Aashish Khan

World Music Foundation Podcast | Season 1, Episode 4

“When I perform, I forget the world

About this Episode

Aashish Khan is the eldest exponent of an Indian Classical music lineage that reaches all the way back to the court of Mughal emperor Akbar the Great. He takes us back to the creation of his pioneering Indo-Jazz fusion band, Shanti, in the early 1970s, he shares about his new project Shringar, and reveals that he has a literal treasure trove of unreleased recordings, including a track that he recorded with George Harrison, Eric Clapton and others.

(Intro Music Starts):

John Gardner: Hello, hello and welcome again to the World Music Foundation Podcast. I’m your host, John Gardner, and today we speak with a living legend of Indian Classical music, Ustad Aashish Khan. A couple of things about this interview: number one, it gets pretty dense musically, so if you’re hearing terms or descriptions of things that you’re not so familiar with, it’s a good time to remind you that you can find this exact episode at WMFPodcast.org/4. And you’ll find videos, photographs, explanations of basically everything in this episode. And we do it for all of our episodes. There’s a link of every single time somebody mentions a musician, a music instrument, a country, musical terms, there’s a link to more information for the extra curious at WMFPodcast.org. Also there’s a genealogy section in here, he traces his musical lineage back to the times of the Great Emperor Akbar. That’s 100 years before Bach, 200 years before Beethoven. Imagine an unbroken student-teacher relationship, passing down knowledge and history through all of that time. It’s amazing. And lastly, you’ll hear through the interview a rattling, maybe a soft clanging sound. I love that sound and we intentionally left that in. The interview was conducted face-to-face and what you’re hearing are the bracelets of our guests rustling around on his hands as he speaks. We hope you enjoy and find value in this interview with Aashish Khan.

(Interview Begins)

Aashish Khan: This is Aashish Khan, my greetings to all the listeners. All my best wishes to you all. And I’m here in Chicago, sitting in front of John, and I had a wonderful concert last night at the Planetarium, Adler Planetarium, accompanied by Sandip Burman with whom I played for the first time and he’s a wonderful accompanist. And I didn’t know about him but I came to know his music and him and also came to know John, we have become now a family here in Chicago. And we would love to do some more of this kind of concert in America, in different parts of America. And I really enjoyed last night, the audience was great, some of them, I think, they heard the sarode, the instrument which I play, for the first time and it was a great experience for me, and for them also.

John Gardner: Definitely for us also, it was absolutely beautiful, blown away. And you mentioned the sarode, your instrument, could you describe a little bit? We have listeners that are from around the world, obviously many will listen just from knowing your name so they will be much more familiar with you, but we have people in Australia and Hong Kong and they might not know Sarod at all. How would you describe the instrument?

Aashish Khan: Well sarod is about four feet, four and a half feet long, it’s all hand carved and the body is hollow and it has a parchment covered with goat skin and it’s about, diameter is about 11 inches and there is a fret board which does not have any frets, and it’s a plain steel plate and there are about 25 strings of different gauges. And the neck of the Sarod, which is kind of a narrow long neck, there are two sections. One is the lower section which has four main strings FCGC and on the top, the other side of the neck has four more strings which three of them are tuned to the main notes of the melody, C remains as a tonic  which is very important for Indian music because once we decided the tonic note we usually don’t change it like in Western music. So that C note, which is a middle C, and on the body there are two more strings which are known as the chikari that are tuned to be higher octave than the C note and along with the 15 more strings on the body there are called taraps that means the sympathetic strings which are tuned according to the rag or the melody. When you play they vibrate so they give this extra kind of depth to the sound and create a kind of reverb effect to each note when you’re playing them. And we have to have a little bit of nail for the left hand because when you’re sliding on the strings without the nail you’re going to get this real clean sound. And for the right hand there’s a plectrum which is made out of coconut shell because otherwise it doesn’t sound with a plastic pick or any other material so you have to use a pick coconut shell and it’s shaped like a heart and you have to hold it with three fingers and when you’re holding on the top of the pick it has a little kind of wrap wrapped with a gauze cloth which is dipped in a beeswax, raw beeswax, and you make a little kind of a bandage and then you wrap it around because it helps you to hold and have a nice grip on the pick.

John Gardner: Well you must be plucking very hard if you’ve got that kind of preparation.

