Amjad Ali Khan, European orchestra team up for concert in India


New Delhi : Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by acclaimed Welsh composer David Murphy will embark on a six-city tour of India beginning Feb 9 to present a unique East meets West fusion concert titled Samaagam (A Sarod Concerto).

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This is Khan’s first sarod concerto with an European orchestra. He had earlier played with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and guitarists Charley Byrd, violinist Igor Frolov, and cellists Claudio Bohorquez and Matthew Barley.

The maestro and the Scottish chamber will begin their journey with a concert in Mumbai, followed by Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and New Delhi, where the ensemble will perform Feb 20.

Samagaam — which means a confluence of cultures — is the result of a two-year collaboration between Murphy, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Khan. It will feature an hour-long classical Indian musical score written by Khan especially for the concert.

“This is my first sarod concerto with classical European musicians. The last time I collaborated with classical musicians was in Hong Kong 15 years ago. It was a great experience. I have written a one-hour piece for Samaagam,” Khan told IANS.

The concert is special because this is also first time the maestro’s music has been written as notations – in the style of Western musical scores.

The veteran musician said as Indian classical music has an oral legacy, “we do not read our music from notations”.

“But all my music for Samagaam has been written. It is a documentation of my music – my compositions have never been preserved before,” Khan said.

A recipient of many awards, including the Padma Vibhushan and the Crystal Award of the World Economic Forum, Khan said he had loved Western classical music as a youngster.

“I spent all my leisure time listening to the chamber music of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Handel and Chaupin. I wondered how could 150 musicians create a collective piece that is so beautiful.

“Often when I travelled abroad, I would be asked why India could not produce great orchestra symphony. I laughed. If 150 Indian classical musicians come together, they would be at each other’s throat. Our musicians are individualistic and egoistic,” he said.

Samagaam, Khan said, was first performed in June at Orkney Island in Scotland in June at the St. Magnus Festival. It then travelled to Glasgow and London.

“I was keen that it should come to India. But after the 26/11 Mumbai blasts, the musicians from Europe were scared. But I played at Nehru Park Dec 6 and there were 10,000 people in the audience. I felt that India was a safe place and invited them once more. They agreed,” he said.

The musician said sarod was compatible with the chamber music of the Western classical orchestra because it was a string instrument from the guitar family.

“Like guitars and other string instruments like the cello and violin, it has 11 sympathetic strings and four drone sounds,” he explained.

He said music was a great language for peace.

“Music belongs to no religion. It has no language – only sounds. Swar ishwar hai (every musical note is a sound of god). I feel connected to god when I perform.”

The collaborative concert is a way of telling the world, which has so much of distraction, that there is one common god and one language, he added.

“Now with Barack Obama as the president of America and Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state, I wish we can perform it in Obama’s presence. He should either come to India or we should go to the US,” the maestro said.