Thursday, January 27, 2005

Double Act - An Interview with Amaan & Ayaan Ali Bangash

Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash do a sound check just ahead of their performance at Saarang 2005, the IIT Madras Cultural Festival on January 21, 2005. The few students, who have turned up in advance, are enthralled. The brothers depart to the greenroom, and as though in protest, the heavens open up, and there’s a downpour.

"It’s a good sign." reassures someone. And suddenly, it’s my turn to interview the brothers.

Most people know that Amaan Ali and Ayaan Ali Bangash are Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s sons. Not many are aware that they belong to the 7th generation of an unbroken tradition, the Senia Bangash Gharana. The tradition was started by Ghulam Bandegi Khan Bangash, credited to be the inventor of the Sarod.

Ayaan, the younger of the two, says, "We have been handed down a legacy and count ourselves fortunate for it. However, a legacy is no substitute for hard work. If we perform poorly, our legacy is no longer adequate."

Amaan adds, "The instrument has changed since its creation, more from the angle of expression. Our father is responsible for making the sound as expressive as the human voice."
Both Amaan and Ayaan are also disciples of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Initially, they saw it as a complex relationship, but were later able to mentally separate the roles of disciple and son. They played their respective solo debut concerts when they were eight.

Amaan says, wistfully, "As children, we were more interested in what we were wearing for the concert. The turning point came for both of us during one concert abroad, where there were many eminent musicians in the audience. After the performance, there was a dinner, which our father did not attend. He was so disappointed with our performance, that he developed high fever. This was when we realised the extent to which our performance mattered to him."

Since then, the brothers have performed extensively in India and abroad, and won accolades aplenty. They have also gone off the beaten track by hosting Sa Re Ga Ma, for Zee TV, when their name and popularity reached the living rooms of many an Indian family. "We did Sa Re Ga Ma for two years. Popularity apart, it brought a new section of audience to our performances."says Ayaan.

Amaan and Ayaan have also authored a book, ‘Abba – God’s greatest gift to us’ for Roli Books as part of its Family Pride series. The book is said to be written with great sensitivity and grace, the very qualities that Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is renowned for.

As for their composing skills, the duo have worked on the soundtrack of a film set in an Indian call-centre, ‘American Daylight’, directed by Roger Christian. Due to its setting, the film will first be released in Bangalore and then move to other cities. "But do buy the album", insists Ayaan.

So, what are Amaan and Ayaan’s plans for the year? "We perform at a concert in memory of M.S. Subbulakshmi at Delhi on January 28th, 2005. After that, it’s the usual concerts in India and abroad. We will, of course be coming down to Chennai as often as in the past."

"One thing we don’t understand is, why don’t the Sabhas here invite us to perform? Be it Carnatic or Hindustani – at the end of the day, Music is Music." chips in Amaan.

(edited version published on January 27, 2005 in Madras Plus, the city features supplement of The Economic Times, Chennai. Pic courtesy Third Eye, as published in magazine)

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