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Historic opportunity to perform for global tech giants: Amjad Ali Khan

Indian Musician Amjad Ali Khan.

As Amjad Ali Khan, the legendary sarod maestro, prepares to showcase classical Indian music for a select gathering of Silicon Valley giants here at the Levis stadium, he says like yoga, the spiritual and meditative power of 'Hindustani music' is all set to rock the imagination of the new world

By Deepak Sharma

December 9, 2019 (IANS) As Amjad Ali Khan, the legendary sarod maestro, prepares to showcase classical Indian music for a select gathering of Silicon Valley giants here at the Levis stadium, he says like yoga, the spiritual and meditative power of 'Hindustani music' is all set to rock the imagination of the new world.

"Yoga has made its presence felt across continents, now it is the turn of Hindustani music to conquer the world stage. For me, it's a great opportunity to present our music in front of global tech gurus, who are shaping the future of the world," the living music legend told IANS on the eve of his much-awaited performance on Monday night. 

Top executives of leading tech companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Paypal, Dell, HP and Symantec are among many others who have been specially invited by Shiv Nadar, the Indian billionaire and founder of HCL, for the Indian classical music concert being organised for the first time in Santa Clara, California Bay Area. 

Shiv Nadar has chosen Amjad Ali Khan and his sons, Ayaan and Amaan Ali, to exhibit the rich heritage of Indian classical music to the who's who of Silicon Valley.

On the eve of the historic concert, Amjad Ali Khan said he had first performed in the US in 1963 and since then continues to enthral the audience in the west. 

"However, this concert is different from the rest as its scale and scope is much bigger. Earlier, mostly NRIs and followers of classical Indian music used to come at our shows. But, now we are taking our music to the giants of the Bay Area," said Amjad Ali Khan, the best known sarod player who also taught music at the Stanford University.

At 73, the sarod maestro seems determined to popularise India's music heritage across the west, keeping his focus on the string instrument, invented by his forefathers, centuries ago. 

"Let me tell you... Indian classical music has a meditative effect on the listener. In 1984, when I came to the US, I was told that Michael Jackson wanted to meet and see me performing. Though Jackson had its own style but Indian classical music also influenced him. On that tour, my prior engagements did not allow me to meet world's biggest popstar... but the point I am trying to make is that Hindustani classical music has the power to mesmerise people, no matter whether they are big or small. Science has proved that it has a positive effect on the human mind... A reason why now we have music therapies," said the sarod maestro.

On his sons, Ayaan and Amaan, the renowned sarod player said that both are performing with different orchestras. The trio, of late, has been staging bigger shows with orchestra which include western instrument players.

"The orchestra is well organised. The piece they are suggested to play during the shows are well scripted. Earlier, we had been missing such shows at a big scale. Maybe, Indian musicians were a little uncomfortable with music being played in a group collectively," said Amjad Ali Khan, who has often experimented with modifications to his instruments.

Reminded about his performance at the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize concert, he said that the organisers only allotted five minutes for the performance. Conventionally, that is not possible in Hindustani classical music. 

"We initially thought to refuse. However, the stage was global... and later we thought that despite so much constraint of time we will perform in the stipulated time. Finally, I chose folk music and the show really went so well," said Amjad Ali Khan, born to a musical family which has it connections to Tansen, the legendary musician patronised by Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons are presenting the show as part of the second International HCL concert which aims at promoting Indian classical music worldwide.

(Deepak Sharma can be contacted at deepak.s@ians.in)