“Music not a product, it cannot be promoted”

Music is not a product that needs “promotion”, says sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, who believes it is essential for “peace of mind and good health” of human beings.
The Padma Vibhushan recipient said music is a gift from God that “grows on you”. “Music cannot be promoted. Music is not Coca-Cola or a toothpaste (product) that you can promote, music grows on you. When it is a sold-out concert, we should realise and believe music is essential for human beings and hence they come for it,” the 77-year-old musician told in a virtual interview.
Music has a significant therapeutic effect on both people and the environment, he said.
“The medical world is treating patients with music. Plants grow faster and cattle give more milk (after listening to) appealing music. Music is a precious gift of God. For peace of mind and good health, every human being must listen to appealing music,” the music veteran added. Over the years, classical music continued to reinvent itself, said Ayaan Ali Bangash, Khan’s younger son who is also a sarod player. “Classical music today is very much at the peak of its powers. This was always an art form that reinvented itself every decade. In 2023, there are concert halls selling out in Maharashtra, Bengal, in the South and there are thousands of people coming (to watch it), besides it is available on Spotify, YouTube, etc,” he said.
Due to easy access to content via online portals, it has become rather challenging for performers today, added Ayaan. “It is a good challenge and you are constantly reinventing yourself. Amaan bhai and I are working with an interesting genre, (like) where sarod didn’t have anything to do with rap before,” he said, adding they are also collaborating with jazz musicians.
The trio – Khan, his two sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan – are set to perform at a concert here on Thursday, where they will be joined by Ayaan’s twin sons Zohaan and Abeer.
The multi-city concert titled ‘Three Generations, One Nation’ has performed at full houses in Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Chennai, and will mark its culmination in Mumbai’s Jamshed Bhabha theatre. Zohaan and Abeer, the young sarod players, are fans of celebrated Korean pop group BTS, a diametrically opposite genre to their classical roots. The music veteran said he has always encouraged his children and grandchildren to listen to different kinds of music.
“Zohaan and Abeer are listening to Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber. Whenever we FaceTime, they show me something and I ask them if he is Justin Bieber and they would say, ‘No, it is the BTS band!’ It is a new Korean group and I don’t know about it,” Khan said. “In our family, we never impose anything and we rather give them the opportunity that they should enjoy any kind of music. In our life, our wealth is music. That is why we share music with our children,” he added. Ayaan revealed he calls his two sons ‘Beliebers’ as they are also fans of Canadian singer Justin Bieber. “They are able to effortlessly balance between BTS to listening to classical music, along with their journey in school, and everything. It is not easy but they are able to balance it,” he said.
Zohaan and Abeer are the eighth generation of the Senia Bangash School musical lineage, who are carrying forward their family’s legacy.
‘Three Generations, One Nation’ may be the youngsters first public concert in Mumbai, but Khan said it was not a launchpad for his grandchildren. According to the sarod maestro, the key reason behind the upcoming show is to seek blessings for their journey ahead.
“We are travelling to seek blessings for Zohaan and Abeer, we are not launching them. In the filmy world or in other professions, people often launch (their children or grandchildren).
“It (launching) is a big word, we just want them to get blessings from everyone, so that their musical journey becomes comfortable, full of harmony and peace,” Khan said, adding the duo had played their first track, “Our Love”, for his birthday in 2020.
The veteran musician said they are all looking forward to performing in Mumbai, a city that is home to a cosmopolitan audience.
“For instance, we have performed in the open air at 5 am and there have been about 5,000 people attending it… It is because of the love and blessings that people buy tickets. These are all ticketed concerts, not for free.” It is an emotional moment for the family to be performing together, said Amaan.
“There are so many emotions going all over the place for us on stage, like there is grandfather and grandson performing, father is performing with his two sons, uncle being present. It is a great amalgamation of emotions,” he added.
Having seen sons Amaan and Ayaan begin their career at a young age, Khan said he is aware of the great expectations that people had of them as children.
“If a child is born into a family of musicians, there are often high expectations. Like, my father Hafiz Ali Khan was very famous. He was called ‘the prophet of sarod’. Fortunately, the people of India nurtured and encouraged me from the age of 12.
“Even my children Amaan and Ayaan received a lot of love and blessings from India and worldwide… The goodwill that we get from our forefathers that in a way helps our children.” Amaan recalled feeling the responsibility of taking forward the legacy of his father along with younger brother Amaan.
“When Ayaan and I were growing up, for some reason, we had some pressure. Maybe it was not intentional by anybody, but we were very answerable to the world.
“Being Ustad Amjad Ali ji’s sons at that time, when there was just one TV channel, maybe two newspapers… There was not much distraction, so people were focusing on us too much,” he said. According to Amaan, he and Ayaan didn’t initially enjoy performing on stage because of all the attention.
“We were very conscious. Today when I see Zohaan and Abeer, they both are enjoying themselves. In a good way, they are not answerable to anybody or they are not apologetic in a good, humble way.”