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. Today he shoulders the sixth generation inheritance of this legendary lineage.
After his debut, the career graph of this musical legend took the speed of light, and on its way the Indian classical music scene was witness to regular and scintillating bursts of Raga supernovas. And thus, the
world saw the Sarod being given a new and yet timeless interpretation by Amjad Ali Khan. Khan is one of the few maestros who consider his audience to be the soul of his motivation.
As he once said, "There is no essential difference between classical and popular music. Music is music. I want to communicate with the listener who finds Indian classical music remote."
He has performed at the WOMAD Festival in Adelaide and New Plymouth, Taranaki in New Zealand, WOMAD Rivermead Festival in UK, Edinburgh Music Festival, World Beat Festival in Brisbane, Summer Arts Festival in Seattle, BBC Proms, International Poets Festival in Rome, Shiraz Festival, UNESCO, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Adelaide Music Festival, 1200 Years celebration of Frankfurt and Schonbrunn in Vienna.
In the matter of awards, Amjad Ali Khan has the privilege of winning the kind of honours and citations at his relatively young age, which, for many other artistes would have taken a lifetime. He is a recipient of the UNESCO Award, Padma Vibhushan (Highest Indian civilian award), Unicef's National Ambassadorship, The Crystal Award by the World Economic
Forum and Hon'ry Doctorates from the Universities of York in 1997, England, Delhi University in 1998, Rabindra Bharati University in 2007, Kolkata and the Vishva Bharti (Deshikottam) in Shantiniketan in 2001. He has represented India in the first World Arts Summit in Venice in 1991, received Hon'ry Citizenship to the States of Texas (1997), Massachusetts (1984), Tennessee (1997), the city of Atlanta, Georgia (2002), Albuquerque, NM (2007)and the Key of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma (2007). April 20th, 1984 was cleared as Amjad Ali Khan Day in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1995, Mr. Khan awarded the Gandhi UNESCO Medal in Paris for his composition Bapukauns. In 2003,the maestro received “Commander of the Order of Arts and letters” by the French Government and the Fukuoka Cultural grand prize in Japan in 2004.
He represented India in the first World Arts Summit in Venice, received Hon'ry Citizenship to the States of Texas, Massachusetts, Tennessee and the city of Atlanta. April 20th, 1984 was declared as Amjad Ali Khan Day in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1995, Mr. Khan was awarded the Gandhi UNESCO Medal in Paris for his composition Bapukauns.
His collaborations include a piece composed for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yoshikazu Fukumora titled Tribute to Hong Kong, duets with gutarist Charley Byrd, Violinist Igor Frolov, Suprano Glenda Simpson, Guitarist Barry Mason and UK Cellist Matthew Barley. He has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Yorkshire, Washington, North Eastern and New Mexico. BBC Magazine had voted one of his recent CDs titled ‘Bhairav’ among the best 50 classical albums of the world for the year 1995. In 1994, his name was included Biographical in International Directory of Distinguished Leadership, 5th edition. In 1999, Mr. Khan inaugurated the World Festival of Sacred Music with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 1998, Khan composed the signature tune for the 48th International Film Festival. In March 2002, Mr. Khan released his Carnegie Hall concert recording, Sarod for Harmony-Live at Carnegie Hall to commemorate his fiftieth performing year. In 2003, Maestro Amjad Ali Khan performed for His Royal Highness Prince Charles at his Highgrove Estate for the second time after earlier recitals in 1989, 1995 and 1997(at St. James Palace).
He has been a regular performer at the Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Kennedy Center, Santury Hall (First Indian performer), House of Commons, Theater Dela Ville, Muee Guimet, ESPLANADE in Singapore, Palais beaux-arts, Mozart Hall in Frankfurt, Chicago Symphony Center, St. James Palace and the Opera House in Australia.
In his case, the term 'beauty of the Ragas' acquires a special meaning as he has to his credit the distinction of having created many new Ragas. It is love for music and his belief in his music that has enabled him to interpret traditional notions of music for a new refreshing way, reiterating the challenge of innovation and yet respecting the timelessness of tradition.
Two books have been written on him. The World of Amjad Ali Khan by UBS Publishers in 1995 and Abba-God’s Greatest Gift To Us by his sons, Amaan and Ayaan published by Roli Books-Lustre Publications in 2002. A documentary on Mr. Khan called Strings for Freedom won the Bengal Film Journalist Association Award and was also screened at the Ankara Film Festival in 1996.
In 2007, Mr. Khan featured in the Southbank Centre’s recently launched the Royal Festival Hall hoardings project ‘Rankin’s Front Row’, where his photograph is included in the frieze that will run the length of the river façade of the Royal Festival Hall. This year sees the premier of Samagam, a Sarod Concerto with Conductor David Murphy and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
‘Coming Masters’ as the New York Times calls them, his two sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan are well known names in the music scene and are the seventh generation of musicians in the family. Amjad Ali Khan's wife Subhalakshmi Khan has been a great exponent of the Indian classical dance, Bharatnatyam, which, she sacrificed for her family. As a soul, so in his heart, he is a man who has proven his indomitable belief in the integration of two of life's greatest forces, love and music. He is a living example of a man who practices that integration each day of his life, both on stage and off stage.