Aashish Khan: Yeah, a lot of people don’t use it but by using it it helps you because you get a good grip you know otherwise it can slip out from your finger. And the downstroke is a Da and the upstroke is a Ra. That is for a right hand. Then the left hand you chose what raag you’re going to play, what kind of ascending descending it has. And we have over thousands ragas and they are divided from sunrise to next sunrise. That means early morning then late morning then noon, afternoon, early evening, during the sunset, then night ragas, then midnight ragas, and that goes on until the next sunrise. So we have ragas for 24 hours of the day and we usually perform according to the time of the day. And then we have seasonal ragas. Mainly the monsoon, after long summer, long very hard days when the monsoon comes it gives you this relief and then we have different ragas for that season. Then we come to spring season and then we have ragas for the spring season. There are many ragas for each season, for example for monsoon and spring and then there are the other ragas which you can play according to the time of the day. This is how we have learned and of course now a days we have to perform usually mostly evening so we end up playing mostly evening ragas. Sometimes in rare occasion, or by the request of the audience we are asked to describe them. What is the difference between morning and evening ragas? So we have to give a demonstration and explain them the difference between these two ragas. So these are very important to learn.

John Gardner: So this learning process, for this advanced of a music, must be a very advanced learning process. Must be tough. And now we’ve learned a lot about the music, we’re very interested in the player in this case, in you Aashish. So If I was to ask, it’s a short question, but it might not be a simple question, if I was to ask Who is Aashish Khan? How would you answer that question? Who is Aashish Khan?

Aashish Khan: Well I come from a legacy which goes back to16th century of Mian Tansen and his guru  Swami Haridas who was a great saint and where Mia Tonson learned his music and later on he became a court musician of the great Emperor Akbar one of the 9th Jewels (of India). And from his family, my grandfather’s name is Baba Allauddin Khan who learned from their family his guru’s name is Mohammad Wazir Khan who used to live in the city called Rampur, which is in Uttar Pradesh, which is very close to Lucknow city, which is the north of India where he learned from his guru and then from him, my father, was taught Ali Akbar Khan and my aunt Smt. Annapurna Devi started with Sitar then her main instrument became Subahar, which is like bass sitar. Then among his disciples, Timir Baran Bhattacharya learned the sarod then Pandit Ravi Shankar who learned sitar, then Pannalal Ghosh learned flute. Pannalal Ghosh I have to mention that he is the one who brought the flute, which flute used to be a folk instrument, then he made it a classical flute. And he popularized and he used to play all kinds of different sizes of flute like a very thick, bamboo and very long, and then short ones, very tiny flutes like a piccolo flute. These are all bamboo flutes mainly available in Assam that is part of extreme Northeast of India, so he was the man who brought this flute to a concert level. And then of course the next batches start Ustad Bahadur Khan who was my father’s first cousin, he played Sarod, my father played Sarod and then I come in the picture as grandson, I learned the Sarod and then my next brother Dhyanesh Khan who passed away, also learned the Sarod and then my sister Ameena she learned the Sitar, she also passed away. And then my younger brother Pranesh Khan who learned Tabla from my grandfather. And then my youngest brother Amaresh Khan who started violin but then he changed his profession to become an architect. I have step brothers like Alam Khan who learned Sarod from my father and Manik Khan he’s the second son, second step brother, he also learned Sarod from my father. Anyways, so this is our family tree, we have learned music, and I’m the eldest in the family and I have many other students in India and also in America whom I am teaching, at the present time employed at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles Valencia, for the last 12 years I’m teaching instrumental and vocal music like sarod, sitar, guitar, violin, even cello, some wind instruments like flute and even some students came to learn Indian music in trumpet and oboe, you know.  

John Gardner: It’s possible to learn this music system on all those different instruments?

Aashish Khan: Yes all that. Guitar for example. This is what brought me.

John Gardner: And you become professional at a very young age, correct?

Aashish Khan: Yeah, at the age of 12 I started playing with my grandfather whenever he used to go for a concert he used to take me and then I started accompanying him, learning on the stage, you know, that was the right word.

John Gardner: And obviously that took so much training, what was your first musical memory? You must be surrounded by music from birth with your family.

Aashish Khan: My first public concert actually it was a live radio broadcast from All India radio near the lake and the same year the live concert was for a very big festival in Calcutta, dance and music conference, they used to call those days any music festival they used to call conference. There I played with my grandfather and my father so it was like three generations playing on the stage. So that was one of the most greatest moments of my life and memory. After that, I played many concerts with my grandfather and my father, and my first American concert was with my father at the Hollywood Ball which was holding about 20,000 people, yeah so that was a great experience for me. And then I started playing solo in America, and a few concerts with my father, and that is how my career started.

