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Interviews |  09 Jan 2016 18:14 |  By RnMTeam

Your music is a reflection of your nature: Ayaan Ali Khan

MUMBAI: Ayaan Ali Khan performed for the first time in the City of Joy twenty-four years ago, and although he has made several musical appearances in Kolkata since, the sarod player returns to the city, once again, to a familiar venue - the iconic Rabindra Sadan. The then 12-year-old Ayaan had already gained enough experience to make an impression and the Sarod prodigy remains grateful to the affection and love the people of Kolkata have showered upon him. “I guess it was four years ago, the last time I played at this special venue. It’s also special for the fact that my grandfather often performed at this venue, so you see, there’s an emotional attachment to this venue and city.”

It’s no secret how highly musicians think of Kolkata as a city that celebrates classical music and Ayaan agrees. “Every venue offers a unique inspiration,” answers Ayaan, when asked whether the history and the ‘vibe’ of a venue influence his set. Ayaan adds, “Classical culture involves a lot of free flowing improvisations and the factor plays a vital role in any given classical live show at any venue. But yes, the audience vibration makes a huge difference to your act. It’s a two-way communication, and applicable to any gig of any genre, not just classical.”

Ayaan focuses on elements that enhance his ability to create an atmosphere that revolves around his sound and leaves an impression. Ayaan, with his brother Amaan and father Amjad, managed to make a similar impression among the critics in the States, few years ago. New York Times paid a unique compliment to Ayaan, after a performance at the Carnegie Hall – “Ayaan shows some of his father’s authority.”

Classical shows require immense precision and flexibility from the artist’s perspective, and learning from the very best- his father- acted as one of the important aspects to achieve the knowledge and expertise necessary to gain an authority that he is well-known for. “I was 17 (during the Carnegie concert). I remember reading that review and it was so overwhelming.”

While most 17-year-olds spend their last few years of teenage life getting accustomed to the idea that newspapers aren’t just materials one uses to cover books, Ayaan found his name on one of them; The New York Times!

Ayaan is a humble musician. He talks about music, art, life, peace and people he’s grateful. He emphasises many times on how one’s music describes the human side of the person. He appreciates all styles and sounds, but never forgets to remind about the beauty of classical music, wherever the opportunity knocks.

Anoushka Shankar, Rahul Sharma, Niladri Kumar are few of the classical musicians whose approach and character have helped them create admirers, and Ayaan has created a similar place for himself. And does that act as a building block for creating a bridge between classical music and the youth that is oblivious to the evolution of the genre? “Western music is a written score, unlike Hindustani. The quality of our shows depend a lot on how we improvise, and our spontaneous jugal-bandis, and eventually setting the mood and soul of the show. Classical music is obviously here to stay. A lot of college festivals still focus on dedicating one evening to classical music, and that speaks volumes.”

He rectifies the misconception that there is an imbalance between the growth of western music compared to Hindustani music amongst Indian fans. “Every genre has a big audience”, explains Ayaan, whose shows continue to run in packed houses. The news of a 24X7 music channel dedicated to classical music has provided immense pleasure to the artist, who believes it was long overdue. On the matter, he said “A lot of aspiring musicians will benefit from this.”

Having said that, Ayaan, who used the traditional way of learning a classical instrument and style, believes the approach remains suitable and ideal for any aspiring artist. “Go to a Guru, take lessons and learn the traditional way. Nothing beats that.”

The 36-year-old believes that the classical musicians of today owe a lot to their forefathers who laid the foundation. “We are benefitting from their journey. And now, the music has evolved. Unlike my father or grandfather, we have the privilege of making the most of the abundant resources present at the click of a button.”

Speak of Bollywood, and Ayaan readily replies, the lack of creative and innovative ideas keep him out of the industry, although he has done few contributions so far. “I am open to the idea of working in Bollywood. But there’s a certain pattern and manner in which Bollywood works, and that, sometimes acts as an obstacle in the artist’s creative freedom. But if I get offers from someone who thinks outside the box, then why not?” However, he is impressed with the evolution of Bollywood music and adds that the nature of the Bollywood market and the fans is another contributing factor to the scepticism that has grown within him towards the industry. “It’s difficult to know what the fans would like and what they wouldn’t,” expresses Ayaan.

Ayaan Ali Khan has a hectic first half of the New Year. His New Year resolution is to continue doing what he’s been doing in a “greater and more peaceful manner.” Khan started 2016 with a performance for The Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday celebration, and Kolkata becomes his first solo gig of the year. The sarod player will perform at St. Xavier’s on Republic Day, before heading to the United States, later in March.