Excellence Reporter: Ayaan, what is the meaning of life?
Ayaan Ali Khan: Music is my life. From the time I was born the language spoken was music, the air that I was breathing was music. I took shape of the vessel like water. Though my father has been a very strict traditionalist, he’s always believed in adapting to change. In all honesty, Indian classical music has no rules about how it should be presented or executed. That’s very individualistic.
Over the years I have tried my best to make the Sarod reach out to a new audience, to an audience that perhaps would not be at a classical concert! I have been very fortunate to have received so much love and adulation from music lovers all over the world. It’s such a long journey! Sky is the limit. The main mantra is that we have never taken any concert for granted. You are as old as your last concert and every concert is the first concert of your life.
I have done many collaborations in the past with Allman Brothers band guitarist Derek Trucks, American Folk song writer Carrie Newcomer, Grammy nominated Oud player Rahim Alhaj, Grammy Nominated Violinist Elmira Darvarova and also with the National Youth Orchestra of UK and with the Avignon Philharmonic Orchestra. When you are born into a home where the language spoken is music, where every brick of the house is soaked in music, it is only natural to get involved, drenched and completely absorbed into the fascinating world of twelve notes.
When I was growing up, our father would always be very happy to see us listen to music, not just practice it. Not just his own music, but the music of an entire range of artistes from the era of our grandfather to the contemporaries of our father. We were never asked to listen to a particular artiste, or not to listen to another; to listen only to classical music and not to listen to the music of the West or Bollywood. The choice and the freedom was entirely ours. But it is only natural to be influenced by the music that your guru speaks of or refers to when he plays. I thus became engrossed in the world of Indian classical music that our father had grown up with, along with our own contemporary choices.
To be a musician is in itself a blessing as you are really not answerable to anyone but yourself. For those few hours when you are onstage, you are in a creative frenzy, sometimes supernaturally unreal. There are times when you get off stage only to realise that something special happened up there on stage that day. It’s a blessing to be in a profession of what you love doing. It is also a non-debatable factor that music is indeed the best way to connect to that supreme power that we have never seen. Be it any religion, music has always been the pathway to spirituality.
Often one wonders why a talented artiste many a time doesn’t create a buzz and on the other hand, someone with minimal talent sells like hot cakes—well, there is no answer. The answer is written by a greater power. There is no good music or bad music. Everyone gives or at least tries to give his or her best but that magic wand work is done by that all time magician, the power, the heavens, the almighty.
Indian Classical music has indeed had a very spiritual and scientific development and growth. This was a phenomenon that existed from Vedic times. The tradition of classical music dates back to the Sam Veda period. The earliest version of classical music was the Vedic chants. Interestingly, the effect of all the twelve notes on our body, mind and soul are very scientific. If we sing out all the twelve notes with concentration, the human body receives all its positive vibrations. In fact, the positive effect transcends even on plants and animals. Various permutations and combinations give the scales a shape of a raga. However, a raga is much more and beyond. Its not just a mere scale. A raga has to be invoked, understood and cared for, like a living entity. People might find it amusing but in olden days and even to some extent now, artistes would say, ‘Don’t mess with a raga, it can curse you!’
~Ayaan Ali Khan is an Indian classical musician who plays the sarod.
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Photo: Rohan Shrestha