John Gardner: And then after performing solo in the United States, at what point did you form–I know you’re one of the early pioneers of what we call now fusion music, Indian Fusion Music– you had a very influential band Shanti, I wanted to hear, when did that come about, how did it come about?

Aashish Khan: It happened actually when I was in Los Angeles, few of my American friends, they were looking for some Indian musician to play for their songs or for the music so they came to Richard Boch He was the producer of Indian music and Jazz and any other music, who else has produced many albums of Ravi Shankar under the banner of World Pacific Record Company. So they approached him and then since Richard Bock was known to me and then he asked me if I’d like to play in the recording and I said sure why not and then I played and along with me on tabla Zakir Hussain. I brought him first time from Indian when he was hardly 16 years old and he just passed his high school and I was looking for a good tabla player, first I approached Swapan Chaudhuri but he was going to college so he could not come so then I asked Zakir father’s Alla Rakha Kahnsahib I bring your son? And he said, “Of course” and then I brought him. Our first tour was in England after that we came to America so this is what happened. So I decided why not we form a group with my four American friends who the names are, Neil Seidel who was lead guitar, Steve Leach was electric bass, Steve Haehl was the leading voice and Francisco Lupica was the drummer and my other brother Pranesh Khan was on tabla and Zakir was also on tabla and dholak and this is how we formed our group called Shanti and it became very well known in a short time because this music was not existing before in America or anywhere. So it became very popular and we all did it recording with Atlantic Records and now they have re-released it in a CD form, before it was a vinyl as you all know, now it’s available in CD form and also you can visual recording you can find on YouTube so there’s I think one or two cuts I think they have shown on Youtube so this is the story of Shanti. And I’m working on my latest project called Shringar with musicians from New Orleans. One of my recordings is called “Thinking of You” which was played by Tim Green on sax and myself on Sarod and Boyd was on vibe and this has just been released through Apple and unfortunately Tim Green is no more there. He was a wonderful musician who really came to know the Indian music, and the soul of Indian music, and his improvisation, as I used to tell him this is based on such and such rag he cannot use any other notes in this rag, he really was so serious and his sound as a sax player, I mean, he understood the sentiments and the feelings of Indian rag and Indian music, and if you listen to this recording you’ll know what kind of musician he was. I really miss him, that’s why I gave this name, “Thinking of You.” It’s available and there are a few more cuts which I’ll be releasing pretty soon.

John Gardner: Yeah, look forward to that. And that is a great loss, it sounds like he took the time to understand, you said the sentiment. When you get together in this kind of fusion setting, how much are you thinking in the strict raga terms of your Indian classical music, how much do you start to learn the sentiment of, whether it’s Jazz or rock and roll, does it go both ways when you’re creating fusion music?

Aashish Khan: Well, I don’t think of rag but I think of a melody, because our music is very melodious so my main focus is the melody has to be very, oh what do you call it, it should get to your mind, because harmonizing is a very simple thing but creating a good melody is the hardest part. Mostly I like any, what do you call that, minor scales, definitely I prefer minor scales, sometimes some major scales I use, but I don’t think about rag except if I want to compose something in rag then I do that. And then improvisation part is very much like an Indian way of improvising but I do improvise according to the chord pattern of the melody. When my solo is up I follow the rules of the jazz and I’m probably the first musician who understands the chord changes and the style of improvisation for the jazz music, because I’ve been here for many years and I’ve been listening and I played with many jazz musicians like Charles Loyd, John Handy and of course I’ve worked with George Harrison and we used to be very good friends so I learned a lot of things from him. Then John Barham  who was one of my very close friends who used to be an arranger for The Beatles and he’s a very good pianist, and he understood Indian music very well. He could notate the Indian music in Western notation, he was the first one. He knew the theory of our Indian music, North Indian music, and he’s a very good pianist, in fact I did some recordings with him, piano and Sarod duet, unfortunately not available it did not get set in that kind of motion because it was 1969 when we did this kind of work.

John Gardner: As we speak, we hear it sounds like you might be sitting on a treasure chest of music. I’ve heard Shringar music that’s going to be coming out soon, not yet released, we hear now this recording that’s not available, hasn’t been released. I’ve heard, it may be rumor, is there truth that you may have a recording of you and George Harrison that’s not released?

