Amjad Ali Khan review – intensity and brilliance by an Indian classical legend

Amjad Ali Khan
The Guardian

Other forms of music are like a 100m sprint, a marathon or a football match, but Indian classical music is like Test cricket. Its arcane rituals and procedures are baffling to some, yet quietly engrossing for those with a basic understanding, filled with dogged persistence, sustained brilliance and punctuated by rare moments of thrilling intensity. It is also a world in which you lose all sense of space and time – hour-long meditations can seem like they’re over in a matter of seconds.

Tonight’s star player was third in the batting order, not making his appearance until nearly an hour into the show. Amjad Ali Khan left the first 55 minutes to his sons, fellow sarod virtuosos Amaan and Ayaan, who built up a healthy opening partnership together before their father arrived to a standing ovation.

Now 73, Khan is one of last legends of Hindustani classical music. He is also the world’s best-known player of the sarod – a stockier cousin of the sitar, with a deep resonant tone created by digging your nails into the strings to create a sustained, elastic sound. It takes Khan a while to get into shape. He sounds a little aimless on his opener, a 14-beat cycle using an irregular scale, but he resumes fluency on a familiar old raga called Kafi Kanada. Once the percussionists kick in and Amjad switches into double time it’s as if the piece suddenly becomes airborne, with Amjad’s modal solo floating at the upper end of the instrument’s register. There are points where you can hear shades of Jimi Hendrix, with his obstreperous tabla player Vijay Ghate in the Mitch Mitchell role. 
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