Moksha

Amjad Ali Khan

Released 25 April 2005

  1. Sandhya
  2. Vignaraja
  3. Calcutta City
  4. Ebaadat
  5. Maa Durga
  6. Atma
  7. Himaalaya
  8. Moksha

Liner notes

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, a musician to the royal family of Gwalior, Amjad Ali Khan was born to the illustrious Bangash lineage rooted in the Senia Bangash School of Music. He shoulders the sixth generation of this legendary family, who have been responsible for nurturing the sarod over several hundred years. In fact, it is likely that anyone playing the sarod today will have been influenced, directly or indirectly, by the ancestors of Amjad Ali Khan.

Today, Amjad Ali Khan is one of the world’s leading contemporary sarod virtuosos, performing internationally at music festivals and in some of the most prestigious concert halls. He has also won many honours and awards for his playing including the UNESCO Award, Padma Vibhushan (Highest Indian civilian award), Unicef’s National Ambassadorship, The Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum, the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Grand Prize 2004 and Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of York, England, Delhi University and the Vishva Bharti (Deshikottam) in Shantiniketan.

‘Coming Masters’ as the New York Times calls them, his two sons, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash continue the seventh generation of the family tradition, performing internationally both as solo artists and with their father and teacher.

Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan Aki Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash

The sarod is a beautiful, complex string instrument, which originates from the Afghan rabab —a central Asian wooden lute. The name comes from the Persian sarood, meaning ‘melody’, referring to its more melodic tone. Smaller than the more widely known sitar, the sarod easily sits in the player’s lap at around 3 feet long. It is played with a plectrum of ivory or coconut shell, which can be used very lightly or with more force to create a vast range of sounds and moods.

The instrument has six strings, four melodic and two drones, which provide the rhythmic background, and between eleven and sixteen sympathetic strings which improve resonance, tuned to the notes of the particular raga. A sarod is normally made from teak to give a full rich sound and the front of the wooden belly is covered in goatskin. The fretless steel-clad fingerboard, introduced by Amjad Ali Khan’s forefathers to replace the wooden fretted neck of the rabab, allows the player’s fingers to slide easily over seven notes or more, a technique used at the beginning of a composition to establish the raga.

It is the instrument’s melodic strings which allow the player almost to sing through the sarod, and its range and sonority allow a great diversity of sound and mood. Amjad Ali Khan’s own particular technique is to use the fingernails of his left hand to stop the strings (others might use the fingertips) and it is the fast staccato passages up and down the neck for which he is renowned.

"Since my childhood, it was my dream to make the Sarod express all human emotions —sing, shout, cry, whisper. I am grateful to the almighty that today my dream has come true, by the grace of god. Like flowers, fragrance, colour, water, air and fire, music has no religion. I feel connected with every religion and every soul in the world." Amjad Ali Khan

The ragas on this album are all composed by Amjad Ali Khan. His love for and belief in his music has enabled him to interpret long established traditions of Indian classical music in a new and refreshing way, whilst still respecting the time-honoured tradition so closely associated with his family.

Moksha is the ultimate goal of Hindu religious life, attained when the individual becomes liberated from the cycle of birth and death and reaches eventual union with the Supreme Being. This union can be achieved through true knowledge (gyana or jnana), devotion (bhakti) or right work (karma). Purity, self-control, truthfulness, non-violence and compassion toward all forms of life are the necessary pre-requisites for any spiritual path in Hindu dharma.

The individual soul (atman), in its liberated state, possesses divine qualities such as purity, omnipresence and omnipotence, and is beyond limitation.

Moksha is called Mukti (freedom) by Yogis and Nirvana by Buddhists.

About the Music

1. Sandhya

This has the age-old flavour of early evening ragas. It’s like a twilight moment moving from light into dark, plus an obvious feeling of loneliness.

 

2. Vignaraja

Vignaraja is another name for Lord Ganesha, the popular elephant god associated with good luck. In India, it’s widely believed that he overcomes all the hurdles in life. I performed this raga for the first time at the Ganesha Festival in Pune in 1992. It has a very positive energy and you can hear a lot of colour in the notes of this raga.