Aashish Khan: Yeah actually this is a recording we did for a film and I had no idea about pop music at that time so I asked his help. So at 3am he comes to the studio with Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, at that time Eric Clapton was not known, and Billy Preston and then I sang the melody and then he wrote the introduction music and then he started playing himself solo in that recording and then we left the vocal tracks to be overdubbed later by somebody. But unfortunately that film never took off, so still that music is in the can and I’m hoping maybe someday I might release that. It was a great experience for me to work with George Harrison, and Ringo, and Eric Clapton and Billy Preston. So, it’s there.

John Gardner: And is it tied up in legal reasons that it cannot be produced? Or it’s something out of your control?

Aashish Khan: No, no I haven’t finished it up; George was saying not to release it because it was not complete, you know, in a way. Not properly mixed and not dubbed by any voice. Because it’s a song which I wrote and maybe I can make it an instrumental version that might be easier. Or maybe just some chorus in the back. So let’s see.

John Gardner: Very exciting to see.

Aashish Khan: Yeah it will be a great recording and I hope I can finish that.

John Gardner: So you mentioned, when you were explaining about music, you’ve mentioned the name Tansen. Can you explain about this musician: Who is Mian Tansen?

Aashish Khan: Mian Tansen, what I’ve heard from my grandfather, many stories, that he could bring rain by his singing, he could light a fire by his singing, that kind of power. And they not only knew the music, they also knew the yoga. Because music is very meditative and very spiritual, not really just, some people think it’s really just, not really just, but very spiritual and meditative.

John Gardner: What is the difference between those? It’s a fine line. What’s the difference between religious and spiritual?

Aashish Khan: Religious means is it chanting in Muslim or in Christian or in Buddhism. So it’s not that. So the raga, the free form from all these bindings, so that’s why we call it spiritual and as I mentioned, every hour of the day, very meditative in this sense because you need a lot of concentration when you’re performing and you have to be deeply involved and you have to forget the surroundings when you’re singing or playing. So it’s like you’re meditating or doing a prayer through your music. That’s what the idea is.

John Gardner: I see. And you say these forefathers, these greats, they used to know this and used to integrate with their knowledge of yoga as well.

Aashish Khan: Because even I, when I perform, I forget the world, I forget that I’m playing for audience, it’s like I’m playing for myself and I’m in a different world, and believe me that’s probably my best time when I play music because I’m not here. I’m somewhere else. It’s a, that kind of experience. And sometimes, even I don’t know who’s playing because when I come out from that deep meditation, people say “you played so well” I said, “did I play?” because I didn’t know what I played unless somebody recorded and you can hear it and you can make out. It’s very spiritual and if you take it that way. Otherwise, now a days, things have become so commercial, and they’re playing for the gallery. That’s the word I use, because our family never played for the gallery. They always took music very highly and meditative and like a prayer to the god, to the Saraswati, the goddess of music and knowledge. And we’re all musicians, the Hindus or the Muslims, they all worship Saraswati because she’s, if you have seen her picture, she’s holding an instrument which looks like a sitar, but it’s not a sitar, it’s an imaginary Vena, and she has a lot of books in front of her. Everybody, all students, those who are studying in schools, they’re not musicians, they also worship Saraswati and we have a festival every year, that is the day to worship her. Especially in Bengal they make small, or big, statue of her and then people worship, it’s like a festival. And that day is known as Basant Pancham that’s the beginning of spring at the same time and then my grandfather used to teach me those ragas at that time, that’s the springtime. In February or March it depends on the calendar, that day falls for her day it’s called Basant Pancham. We call her Mom, mom is mother, mother Saraswati, mother goddess. That is her day, you know.

John Gardner: Now she has, you said, it’s like a vena, her instrument and when we think of Indian classical music we think of the vena, sarod, sitar. Your grandfather, he played quite a lot of instruments. Didn’t he begin to work with some Western instruments as well, or orchestration?

