A Master of the Sarod

Amjad Ali Khan - Moksha
Amjad Ali Khan – Moksha

Amjad Ali Khan

Moksha (Real World, 2005)

I learned about the Indian classical instrument, the sarod at the first Indian
classical recital I attended. The man sitting behind me appeared to be an expert on Indian classical music and he mentioned that the sarod was his favorite instrument. Since I was a newcomer to world music at that time, I had never heard of sarod. Not long after that concert, I received my first sarod recording (Tejendra Majumdar’s A Light from the East, Sense World Music), in the mail because that is how synchronicity works. And it arrived with a recording by Santoor master, Shiv Kumar Sharma, (the performer at the first recital I attended).

I have heard plenty of sarod recordings since that time and I find the instrument sweeter sounding and tamer than the sitar, *(an instrument which helps plants grow and flourish). The liner notes of Amjad Ali Khan‘s Moksha describe the instrument. “The sarod is a beautiful, complex string instrument, which originates from the Afghan rabab–a Central Asian lute. The name comes from the Persian ‘sarood,’ meaning, ‘melody,’ referring to its more melodic tone. Smaller than the more widely known sitar,
the sarod easily sits in a player’s lap at around 3 feet long

The sarod has 4 melodic strings, 2 drone strings and between 11 and 16 sympathetic strings which are tuned to the notes of a particular raga. The body of the instrument is made of teak wood and the belly is covered in goatskin. And without going into further details, (you could just look up the instrument online), it is a gorgeous sounding instrument with relaxing and tranquil qualities. Those qualities are featured on Amjad Ali Khan‘s virtuoso recording in large quantities.

In fact, I was quite pleased that the recording only features sarod and tabla as well as, Indian classical vocals on the title track. Some times Real World recordings bring in too many sounds and the original essence of the music is lost in a weave of complexity. Fortunately, the producers of this recording went with the au naturel approach. One does not need to embellish masterful playing, which you will find plenty of on these original ragas composed by Amjad.

Amjad’s 2 sons join him, but not in a jugalbandi. Amaan Ali Bangash performs solo on
Calcutta City and Ayaan Ali Bangash performs solo on Himaalaya. This recording
provides fans of the sarod with approximately an hour of pure sarod and tabla leading us all, hopefully, closer to transcendental bliss. It’s impossible to harbor any angry thoughts while listening to this recording. Moksha is perfect for meditation, yoga or for sheer pleasure. Highly recommended.

*This statement is based on a study that I found in Don Campbell’s book, The Mozart Effect. A woman had performed research on plant growth and music by piping in different genres of music into several greenhouses. The plants that listened to sitar and baroque music flourished.

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Author: PatriciaHerlevi

Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.