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Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is a highly acclaimed Indian sarod player and composer.

Khan was born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh in 1945, is the sixth-generation sarod player in his family and his ancestors have developed and shaped the instrument over several hundred years. His forefathers came from Afghanistan to India's relaxed music atmosphere and brought the Rabab which later developed into Sarod. The modern sarod has undergone modifications to improve its tonal quality, notably from Ustad Allauddin Khan and his brother Ustad Ayet Ali Khan of the Senia Maihar Gharana.

Khan was taught by his father Hafiz Ali Khan, a musician to the royal family of Gwalior; he was born to the Gwalior Bangash lineage rooted in the Senia Bangash School of music and is the sixth generation inheritor of this lineage.

Amjad Ali Khan has developed a unique style of playing the sarod. The key innovations in his style are compositions based on vocal music, the technical ability to play highly complex phrases (ekhara taans), at times with ascending or descending volume scales on the sarod spanning three octaves with equal emphasis on the composition.

There are two schools of sarod playing one in which the strings are stopped by the fingertips and the other in which the strings are stopped by the finger-nails of the left hand (as practised by Amjad Ali Khan). This is what makes the clear ringing sound and is one of the things that makes it so difficult to play. Khan is also noted for producing a wider variety of sounds on the sarod using bends up to 7 notes by sliding across the fingerboard. Khan has also stated that this extended bends is an advantage over fretted string instruments like the sitar. Khan uses the traditional sarod minus Allauddin Khan's changes to the tuning and string configurations. The only modern trait that he has adopted into his instrument is the round drum of the resonating chamber (the traditional sarod has two jod and chikari strings and 11 tarab strings). His base frequency is also lower than the other schools. His instrument is made by Hemen Sen of Kolkata, who also makes the sarod for other leading maestros such as Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

Amjad's playing places much emphasis on percussive right-hand plectrum work characteristic of the Afghan rabab-based idiom of the early sarod players. His chief innovation are his ekhara taans (complex high speed staccato passages), something which many sarod players find very difficult to do. Paraphrasing his words "I asked my father why the sarod could not keep up with sitar when it came to father explained that the sarod was a much more difficult instrument to play, not having frets ... it is then I resolved to develop a style where I could match sitar like taans...".

Amjad Ali Khan has had a successful career spanning over 40 years and continues to be one of the busiest classical musicians in India. He was awarded India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. And he was awarded the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2004.

On April 8, 2007, he got international recognition too. He was honoured with the Key to the City award by Kathy Taylor Mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma state, for his long-standing contribution to the Indian Classical Music. Ustad's sons: Ayaan - Amaan are already set to carry their Father's legacy to the next generation of Hindustani Music and Sarod, 2003-2005. All Rights Reserved.
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