 

3. Calcutta City

This piece (played by Amaan) is based on the folk music of West Bengal called Bhatyali. It’s a style that the boatman of Bengal hum while they go at work to the sea.

 

4. Ebaadat

Raga Charukeshi is beautiful raga from the South Indian system of music. The word Edaabat has very deep and sacred meaning. It’s a moment when one is in communication with the heavens or when you feel connected to god. I have not played this raga often in my musical career but I guess there is a time and place for everything.

 

5. Maa Durga

This track, once again, declares my love for Bengal. It is the music capital of India. The goddess Durga is worshipped there in all her glory. In fact, there is a nine day festival called Durga Pooja that takes place every year not only in Bengal but all over the world now. This pentatonic raga is very ancient and I’ve played it since my childhood. It is my prayer to Maa Durga.

 

6. Atma

This raga is a tribute to my wife and to all those women, who have dedicated their lives to their families. Aesthetically this raga came to me with the most unusual combination of notes and structure. The reason I called it Atma, which is soul, is because the role of my wife has been such. She is the soul, the Atma in my life and that of my sons Amaan and Ayaan.

 

7. Himaalaya

The State of Himachal Pradesh has very strong and appealing folk music which has influenced this track. The raga is called Pahadi from the Hindi word ‘pahad’— mountain. Ayaan’s performance strikes me as splendid and pictorial.

 

8. Moksha

Although I am always singing through the sarod, this is the first time I have sung on record. I was pursuaded by the young artists recording with me. Based in Raga Bahar, this type of singing is called taraana with musical syllables that don’t have any particular meaning. A lot of rhythmic freedom goes along with this taraana singing and it makes a climax to the album. Moksha is the ultimate goal of Hindu religious life. But, like any natural phenomenon, music has no religion. Through music —and through this instrument— I feel connected with every religion and every human being —or every soul, I should say.

Notes by Amjad Ali Khan

Reviews

  • Amjad Ali Khan is THE master of the Sarod. Accompanied by his two sons, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, on similar instruments, they create a 57-string three-man symphony orchestra. The Times (UK)
  • He is a big draw whatever and wherever he performs... The Times (India)
  • Amjad Ali Khan is the most charismatic performer of Indian Ragas The New York Times (USA)
  • (Amjad Ali Khan) is at the height of his inventive powers and currently unequalled... a virtuoso treat, with spark, wit and sheer fun... BBC Music Magazine (UK)
  • Sarod star with a talent for dignity, worshipped in his own country for his playing... The Age, Melbourne (Australia)
  • Amjad Ali Khan is one of the undisputed masters of the instrument. The Sarod has deep, meaty notes but can then ascend to Himalayan heights... London Evening Standard (UK)
  • One of the 20th century's greatest masters of the Sarod... For Amjad the Sarod is more than an instrument. He is more than a slave and it is more than a master. It is a friend and a spiritual companion... Songlines Magazine (UK)

Listen

Credits

Amjad Ali Khan: sarod and voice. Tabla on all tracks by Rashid Mustafa.

Produced by Amjad Ali Khan. Recorded at Real World Studios by Ben Findlay and Claire Lewis, assisted by Matthew Cochrane. Mixed by Ben Findlay.

A Real World Design. Graphic design by Derek Edwards. Front cover photograph courtesy of Getty Images. Booklet photographs courtesy of Roli Books. Back inlay photograph by Suvo Das.

Special thanks to Thomas Brooman at WOMAD, Amanda Jones, Sophie Beck, Ben Findlay, Claire Lewis and all the others at the Real World family for making us feel at home and for all their warmth.

Further Listening

  • Rama Sreerama

    U. Srinivas

    Released 27 June 1994

    U Srinivas is the child prodigy of Karnatak music who has taken the mandolin, an instrument unknown in India, to unique classical heights. A recording of an exquisite, candle-lit live performance at Real World Studios.
  • Sampradaya

    Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma

    Released 01 February 1999

    Recorded at Real World Studios during the 1998 Real World Recording Week and produced by John Leckie, this is a newly composed piece from Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, the virtuoso of the hammered dulcimer - an instrument rare in the Indian tradition.

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