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Represent the seventh generation of a musical lineage

They represent the seventh generation of a musical lineage & are sons of the great sarod maestro and Padma Vibhushan Amjad Ali Khan….FACE’s Managing Editor, Neha Sachar Mittal caught up with Sarod maestros & brothers Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash to chat about life, post the release of their latest EP – ‘Sand & Foam’ 

1. Let’s start by talking about your latest album ‘Sand and Foam”? Please tell our readers more about it.

 Amaan:  As Gibran says, ‘music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.’ It’s with that very ethos that we have created this album. We are ever so grateful to all of the amazing artists who have teamed up with us on this very memorable album. A first for us in this genre. This album is Jazz heavy from our perspective as Kabir is from that world. We have fused East and West artistic traditions and turned to the eclectic works of Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese writer and painter, for inspiration. The album and almost all tracks are named after Gibran’s works. The eight tracks are an unfolding fusion of classical Indian music, with jazz harmonies, trap drums, and neo-synths. Special guest appearances by Claudia Acuna (vocals), Latin Grammy nominee; Tivon Pennicott (sax); Caliph (rap), Oran Etkins (saxophone), Malini Aswathi (vocals), Sudha Raghunathan (vocals).

 Ayaan: We first worked with Sehgal on our 2021 album, Strings of Peace. I thought with Kabir’s sensibilities we can come to a meeting point, and we both took inspiration from Gibran’s work and philosophy. Gibran’s work of universal brotherhood and hope influenced the style and compositions. We were honoured to have such a diverse line-up. It is the first time our instruments have amalgamated with these textures of sound. Taking inspiration from the master of timeless wisdom, Khalil Gibran’s illustrious works, especially in current times, I feel that his thoughts are very relevant. It was something we collectively wanted to execute musically. As Gibran says, ‘solitude is a silent storm that breaks down all our dead branches, yet it sends our living roots deeper into the living heart of the living earth.’ I am so honoured to have been a part of this process.

2. Your Latest single ‘Chaap Tilak’, is very interesting because though the song has an iconic stature… it’s never been done with sarods. Was it something like “challenge accepted”? 

 Amaan: It’s the song which has been sung by so many greats in recent times so it has been a very big challenge. Our singer, friend and collaborator for the song, Amrita being a classically trained singer added a whole different component, colour, and texture to the song.

 Ayaan: I think that every music aficionado has lived and loved ‘Chhap Tilak’, a Ghazal written and composed by 14th-century Sufi mystic Amir Khusro. Over the years, it has got many versions by notable Pakistani and Indian Qawwals, including Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mehnaz Begum, Abida Parveen, Sabri Brothers etc so this was indeed a challenge we looked at it or rather approached it with humility and a creative innocence. 

3.‘Child abuse’, in a cause that you have often voiced your support for. In fact, your 3rd EP – ‘We for Love’ was also dedicated to the same. Why does this cause find a place in your hearts?

Amaan: ‘We for Love’ will always be a very special EP for us. The EP was to create awareness about Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation called Justice For Every Child called We for Love (Justice For Every Child). Children are our future. Their protection is an issue which should concern all of us. There are many such subjects which require immediate attention. However, we need to place children above everything else as their development is critical to their future. 

 Ayaan: This is a national campaign that ensures victims of child sexual abuse and rape get timely justice and mental health support to enable them to heal and continue their lives with dignity and freedom. We wanted to speak about this and create awareness. There is so much that has to be done! We encourage all to donate to the campaign to ensure those child victims of rape and sexual abuse receive much-needed support in their quest for justice. 

4.’We For Love’ is an ambitious project; how was it working with so many talented artists and all of them being veterans in their respective fields?

 Amaan: As we mentioned, together we can and we must ensure justice for every child. We are so honoured to have a galaxy of artists who are such game changers in their field. Creatively, it was a desire to work with all of them for years, but perhaps this cause got us all together as all the artists resonated with the ethos of the campaign. 

 Ayaan: You could call it an experimental EP that embraces an eclectic mix of collaborators including Karan Johar, Karsh Kale, Malini Awasthi, Mahesh Kale, Shubha Mudgal and our father and guru the iconic Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. The prolific Paresh Maity has been instrumental in creating the cover art of the presentation and has taken inspiration from his Odyssey of Celebration XII.

5. On guru Purnima you paid a wonderful tribute to your father through a heart-touching post. You have even written a book titled “Abba – God’s greatest gift to us” echoing the same sentiment. What was he like during the initial years of learning? It can sometimes be tricky to have your father as your guru.

