OnTheBeatWith I Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash: ‘Our music is an extension of spiritually’

They are the fifth generation of the illustrious Bangash family that is said to have invented the classical-folk music instrument, sarod. And that, probably is no pressure at all for Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, sons of Sarod Maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Bangash. They both have been up on stage performing with their illustrious father even before they were 10.

Over the years they have performed globally as a trio, hosted the music talent show Sa Re Ga Ma on Zee TV for three years in the early 2000, got nominated for Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2005 and has since put out multiple albums. For both Amaan and Ayaan music has always been about love and prayers. Amaan says, “Our music is an extension of spiritually.” Their latest Sand And Foam, has been inspired from the works of the globally renowned poet, visual artist, writer, Kahlil Gibran.

‘We’ve fused East and West artistic traditions and turned eclectic works of Kahlil Gibran, for inspiration’

They sarod virtuosos have aimed to preserve the essence of both Indian and Western traditions in the album, so that they can flow into each other without artistic compromise. The sound is an inspiration to Jazz and Western traditions incorporating elements which, because of their antiquity, do not violate the rules of Indian music. “Our aim is through this process, to joyfully explore the common musical ‘DNA’ of both traditions. This album is Jazz heavy from our perspective as Kabir is from that world. We have fused East and West artistic traditions and turned to the eclectic works of Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese writer and painter, for inspiration. As Gibran says, ‘music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.’ It’s with that very ethos that we have created this album. We are ever so grateful to all of the amazing artists who have teamed up with us on this very memorable album. A first for us in this genre,” says Amaan. The Bangash brothers have a diverse line-up and it is the first time their instruments have amalgamated with these textures of sound. Ayaan tells us, “Gibran’s work of universal brotherhood and hope influenced the style and compositions. It was something we collectively wanted to execute musically. Literally, as Gibran says, ‘solitude is a silent storm that breaks down all our dead branches; yet it sends our living roots deeper into the living heart of the living earth.’ I am so honoured to have been a part of this process. Taking as inspiration from the master of timeless wisdom, Khalil Gibran’s illustrious works, especially in current times, I feel that his thoughts are very relevant. Kabir Sehgal was the producer of our 2021 album, Strings of Peace. I thought with Kabir’s sensibilities we can come to a meeting point, and we both took inspiration from Gibran’ s work and philosophy. The album and almost all tracks are named after Gibran’s works. The eight tracks are an unfolding fusion of classical Indian music, with jazz harmonies, trap drums, and neo-synths. Special guest appearances by Claudia Acuna (vocals), Latin Grammy nominee; Tivon Pennicott (sax); Caliph (rap), Oran Etkins (saxophone), Malini Aswathi (vocals), Sudha Raghunathan (vocals).”

‘I feel ecstatic to think and realise from time to time that my guru is my father’

Talking about the relationship that they share with their father who is also their guru (teacher of Sarod), Amaan says, “Initially it was more father-son than guru-student. Of course, the change in role for us and for him to guru to father and back to guru is somewhat effortless; however, it is a relationship with two people. He has been the most patient teacher and the most loving father. His teaching and philosophy is beyond music. It’s a way of life.” Ayaan adds, “It did take me time to draw the line as to when he was a father and when he was a guru. This realisation obviously happened as I grew older. I feel ecstatic to think and realise from time to time that my guru is my father. As a classical musician, music for me was not just a profession but a complete way of life. Some of fathers’ very common musings are ‘Have patience and tolerance’ ‘We make our future in this world’ and ‘God is within us.’ A pioneer who lives by his principles both on stage and off stage! Let’s also not forget that mothers are the first gurus too. As I always say that it is an incomparable journey where the Guru leads you from the visible to the invisible, from the material to the divine, from the ephemeral to the eternal. It’s a blessing! We feel it to be some good deed we did.”

‘Classical music that was only meant for royalty earlier, today sells out large venues like Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall’

Classical music has not really had the appeal that Bollywood or other genres of music has in India. And while classical music may sometimes be the base of some film songs, these two cannot ever be compared.Amaan agrees, “You can’t compare sushi with chicken tikka. You cannot compare cricket and chess so why compare the reach of Bollywood and indian classical music. This genre was never for the masses. It was a niche element rather than something that had a certain snob value back in the day.” Ayaan explains, “Classical music is an art form that was only for royalty and aristocrats today sells out large venues like Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall. Hence the art form is not at fault, it could perhaps be the artists who couldn’t not concert with the audiences. So let’s not blame the craft. An artist connects and takes the listeners on the musical journey.”

‘The effect of all the twelve notes on our body, mind and soul are very scientific’

The Bangash brothers are very aware of the significance of classical music and believe that Indian Classical music has indeed had a very spiritual and scientific development and growth. “It existed from Vedic times. The tradition of classical music dates back to the Sam Veda period. The earliest version of classical music was the Vedic chants. Interestingly, the effect of all the twelve notes on our body, mind and soul are very scientific. Various permutations and combinations give the scales a shape of a raga,” says Amaan.

Debarati S Sen is a consultant journalist and writer who writes on music, culture, theatre, films, OTT and more. Instagram: @DebaratiSSen

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