‘Imagine a violin virtuoso like Itzhak Perlman also being a direct descendant of Stradivarius, and you can come close to the stature of Indian Sarod master Amjad Ali Khan. Khan is a spiritual, expressive musician, a technically brilliant and inventive player.’
– The Inquirer, 2000
He was all of 6 years old when Amjad Ali Khan gave his first recital of Sarod. It was the beginning of yet another glorious chapter in the history of Indian classical music. Taught by his father Haafiz Ali Khan Amjad Ali Khan was born to the illustrious Bangash lineage rooted in the Senia Bangash School of music. Today he shoulders the sixth generation of inheritance in this legendary lineage.
After his debut, the career graph of this musical legend took the speed of light, and on its way the Indian classical music scene was witness to regular and scintillating bursts of Raga supernovas. Thus, the world saw the Sarod being given a new and yet timeless interpretation by Amjad Ali Khan. Khan is one of the few maestros who consider his audience to be the soul of his motivation. As he once said, “There is no essential difference between classical and popular music. Music is music. I want to communicate with the listener who finds Indian classical music remote.” In his case, the term ‘beauty of the Ragas’ acquires a special meaning as he has to his credit the distinction of having created many new Ragas . It is love for music and his belief in his music that has enabled him to interpret traditional notions of music in a new refreshing way, reiterating the challenge of innovation and yet respecting the timelessness of tradition.
Mr. Khan has performed regularly at the Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Kennedy Center, Santury Hall (First Indian performer), House of Commons, Theater Dela ville, Musee Guimet, ESPLANADE in Singapore, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Chicago Symphony Center, Palais beaux-arts, Mozart Hall in Frankfurt, St. James Palace and the Opera House in Australia. He has also performed at the WOMAD Festival in Adelaide and New Plymouth, Edinburgh Music Festival, World Beat Festival in Brisbane, Taranaki in New Zealand, Summer Arts Festival in Seattle, BBC Proms, International Poets Festival in Rome, Shiraz Festival, UNESCO, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Adelaide Music Festival, 1200 Years celebration of Frankfurt WOMAD Rivermead Festival, UK, and ‘Schonbrunn’ in Vienna. He has also had recitals at the Edinburgh International Festival and the Enescu Festival in Bucharest.
He is a recipient of the UNESCO Award (1970), Padma Vibhushan (Highest Indian civilian award) (2001); Unicef’s National Ambassadorship (1996), The Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum (1997); and Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of York in 1997, England, Delhi University in 1998, Rabindra Bharati University in 2007, Kolkata and the Vishva Bharti (Deshikottam) in Shantiniketan in 2001. In 1995, Mr. Khan was awarded the Gandhi UNESCO Medal in Paris for his composition ‘Bapukauns’. In 2003, the maestro received ‘Commander of the Order of Arts and letters’ by the French Government and the Fukuoka Cultural grand prize in Japan in 2004. He has represented India in the first World Arts Summit in Venice in 1991, received an Honorary Citizenship to the States of Texas (1997), Massachusetts (1984), Tennessee (1997), the city of Atlanta, Georgia (2002), Albuquerque, NM (2007)and the Key of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Fort Lauderdale, Miami. He has been a visiting professor at the Stanford University, Indiana University, York University, Washington University, Stony Brook, North Eastern and New Mexico University. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis honoured him by declaring April 20, 1984 as the ‘Amjad Ali Khan Day’ in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1994, his name was included in fifth edition of the ‘International Directory of distinguished Leadership’. The BBC Magazine voted Mr. Khan’s CDs titled ‘Bhairav’ to be among the best 50 classical albums of the world, in 1995. In 1999, Mr. Khan inaugurated the World Festival of Sacred Music with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2000: He was awarded the Fellowship of the Sangeet Natak Academy; In 2012 Mr. Khan brought his teaching philosophy to Stanford University in a residency titled Indian Classical Music: A Way of Life. As a finale to the Maestro’s residency, Amjad Ali Khan performed with Conductor Jindong Cai and the Stanford Philharmonia at the Mozart and More Festival.
