Book Review: My Father, Our Fraternity: The story of Haafiz Ali Khan and My World By Amjad Ali Khan [2012, Roli Books. Rs. 595]

Amjad Ali Khan undoubtedly represents the official Sarod lineage of Indian classical music heritage. It was his forefather Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash who turned the Afghanistani Rabab into Sarod. (Of course, there is another parallel historical argument that Sarod was invented by Niyamatullah Khan around the same time, that is., 1820 AD. Now Sarod has a distinctive presence in contemporary classical fora. In his book ` My Father, Our Fraternity: The Story of Haafiz Ali Khan and My World’, Amjad Ali Khan has captured the essence of being a musician. This book is remarkable for its polite narration and some memorable photographs. Though the publication looks like a coffee table book, the content is straight, simple and honest to a great extent.

My father our fraternity

The 218-page book revolves around the life of legendary musician Haafiz Ali Khan, Amjad Ali Khan’s father. Amjad Ali Khan provides a first hand account of how his father preserved the purity of Hindustani classical music tradition. Haafiz Ali Khan’s request to the then President Babu Rajendra Prasad to protect Rag Darbari Kanada is an anecdote which indicates Haafiz Ali Khan’s innocent, yet firm beliefs. Amjad Ali Khan narrates the stories in a neutral voice to the extent, though at times we feel his natural obsession with his lineage.

The incident where Haafiz Ali Khan, referred as `Abba’ in the book, was challenged by one Darshan Singh on the Tabla and subsequently died due to a non-stop 35-minute playing on high speed Jhala is another shocking incident narrated in detail.

But the whole book carries a firm tone of keeping the Sarod tradition intact by a strict regime of practice, a complete dedication to classical rendition and depicts several such anecdotes woven around the family members. Amjad Ali Khan is not hesitant in criticising one of his relatives; he even narrates what happened between him and Shehnai legend Ustad Bismillah Khan on a stage event.

The sepia toned image gallery is equally interesting. Amjad Ali Khan meeting the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is one of such many photographs. The glossy art paper, which never goes well with such monochromatic design, is the only strange part of this otherwise beautifully produced book.

Amjad Ali Khan’s niceties are evident throughout the book. His respect for new talents is also commendable. But absence of Pandit Rajeev Taranath, the Sarod exponent and a senior disciple of Us tad Ali Akbar Khan, is a glaring lapse as he has quoted other contemporary artistes with zeal. He has showered praise on his sons, Aman and Ayan Ali Khans, which too is apt considering their hold on the Sarod.

This book -it may not teach you the music- inspires people with musical inclination. More importantly, it firmly supports the family tradition in preserving the art of music. This is the most important quality of this book, as India is witnessing a surge in nuclear families and broken traditions. Amjad Ali Khan, therefore, definitely deserves a standing ovation for this wonderful book.\

– Beluru Sudarshana

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