromptu call-and-response session that has been likened to a guru instructing his disciples.

“I can’t write and read music, (classical) musicians, they write and read, but we have an older tradition in our family,” Khan admitted. “We are very spontaneous creators, very spontaneous. We can’t reproduce that again.”

Due to the instinctive nature of the performance traditions, no two concerts are alike. Khan and his sons compose with each other and the percussionists on stage, playing off different rhythms and beats that can’t be completely recreated again.

Spiritually inspired

Khan’s family isn’t typical of those living in northern India. For starters, his wife is Hindu while he is a practicing Muslim. He also said his daughter isn’t Hindu, but that doesn’t stop him and his family from proclaiming their main message — world peace.

“In our family, we feel connected with every soul, we feel connected with every religion, we feel connected with every form of the world,” Khan said. “Collectively, I think we have to give the message to the world for peace and harmony, how important is peace for our children, for our younger generation.”

Performances of the Sarod Project are always culturally rich and spiritually inspired, Khan said. His music isn’t specific to the religions of his ancestors, or wife’s, it belongs to everyone, he said.

“Music is a precious gift of God. Like flowers, air, water, fire, fragrance, colors, they don’t belong to any religion and every religion needs flowers to express their sentiments and every human being needs music to express their expression,” he continued. “People worship God through music….”

World music ambassador

Khan described a pivotal moment in his musical career, at age 25, when he performed a show in India from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m.

“That was a great experience, that was great inspiration,” he said. “It happened three times in my life that I played all-night concerts from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

Khan is a self-proclaimed lover of orchestras and symphonies, other styles of classical music. He said he was honored when the Scottish Chamber Orchestra contacted him for a collaboration and asked for a piece of music.

Because Khan can’t read or write music, he sang onto a CD and counted on one of his disciples in London to translate his intentions into a format the orchestra could work with and turn into music.

“I always admired symphony and orchestras, so I sang in a CD for one hour, visualizing all the beginning and the whole journey and I composed a piece of music for one hour… he knew my mind, so he wrote everything on the paper,” Khan said of his London cohort.

“So that became an original score, and then I visited Edinburgh and I met all the musicians. They were all very talented musicians, very kind people. They played my music.”

The name of his concerto for sarod and orchestra, “Samaagam,” in Hindu means the meeting of two cultures. It has grown in popularity over the years, and has been recently performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Taipei Chinese Orchestra and the French National Orchestra.

“So now I would like to… create something new for the world peace and harmony.”

Contact reporter Raychel Johnson at 801-625-4279 or Follow her on Twitter @raychelNEWS.


  • WHAT: The Sarod Project
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. Sept 27
  • WHERE: Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd, Ogden 
  • TICKETS: $20/g.a., $50/reserved, $75/orchestra;; information, (801) 689-8700. For age 8/older.

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