Be willing to dedicate your life to these goals if you wish to adopt the life of a classical musician, says sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. In his book there are only two types of music - appealing and non-appealing. He reminisces about the time when music lovers in Kolkata organised an all-night concert on his 26th birthday - the maestro played for nearly 10 hours, non-stop!
Q: You have been home-schooled. Did you ever miss the typical classroom experience?
A: I have been to a few schools in Gwalior, and one of the best schools in Delhi (Modern School). So I was well aware about the classroom experience. But the traditional values and culture, what I carry forward, came from my parents, especially from my father and guru, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb.
In 1963, on the invitation of the Asia Society I left for the United States of America with the group of musicians and dancers for about two months. When I returned, I got busy travelling and giving concerts all over the country and hence could never return to school!
Q: Would you say there is a paucity of good classical music schools in India? How do they fare?
A: There are many good classical music schools or institutions in all towns of India. However, they have not been very successful in producing performers. This is an area of concern.
Q: Music isn’t a monetarily rewarding career…
A: Indian classical music is not an ideal vocation or subject to make money. This is one subject where one has to totally surrender to the guru and to God; it is almost like entering a dark tunnel with the hope of seeing the sun rays some day. If you are ready to give your life in search of excellence, perfection or depth of music then only one should come forward and adopt the life of a classical musician. Like many other creative professions such as art, and even acting, classical music always had struggle and will always have struggle.
Q: If you were to recommend a music school?
A: I will not be in a position to recommend institutes in India because I did not learn music from any. But in the West, of course, the ones that top the list are The Julliard School, Trinity College and Berkley College of Music.
Q: What is your day like before a performance?
A: On the day of my performance I rest, relax and especially after lunch, I need some sleep. My aim is to give my best on that particular evening. Till the time I am awake, I do think and decide what Raag or Taal to be presented.
Q: Your most memorable moment?
A: Performing at Kala Mandir, Kolkata from 9 p.m. to 7a.m. I became the first solo artist to play all night long.