Ustad Amjad Ali Khan on his museum: Preserving our musical heritage is critical

As iconic musician Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is gearing up for his new fundraiser concert in Mumbai, titled ‘Morning Raga’ with the intent to maintain and sustain his ‘Sarod Ghar’ museum – the classical instrumentalist emphasises on the importance of the museum to keep our heritage alive for future generations.

Sarod Ghar is located in Gwalior, the ancestral house of Khan’s family who came from Kabul and settled in Gwalior state and received patronage of the Maharaja of Gwalior back then.

The idea of turning his ancestral house into a museum came from his visit to the birthplace of Beethoven in Germany.

Khan told IANS: “I think in our country, the museum culture is still not happening as much as that of the western world, especially for musicians. I know Tagore’s heritage has been protected and people still can go to the museum can see his handwritten notes, and used things but at the same time, we could not preserve everything of Mirza Ghalib.

“When I visited that museum with my wife and saw how Beethoven’s first piano, all his used things were preserved so nicely it left me with teary eyes. We also have greats in our country…why not preserve our music heritage?”

He came back to India with the thought and with the assistance and support of the government, he turned the house into a museum.

Interestingly, another veteran filmmaker-poet-lyricist Gulzar made a documentary on the house before it turned into a museum.

Khan mentioned that apart from some of the special instruments like that of his first baby sarod and other musical instruments used by his father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan, there are many musicians who also donated their instruments.

“There are multiple iconic musicians who have contributed to our museum. For instance, Bade Gulam Ali Khan saab’s Swarmandal is given by his grandson to our museum, we kept it as his memory, on display there. We have the tabla of Ustad Kishan Maharaj, Zakir Hussain. Pandit V G Jog has given the violin of Ustad Alauddin Khan saab because saab used to play violin also. Humara Sarod Ghar yaadon ka khazaana hai,” Khan shared.

While one of the easiest and most common ways to sustain a huge heritage property is to turn them into a heritage hotel, Khan also expressed his emotional reason behind turning it into a museum.

“Well, I was born in that house, learn music from my Abbaji from there…my journey of music, my ibadaat has started from that house. Yes, I was given the suggestion of turning it into a heritage hotel because it is commercially more profitable. But our ‘Sarod Ghar’ is also my guru ghar, my Abba’s ghar. This is my guru dakshina to my forefathers and also sharing the ocean of music heritage to the children of the next generation.”

As the name suggests ‘Morning Raga’, the artist also mentioned the thought behind arranging the concert in the early morning, where even Gulzar saab is planning to grace the occasion.

“We classical musicians are still maintaining the tradition of playing ragas according to its time; as in, morning raga in the morning and evening ragas like Yaman Kalyan, Darbari among others – in the evening. Since most of the concerts took place in the evening, as artists we rarely play some of our beautiful morning ragas in concerts,” he said.

He continued, “Of course, you can hear them on the internet, CDs, DVDs…but listening to a morning raga live, as the sun grows and mood changes along with it is a different kind of beauty altogether.”

The concert ‘Morning Raga’ will take place at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai on May 1.

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