Masterful Confluence

Amjad Ali Khan - Samaagam
Amjad Ali Khan and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Samaagam (World Village 468102, 2011)

Two of the great classical music traditions of the world come together in Samaagam (a confluence or flowing together). Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan contributes the rich heritage of Indian classical music. He is joined by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by David Murphy , representing European classical music.

Samaagam was recorded at the historic Greyfriars Kirk church in Edinburgh in March 2010 and is divided into two sections. The first part is a collection of three mesmerizing ragas performed by Amjad Ali Khan on sarod, including “Bhupali,” “Bhairavi” and “Khamaj”. “I feel that it is like a bouquet of ragas. All three,” he says, “are very traditional ragas, and though we can play each raga for over two or three hours if we like, I have given utmost attention to the importance of the solo versions as well as to their interpretation in the concerto. I believe that by playing the essence of a raga for a shorter period, you are not diluting it. I believe in being traditional and not conventional.”

The second section features the title piece, ‘Samaagam: A Concerto for Sarod, Concertante Group and String Orchestra.’ Samaagam is one of those musical experiments that actually works. It’s a dream come true for Khan, an admirer of European classical music. “I understood the vastness and the oceanic depths of music,” he says. “I feel that the twelve musical notes are so very powerful and vibrant like the sun, and all the harmony around it are like its rays.”

Regarding Samaagam, David Murphy writes, “In realizing this work from Amjad Ali Khan’s singing and playing, and in rehearsing it with the SCO, I have aimed to preserve the essence of both Indian and Western traditions so that they can flow into each other without artistic compromise. I have used the orchestration of Indian ensemble music in the pre-Bollywood era as inspiration and have also looked back to the ancient (i.e., pre-equal-temperament) Western tradition incorporating elements which, because of their antiquity, do not violate the rules of Indian music. The aim is through this process to joyfully explore the common ‘musical DNA’ of both traditions.”

In addition to conductor Murphy and Scottish Chamber Orchestra leader Ruth Crouch, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Lab is represented on Samaagam by Lise Aferiat (violin), Robert McFall (violin), Brian Schiele (viola), Su-a Lee (cello), Elisabeth Dooner (flute), Peter Furniss (clarinet) and Alison Green (bassoon).

Every raga has a soul and every musical note is the sound of God,” Khan says in summation, “and it has indeed been a very memorable experience for me to work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. This being my first sarod concerto makes it all the more special, a terrific experience.”

Samaagam is an impressive fusion of Indian and European traditions beautifully played by Amjad Ali Khan and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

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