Aashish Khan: Yeah. He learned over 200 instruments of different kind. His first instrument was violin because when he ran away, when he came to Calcutta, he learned violin from Mr. and Mrs. Lobo who were the composer and conductor of an orchestra in Calcutta during the British rule. So he learned violin and then afterward he learned the sarod then tabla and pakhawaj. He’s the first person to bring orchestra to Indian music because he traveled with the great dancer Uday Shankar who is the eldest brother of Ravi Shankar who actually brought Indian dance and music to the Western world, he’s the pioneer. Anyway, so my grandfather was with his troupe as a composer and a player. He toured Europe, he never came to America, he had to go back to India so he was very much fond of Beethoven was very well known in those days, I’m talking it was 1930, maybe earlier than that. He toured France, England, Germany, Paris. He got fond of Western classical music and the orchestra. He came to India and he formed his Maihar Band, because Maihar was the town he used to live and that is very interesting that there was a big epidemic of Cholera and lot of people died and the children would become orphans so the Maihar maharaja, the maharaja of Maihar state, asked my grandfather why don’t you teach these kids? So he adopted all these kids, my grandmother was their mother, and he started teaching them and then he formed this band, or this orchestra, with these kids. And that’s how the Maihar band was started. They were all classical ragas, compositions. And unfortunately it is dying now, because our government of India isn’t giving any attention or seriousness to what they are losing. And it’s very sad, all his hard work. He had many many, maybe hundreds of compositions in this band. And the interesting part is those musicians they all memorized all his compositions. There’s no notation, they all learned it, and remembered, and performed. And of course there are some recordings, which I did, from the original band when all these musicians were almost extremely old, but still they could play. And I have some recordings of the orchestra.

John Gardner: Oh wow. That’s great. And are those available, those recordings?

Aashish Khan: No they’re not for sale. They’re like my private collection, you can say. But I think we should release that.

John Gardner: If you’d allow us to maybe hear a clip sometime, we can share, because that’s historical recordings, that’s beautiful. But you say it’s not being preserved at the moment right now?

Aashish Khan: Yeah, I mean whatever I had, you know, it needs lots of funding for recording. Even 10 piece or 20 piece recording, those days I was recording in a cassette are not reel to reel.

John Gardner: You’ve done quite a lot of recording. It sounds like you have an interest in audio of this sort of thing. What draws you to that? What’s the interest in the art of recording?

Aashish Khan: Well, because at one point I was very much into recording my father’s music, my grandfather’s music, the orchestra, and also recording different artists. So it became part of my hobby to record them and also to photograph them. I have done a lot of recordings of my father, Ravi Shankar, and a few other artists who allowed me. Sometimes the organizer said no you cannot record, and all that. I have some recordings, they’re in cassette forms, I kept it with my brother, he looks after them.

John Gardner: And you mentioned, from the government, not a lot of support to preserve this classical music, to promote this classical music. How do you see Indian classical music among students? Amongst the next generation of learners?

Aashish Khan: Well so far I’m happy with my students, they are very serious about learning. And the rest, outside our family students, I see them very commercial and not learn properly, they want to be performer, they want to be superstar. Mostly they’re copying the CD recordings of different artists. If you listen to them one time, second time it will be the same thing. So you know, the knowledge is very limited, they’re mostly imitating, nothing of their own creation because they don’t have the taleem: taleem means to learn from some great master. Also whatever they learned from anybody, even the teacher doesn’t have enough knowledge so it’s kind of, I call it the Mickey Mouse. They’re mostly after how to get name, fame and money so all that. It’s very commercial. A lot of young and talented musicians, I don’t want to mention the name, but they have some knowledge, but they’re playing for the gallery you know, they’re entertaining. They’re more like entertainers than a performer, I call them. Full of gimmicks and all kinds of hand gestures, mouth, face gestures. That’s all I call it, a gimmick. Making all kinds of sound effects, whatever they can bring out of the drum. Not any difficult compositions, because they haven’t learned it. So that’s the problem

John Gardner: And this idea of taleem, learning from a master, serious practice. There’s also another word, Gharana.  What does Gharana mean?

Aashish Khan: Gharana is a school, style, or family tradition. Like our Gharana, our style of music, or our style of playing. This is completely different from the other schools or other musicians. You follow certain rules and you’re very strict about rules in our music, with other Gharanas I find there’s no purity of the rag. They try to make it very light kind of approach. Here we try to bring the seriousness of the rag, whatever the character or the what raag wants. So the pure form is no more there and my grandfather was very strict about it, that you cannot make it a light music. Classical means classical. And pure raga means pure, no adulteration.

John Gardner: And your lineage is the Senia Maihar

Aashish Khan: Senia, yeah, Senia word comes from Mian Tansen, because his last name they call it Sen, Tan-sen. That’s why we call it Senia or Seney. Gharana means the school of the music, or tradition of the music, or legacy of the music from Mian Tansen because it has come from his family, his daughter’s family actually. At that era there were many great great musicians, but slowly, slowly everybody’s gone. That’s unfortunate. We have some recordings but most of them are not there. There used to be a record company called HMB, His Master’s Voice, they recorded many musicians but they did not preserve it. And same thing with the All India Radio they used to have recordings of many old masters in wax, like a disc but it makes the groove on it, they call the material, it’s a very soft material, I’m forgetting the term. Wax recording, maybe or something like that. Quality wise not good, but at least they had some recordings, but they did not preserve it. It got melted or they threw it in the garbage.

