One cannot turn away from the musical legacy one is born into, this is what Sarod exponent, Shiraz Ali Khan found out. At a point in life he gave up Indian classical music and took up a corporate job just to explore himself.
Then one day his grandfather, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, called him from California and said,
“Your father was my favourite son. After he has gone, it is your responsibility to carry forward the legacy.”
That phone call was a turning point and Shiraz quit everything to get back to his inheritance and tradition.
Sarod over Tabla
At the age of 5 Shiraz was initiated into music by his father Prof. Dhyanesh Khan. At the age of 8, he started taking tabla taalim under the guidance of Late Pandit Shankar Ghosh but eventually devoted his entire focus to the sarod. He also trained under his aunt Vidhusi Ameena Perera, who taught him simple compositions line by line.
“My father always told me that basics always matter in achieving greater heights. To get the perfect tone of every Swaras, Sur and understand the Taals, the basics have to be strong,”
He started learning the sarod under his father and his Guru/Uncle Aashish Khan. Whenever his grandfather would be in the country, he would teach him as well. He taught Shiraz many compositions in several ragas, and told him that the right feeling and approach was most important. He would sing and teach the basics and then take over
the instrument to demonstrate.
“It was a Gurumukhi approach, which I followed. He has been very sincere with his music, patient and serious, and I am trying to learn from him,”
“As a student or a performer, I look up to my Guru Aashish Khan for guidance to keep our style of music alive. The teachings don’t just happen in the classrooms. It often transcends on to live performances when I learn a new way of approaching the old traditions of our Gharana. It is a continuous learning process and this is just the beginning as I still have miles to go.”
The Maihar Gharana legacy
Shiraz believes, since his roots are in immense practice of the basics, mastering different instruments and music is a challenge. Hailing from a family of Legends like Baba Allauddin Khan and Dr. Ali Akbar Khan, he is one of the next torch bearers of the ‘Maihar Gharana’. However, to be able to even try and fit into their shoes is a mighty and an almost impossible task.
“If you belong to a lineage, that means you have to live up to people’s expectations and that cannot be easy. I hope and pray that I will be able to win the hearts of people with my family’s music,”
Though hailing from a traditional gharana, Shiraz went on to form his own band, Indian Blues. They have released popular semi – classical vocals and indulge in Hindustani/Western Classical fusion, Retro, Blues, and Soft Rock. Fusion is not a detrimental term for him. This genre of music has been used and encouraged by members of his family. His guru, Aashish Khan, started experimenting with Indian and western fusion all over the globe and excelled in it. Shiraz feels that the sound of sarod in fusion music is a novel and successful innovation.
“Truthfully, once you believe in something, it gives you the zeal to make the audience to appreciate your music. And I believe eventually everyone understands music. Pure or fusion,”