Sarod power duo Amaan & Ayaan Ali set to play in Kolkata with guitarist Sharon Isbin
They are young, smart and fashionable. They love sports and make it a point to sweat it out at the gym every day. Meet brothers Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, who are carrying on the musical legacy going back to six generations.Sarod -- which has been modified from the ancient Afghan musical instrument rubab -- is globally synonymous with Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s names.
Amaan and Ayaan, too, have taken the sarod to international platforms through collaborations with American folk singer Carrie Newcomer, violinist Elmira Darvarova and India-American musician Karsh Kale. For their upcoming show, Peace Tribe concert, they have collaborated with multiple Grammy awards winner, classical guitarist Sharon Isbin. With Vijay Ghate and Sridhar Parthasarthy in tabla and mridangam respectively, the concert, to be held in Kolkata, is sure to besot the audience. We caught up with the musician brothers before they enthral the audience with their music. Excerpts:
Tell us about Peace Tribe concert with Sharon Isbin?
Amaan: We are extremely excited about the concert since the guitar has a very jazz, rock and roll kind of profile here. But this will be a very new experience because Sharon is a classical guitarist.
Ayaan: The compositions for this project have been formally written using Staff Notation, which took almost six years to develop.
How much has being Amjad Ali Khan’s children helped you grow as musicians?
Amaan: Being Amjad Ali Khan's son is a matter of great honour. The relationship is more of a father-son than a teacher-disciple one. Of course the change in role for us and for him from a guru to father and back to a guru is somewhat effortless. He has been the most patient teacher and a loving father. Abba’s teaching and philosophy is beyond music. It’s a way of life. Though there was no pressure, it was understood. As siblings we know each other’s mind on stage. There is no rehearsal.
Ayaan: Our mother, too, played an important role in our lives. Being an artiste herself, who learnt from the great Rukmini Devi Arundale, she sacrificed her career for the family.
Why don’t young classical musicians get any work in Bollywood? There are so many period dramas being made, now.
Ayaan: Bollywood functions in a comfort zone. They are happy in their world. They need to reach the Rs 100-500 crore mark, so, they are comfortable using the same formulae repeatedly. There are very few directors like Shyam Benegal, Mira Nair, Sai Paranjpayee or even Satyajit Ray, who worked with classical musicians, adding colour to their craft.
Amaan: Very few think out of the box, though now there is so much room for content with streaming and digital platforms. I am sure that the marriage will once again happen with the classical fraternity like it used to be in the 40s, 50s and even 60s of the last century.
What are your plans musically this year?
Amaan and Ayaan: We are really looking forward to the Peace Tribe Tour. Following this, we will tour Australia and New Zealand with our father. This year we play my father’s Sarod concerto with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and also with Beijing Philharmonic orchestra. We will also perform in the UK with violinist Jennifer Pike.
Amaan, you had always wanted to settle down in life, when do we see you get married?
Yes, it's true that I wanted to marry and settle down early in life. I wanted it very simple but I think Good had some other plans. It's good that I didn't get married early because I had to really improve my game as a musician. I'm still working very hard. I think marriage is about setting down and having children. I would definitely want to settle down with somebody, who emotionally adds value to my life and with whom I can grow old with. I feel I'm mentally ready to settle down and have a family. So, really looking forward to this whole journey.
Ayaan, you have two sons. How old are they? Are they also being groomed as sarod players?
I have twins, Zohaan and Abeer, they are six and quite a handful. It’s more work for Neema, my wife, as I am constantly travelling. I ‘ve started to teach them music. However, they are both very blessed to learn from my father and their uncle (Amaan). So, there’s music constantly around them. However, there’s no pressure.
How do you all spend the time together?
Ayaan: We love spending time at home and take short vacations with the kids.
Amaan: We are a very close-knit family and meals are something which we try to have together when we are in town. We watch movies together and love bonding over endless coffees at home.
What are your fashion styles like when you are not playing sarod?
Ayaan: Comfortable casuals.
Amaan: I really don't like wearing kurta-pyjama at home because I find it very overly untidy. I like to be in control with my clothes. I like to have a waist liner trouser or jeans so that I know I'm not putting on weight. I'm a very health conscious person. Lately, I lost about 12-14 kgs. Fashion for me is easy dressing.
Amaan, are you still occasionally into sports?
I have always been a sports person. I’m still very fond of horse riding, playing tennis, a bit of football and cricket, table tennis at home when I get time. Gym is a must. Whether in Delhi or while travelling, I must have an hour at the gym. By the time most musicians reach the age of 35-40, they don't look fit anymore. I feel all musicians should turn into health freaks.
Are there any brands you prefer?
Ayaan: Brands really don’t matter to me. I’ve never tried to fit in.
Amaan: Earlier I used to be affected by brands, not because I would wear them but because I wanted them in my closet. But now I feel that even a sweater worth Rs.300, is good enough if it fits you well. But I prefer a pair of Levis or Diesel denims.
What do you do when you are not practising or playing at concerts?
Ayaan: If I’m in town I drop or pick up kids from school.
Amaan: I love to read a lot. I love listening to different musicians. I'm not a gadget fan and avoid using cell phone as much as I can.
The Peace Tribe concert will be held at GD Birla Sabhagar on February 20.
Ayaan: Luck by Chance, The Sound of Music.
Amaan: Gladiator, My Fair Lady, The Ten Commandments and Ben-hur and latest Batman and Superman series
Favourite musicians and singers:
Ayaan: Too many to list.
Amaan: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj and Mukul Shivaputra among others. Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sonu Nigam and Mohd Rafi
Ayaan: Amitabh Bachchan and Darren Criss
Amaan: John Travolta, Nicholas Cage, Ashton Kutcher, Johnny Depp and Al Pacino