Indian sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan, sons to enchant UAE

No matter what happens at the latest in a line of shows under the banner ‘The Score Classical’, the performance will be a one-off.

Known as a master of the sarod, a traditional north Indian musical instrument that is part of the lute family, Amjad has been wowing crowds worldwide for more than 50 years.

Taught by his father, the legendary Haafiz Ali Khan, Amjad comes from a family that is synonymous with the instrument – it is claimed that his family actually invented the sarod. But it’s not just his heritage that makes the concert unique.

Put simply, every time Amjad plays, the audience can expect something different.

A regular musician at the Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Kennedy Center, House of Commons, the Sydney Opera House and many more renowned concert halls across the globe, he will never play the same performance twice.

Amjad says: “I am always improvising music, I am not reading music or writing music when I am on stage. So it is pure and whatever happens on the stage is especially tailored for this audience. I cannot repeat the performance. If you have done an audio or video recording I suppose you can listen 1,000 times, but I cannot reproduce anything exactly as I’ve played before.

“I truly admire classical music, all those musicians together creating music in an orchestra, and recreating it is beautiful. But in our country we could never produce a symphony at a national level. It’s different,” he says.

Amjad is fully aware of his place in the history of Indian music and the sarod in particular. His family home is in Gwalior, a historical city in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which is famous for music and the legendary Tansen, a court musician for the Emperor Akhbar the Great.

The house, believed to be around 400 years old, has been converted into a museum called ‘Sarod Ghar’, or House of the Sarod.

He says: “The music and tradition is our ‘wealth’. Now in the modern world, with the cricket and the match-fixing, people want to make money and they don’t think about tomorrow, everything is about today. But our family tradition is our morals, our way of life and the music is our wealth. Wise people will teach their sons two different musical instruments but I’ve never thought in a commercial way.

“We are committed to music, the sarod and the sanctity and purity of music.”
A regular in the UAE over the years, Amjad has been visiting since before his children Amaan Ali (35) and Ayaan Ali (33) were born.

He’ll be playing alongside both this time around at the Madinat.

Glowing with pride when talking about his family – he is also the proud grandfather of twin baby boys, Amjad says: “It’s very beautiful and an amazing feeling when the three of us perform together, in our system of music we don’t have a conductor, we don’t need a score or write or read the music.

“The number three is a very important number in life for a number of reasons, and when the three of us play together it has some magic. We divide the show into three segments. The first segment is Amaan and Ayaan playing together as a duet. The second segment is me playing solo and the third segment they both come and join me and so we conclude together.”

One thing’s for sure, you’ll never hear the likes again.

A lute of history

The sarod is a fretless stringed instrument of the lute family, common to the musical tradition of northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Much smaller than the sitar, it sits comfortably in the player’s lap and is leaner and cleaner in sound. The sarod has links to the Afghan rabab – a wooden Central Asian lute that is covered with skin.

Amjad Ali Khan plays ‘The Score’ at Madinat Theatre on Tuesday. Tickets start at Dhs125. Call 04 347 7793 or visit

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Indian sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan, sons to enchant UAE

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