 Amaan: The relationship with our father was more Father Son than Guru Student initially. Of course, the change in role for us and for him from guru to father and back to the guru is somewhat effortless; however, it is a relationship with two people. He has been the most patient teacher and the most loving father. Abba’s teaching and philosophy are beyond music. It’s a way of life. The mantra taught by our parents has been to be a good human being first and good music will follow. Music is who we are and our nature reflects in our music. Music is our life. From the time we were born the language spoken was music, and the air that we were breathing was music. We took the shape of the vessel like water. Though our father has been a very strict traditionalist, he’s always believed in adapting to change. In all honesty, Indian classical music has no rules about how it should be presented or executed. That’s very individualistic.

 Ayaan: It did take me time to draw the line as to when he was a father and when he was a guru. This realisation obviously happened as I grew older. I feel ecstatic to think and realise from time to time that my guru is my father. As a classical musician, music for me was not just a profession but a complete way of life. Some of Father’s very common musings are ‘Have patience and tolerance’ ‘We make our future in this world’ and ‘God is within us.’ A pioneer who lives by his principles both on stage and off stage! Let’s also not forget that mothers are the first gurus too. As I always say that it is an incomparable journey where the Guru leads you from the visible to the invisible, from the material to the divine, and from the ephemeral to the eternal. 

6. We all remember that iconic Simi Grewal episode where you both engaged in an impromptu jugalbandi with your father- many many years ago. And just recently, you performed with him at the Albert Hall London, has anything changed with time?

 Amaan: The teaching process is constant. It’s contact and eternal. We are so looking forward to performing at Carnegie Hall with the Refugee Orchestra Project and at Royal Albert Hall for BBC Proms. 

 Ayaan: You are as good as your last concert. You start over and carry on with your musical journey and quest. You are a student till the last day you walk the planet. 

7. Ayaan your twins are also towing the family line and at the young age of ten are showing major musical prowess… how does it feel?  Tell us more about ‘ Our Love’.

 Ayaan: Zohaan and Abeer are working hard but have a long way to go. My job is to teach them but eventually, they are free to do what they want and follow their dreams and passion. Music is the greatest wealth we have as a family. Our Love was released for my father’s birthday. The track was called ‘Our Love’, Please bless them in their musical journey. The learning never stops for an artist. I feel that I am still a student and have so much more to learn. ‘Our love’ was produced during the lockdown Based on ‘Raga Tilak Kamod’, the composition has the twins performing a soulful arrangement that was originally created by my father and arranged by Sai Shravanam. I look forward to creating more music with my children just like I did when my brother and I were of their age. In fact, they have taken very well to music and it would make me a proud father to see them perform on the same stage as us one day.

8. Music is one of the oldest forms of art that has existed, but over time especially in India, it has undergone a huge change. What are your thoughts on it?

 Amaan: Musicians and listeners of music have been communicating with each other across all barriers through this ‘language’ from time immemorial. As we use flowers in worship, welcoming, honouring, departure, and celebration no matter what our race, origin, religion or language, we similarly arrange musical notes into ‘bouquets’ or compositions which display all our human feelings and emotions. 

Ayaan: If we focus only on the music, this is a meeting of living musicians across cultures and it is as feeling human beings that we can understand and appreciate each other and thereby heal this divided world, and what better way is there to achieve this ideal than through the joy and spiritual nourishment that music brings. This pandemic has shown us a different experience. It is a new life for all of us. It is thanks to the precious gift of music by God that we are connected and we are serving the people.  I’m glad that we are able to contribute in our humble ways to bring serenity and peace. While I pray for the world to heal and overcome this crisis, I feel this is a huge lesson for all of us to learn from. I believe we will come out of it as better versions of ourselves. Through this collaboration, the aim is to preserve the essence of both Indian and western traditions so they can flow into each other without artistic compromise.

9. You have attempted so many different things when it comes to music… When can we see you do music for an out-and-out commercial mainstream Hindi film?

 Amaan: There have been many offers but due to our travels there have been many projects we were unable to take on. Let’s hope we plan something soon. 

 Ayaan: I think these are very interesting times for us to create something more mainstream. By mainstream, I guess we mean the film music industry or perhaps OTTs today. We had done the music though in 2003 for Rodger Christian’s American Daylight. I hope we do something soon. 

10. After the initial hiccups, is acting in movies still on the cards? Your fans would love to see you beat the bad guys, romancing in the rain…. et all!

Amaan: Sure why not if there’s an interesting script and a director who’d like to explore our craft?

Ayaan: It’ll be interesting and something that’s an offshoot of your creativity. Perhaps not doing rain romances but a deeper character!


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