LIVE: Amjad Ali Khan – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 01/12/2022 1

LIVE: Amjad Ali Khan – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 01/12/2022

One of the most popular instruments in Hindustani classical music, and similar in its structure to the western lute, the sarod is a stringed musical instrument. And the world’s best-known player of the sarod and man commonly regarded as bringing it to a far wider global audience is Amjad Ali Khan. The fact that the Howard Assembly Room has attracted the maestro here this evening after several years of absence from Leeds marks something of a major coup for this consistently impressive performance venue.

Amjad Ali Khan is joined in Leeds by his two sons and fellow sarod virtuosos, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, alongside the eminent tabla player Anubrata Chatterjee. And it is the two brothers and Chatterjee who take to the stage first, dedicating the evening’s performance to the Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, Mahatma Gandhi and his enduring message of non-violence. Their opening recital fully embraces this peaceful sentiment, absorbing it deep into the music as a swell of calmness, contemplation, and well-being engulfs the auditorium.

Whilst it would certainly be most remiss to think of this enthralling, enchanting introduction as a mere hors d’oeuvre, it is Ayaan who then welcomes his father to the stage by saying “and now it is time for the main course.” But if this is what it is, then what a sumptuous feast it turns out to be.

Amjad Ali Khan is now 77 years of age and the sixth generation in the legendary line of the Senia Bangash Sarod School of Music. He brings with him a wealth of family history and the musical identity of his country, carrying them both with great dignity and humility. And to these noble personal characteristics, Khan adds the unquestionable mastery of his art.

Amjad Ali Khan

Bathed in pink light, Amjad Ali Khan sits serenely on a vivid red Persian rug in the centre of the stage, cross-legged, cradling his sarod in his lap. Accompanied initially solely by Anubrata Chatterjee, Khan proceeds to play two extended compositions, derived from the 13th and 15th centuries respectively. They are wildly hypnotic, drawing the listener into the beautiful cadence and cascade of their rhythm; a conversational rhythm, recitative by design.  

Flanking their father on either side, Amjad Ali Khan’s two sons join their father for the final composition of the evening. This trio was improvised in ‘Raag Kirwani’, a raga (a melodic framework) from southern India that is in the same scale as the harmonic minor in western music. As the momentum of the piece builds and the three sarods face off against each other, replicating each other’s notes, you are reminded, in part, of the bluegrass tune ‘Dueling Banjos’ as was featured in the 1972 survival thriller film, Deliverance. The intricacy and fluency of their interaction is thrilling, their playing as intense as it is delicate. To be in the presence of such truly wonderful musicianship is an honour and absolute privilege.

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Amaan Ali Bangash, Amjad Ali Khan, Ayaan Ali Bangash

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from Amjad Ali Khan at Howard Assembly Room

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