Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mozart and Beethoven meet Khan: The Musical Interplay of Religion and Culture

I had the utmost pleasure of attending a very special concert last night, on the invitation of the Rhead family from Dumbarton. The world renowned Sarod player, Amjad Ali Khan, was performing with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the City Halls, Glasgow. An enchanting ensemble of music with a mixture of Mozart, Beethoven and Khan. A wonderful fusion of ‘east’ and ‘west’ that had me wondering if these musicians had cracked what we academics have spent a lifetime trying to unravel. The way in which music brings hearts together into a shared humanity was pretty overwhelming for me. It would be good to have more musical, cultural programmes like this which highlight our shared sense of the world as opposed to politically motivated ones.

The first part of the programme started with Mozart’s Overture to 'Idomeneo', K366 and then Beethoven’s Symphony No 8 in F, Op 93. The second part was featuring the music of Khan in which the Scottish Chamber Orchestra dabbled in some pretty intense South Asian sounds and from the smiles on their faces and the tapping of their feet, they were enjoying every minute! In the first part of the programme we saw the orchestra wearing black but in the second part there was colour, red in particular.

Talking about the collaboration, Amjad Ali Khan commented:
“I was very happy and honoured when the Scottish Chamber Orchestra approached me to write a Sarod Concerto for them. David Murphy was to conduct the entire concerto and also put my thoughts together. He has a great regard for Indian classical music so he could understand and read my vision.”

Conductor David Murphy said:
“It became immediately apparent to all of us that something very special could come out of this collaboration - Khan Sahib was thrilled at the affinity the SCO LAB players had for his music, the LAB were similarly thrilled by Khan Sahib’s vibrant musicality and I was delighted that a truly creative musical dialogue without barriers was taking place between musicians from East and West. It was then that the idea for a concerto for sarod and concertante group was born, and immediately took wing.”

Amjad Ali Khan life long dream of performing at the Baha’i House of Worship in Delhi was fulfilled in the year 2000 with his sons Aman and Ayaan. "I have had a dream for sometime now, which I want to share with you," he wrote. "I have wished to perform, most humbly, with the Baha'i Temple in the background." The concert was held as part of the opening ceremony for the international "Colloquium on Science, Religion and Development" organized by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India and the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity.

When asked how he (Khan) reconciled his mainstream Islamic faith with the Baha’i faith he said, "I feel connected to every religion of the world. Water, air, fire, flowers and music have no religion, but their beauty is universally acknowledged. I feel drawn to any religion that is not fanatical in its approach but teaches love of other humans." Let us all reflect upon these sentiments!

And we Scots are proud to have had this man perform in a land where "We're a' Jock Tamson's Bairns"

Enjoy Khan playing the Sarod below.

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