His collaborations include a piece composed for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yoshikazu Fukumora titled ‘Tribute to Hong Kong’, duets with guitarist Charley Byrd, Violinist Igor Frolov, Suprano Glenda Simpson, Guitarist Alvaro Pierri, Guitarist Barry Mason, Cellist Claudio Bohorquez and Cellist Matthew Barley. Mr. Khan composed the signature tune for the 48th International Film Festival. Mr Khan collaborated with American Folk artist Carrie Newcomer at Lotus Arts Festival in Bloomington in 2011. He gave a Peace Concert at the United Nations in New York in the presence of the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, in 2010. Mr. Khan presented a Concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1997 for India’s Fiftieth Year of Independence, in 2000 for Stony Brook University and in 2006, to mark the 100 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagrah Movement. In 2007, he featured in the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall hoardings project ‘Rankin’s Front Row’ where his photograph is included in the frieze that will run the length of the river façade of the Royal Festival Hall. He performed at the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament on the commemoration of India’s 60th year of Independence in 2007. In 2008, his concerto for Sarod, Samaagam premiered with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at St Magnus Festival, at Kirkwall, Orkney Islands. This was an extraordinary collaboration with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which was the latest embodiment of his unique ability to give new form to the purity and discipline of the Indian classical music tradition. In 2009, Mr. Khan presented his Sarod concerto Samagam with the Taipei Chinese Orchestra. The same year Amjad Ali Khan was nominated for a Grammy award in the best traditional world music album category. Khan had been nominated for the album ‘Ancient Sounds’, a joint-venture with Iraqi oud soloist Rahim Alhaj. Samaagam was released worldwide in 2011 on Harmonia Mundi’s World Village label. From 2011 to 2012, Mr. Khan was the focus of a 4-concert residency at the Wigmore Hall in London including a new piece with the Britten Sinfonia. 2013 saw the premiered Ananta Opus 195 written by Pierre Thilloy, a concerto for Sarod, symphonic and electronic orchestra, conducted by Samuel Jean performed by Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash with the Avignon Provence Symphonic Orchestra and the Kords Collective. Same year, Amjad Ali Khan presented his Sarod Concerto Samaagam along with Orchestre d’Auvergne and Orchestre national d’Île de France conducted by Kaspar Zehnder in France. Mr. Khan gave a Sarod recital at the Special Music Concert organized by the United Nations in 2014, called “Music for Peace”. He toured India with the Britten Sinfonia, one of the world’s most celebrated and pioneering ensembles after the first performance together at London’s Wigmore Hall in 2012.
Mr. Khan authored his first book, ‘My Father, Our Fraternity’ in 2012. This book is a personal memoir which brings alive the rich classical music tradition from the early twentieth century to the present. The book offers an insider’s view of this era, through the life and times of his father, the famous sarod icon, Haafiz Ali Khan. It is through this narrative that Mr. Khan traces his own personal and profession journey. Two books have been written on him. The first is titled, ‘The world of Amjad Ali Khan’ by UBS Publishers in 1995 and the second, ‘Abba-God’s Greatest Gift to us’ by his sons, Amaan and Ayaan published by Roli Books-Lustre Publications in 2002. A documentary on Mr. Khan called ‘Strings for Freedom’ won the Bengal Film Journalist Association Award and was also screened at the Ankara Film Festival in 1996. As UK’s The Guardian rightly said in 2005 ‘It was like watching an Indian classical answer to Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker crashing through their favourite Robert Johnson covers at the Cream revival earlier this month. Amjad Ali Khan may be a master of the sarod rather than the guitar,but once he had built up to the crescendo of his solo set – improvising furiously around the melody line with repeated, rapid-fire playing and then letting his equally frantic tabla player take over – it was easy to see why great Indian music can be as exciting as classic blues and rock.”
In 2014, Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash performed at the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway on as well as the Nobel Peace Prize Concert along with the lineup of Queen Latifa, Steven Tyler, Nuno Bettencourt and Laura Mvula. Iraqi oud virtuoso and composer Rahim AlHaj and Indian sarod maestro and composer Amjad Ali Khan have once again joined together to release a modern string masterpiece performed on ancient instruments. Their new CD Infinite Hope follows their Grammy-nominated 2010 release Ancient Sounds . The two string wizards are joined on the recording by Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, Amjad’s sarod-playing sons and prodigies with further accompaniment by Middle Eastern and Indian percussion.
Mr. Khan is married to Mrs. Subhalakshmi Khan and has two sons,Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash who are also renowned sarod players. Mrs. Khan Subhalakshmi Khan has been a great exponent of the Indian classical dance, Bharatnatyam, which, she gave up for her family. In his soul, so in his heart, he is a man who has proven his indomitable belief in the integration of two of life’s greatest forces, love and music. He is a living example of a man who practices that integration each day of his life, both on stage and off stage.
Amjad Ali Khan is one of the undisputed masters of the music world. Born to sarod maestro Haafiz Ali Khan, he gave his first performance at the age of six, and is credited with reinventing the technique of playing the sarod. Over the course of a distinguished career spanning more than six decades, Amjad Ali Khan has won numerous accolades including a Grammy nomination, the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum, Unicef’s National Ambassadorship and the Fukuoka Cultural grand prize. He has performed at venues the world over including Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall, as well as at the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2014 in Oslo, Norway. Samaagam, his first sarod concerto, has been performed by the Britten Sinfonia, Orchestre National d’lle de France, Orchestre d’Auvergne, London Philharmonia, Gulbenkian Orchestra, Welsh National Opera and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Amjad Ali Khan has also been a visiting professor at Stanford University, University of New Mexico and Jacob’s School of Music. Amjad Ali Khan recently received coveted Global Music Awards under the Gold Medal category for their outstanding contribution to the global music industry and excellence in the classical music sphere. Global Music Awards are prestigious and are increasingly recognized by industry insiders to give legitimacy to outstanding artists. The top tier honour was bestowed on the trailblazing trio in correlation with their “Peace Worshipers” album which was released in July 2017 by Affetto Records and distributed by Naxos.