John Gardner: Well we’re going to wrap up, you’ve been so gracious with your time. I wanted to get just at least one story, or one bit of understanding, what was it like learning from your grandfather? His music and tradition.

Aashish Khan: Oh, well he was an extremely strict teacher and since he learned in such a hardship and he wanted to give everything to everybody, you know? His door was open, he never charged even a single flower rather he would keep his student at his home like all these people like Nikhil Banerjee, then Jotin Bhattacharya, and so many other students came and they lived with him, he fed them, in fact he always give them money so they can go and visit their parents and come back. He did a lot of service with the music and he will teach anybody that wanted to learn. He was very disciplined and very strict, extremely, I haven’t seen anybody so strict, you cannot make any mistakes, he will just give you a beating. He has a very short temper, especially when he was teaching. He wanted you to learn it just like a recording, you know. Immediately you have to learn it, keep it in your mind, and you have to show it again. Unless, until you memorized, you cannot leave his room; he wanted to make sure you are doing it right and correctly. Then you go in your room and write it down or whatever, because he would never allow writing in front of him. You have to write in your head.

John Gardner: Wow, that’s definitely, build a memory, build that discipline. Well we’re gonna end with some I think easy questions, kinda like a lightning round. Short answers, just things people might be curious about but we like to see the similarities also across different guests, different people. So the first question, what is your favorite food?

Aashish Khan: Favorite food? Well, gradually I’m becoming more vegetarian, I used to love meat but somehow I’m not liking it so much. I enjoy international food, like when I’m traveling either I take Chinese because it’s light on your body because I don’t want to fall sick. And if there’s a good Indian restaurant, then I go to Indian. I like Chinese, Thai, Italian. Some of it, not all the dishes in Italian. Then in Europe I have tried European food but I found it to be very bland you know, especially in Germany the bread is so hard, my God! My dentures really come off. But anyway I enjoy any kind of food, plus I cook myself. I cook north Indian Bengal, and South Indian. I love South Indian food especially their dosa and Sambar and all that. (Laughes)

John Gardner: Great wonderful! So what do you like to do outside of music? Do you have any hobbies outside of music?

Aashish Khan: Well photographing used to be one of my biggest hobbies. Recording and taking pictures and listening to music, good music like Jazz and Classical. When I’m driving I’m usually listening to Jazz or Classical. Sometimes they don’t broadcast good music so I keep switching and other times I listen to good pop music especially The Beatles are my most favorite. I like Elton John’s music and Bob Dylan some of his songs, I love his poetry. When I came to America his song was very popular, Lay, Lady, Lay. Lay across the brass bed. That is a beautiful song. So like that I mean I also like Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie and also whats her name- the female singer- the Black American singer. I’m forgetting her name, anyway so they are my favorite singers from the era and Michael Jackson some of his songs are very appealing to me.  Yeah

John Gardner: Deeper, broader question or doesn’t need to be deep just something random you’ve been thing that’s been on your mind lately?

Aashish Khan: My mind lately I have a big responsibility my new students especially my adopting Shiraz Khan is my second brother’s only son. He lost his father when he was very, very young so i want to give my music and teach what I have learn. He is probably the next you know, pillar of this family to keep this tradition going. His time is different and I don’t know how much he will be able to do but he is very serious about learning the music. He is playing he is quite getting well-known in India and whenever I go to India, he plays with me. This is how I teach him also on the stage because I don’t get much time to spend with him. He is a very bright kid, very intelligent and he also takes care of me very much.  He doesn’t even let me lift a small bag. (Laughs)

John Gardner: Good, good! The last question, it’s kind of a complicated question, I’ll repeat it if it’s hard to understand

Aashish Khan: No no

John Gardner: If you could get the answer to just one question

Aashish Khan: Mhmm

John Gardner: You would know the full answer. You could understand full knowledge but you only get one question. What would be your one question?

Aashish Khan: What would be my one question? Well, I’d like to have a serious institute which I have already started at Calcutta called Aashish Khan School of World Music and I have the same dream to do something in America. At least these two places I would like to have serious institute and if I get help from the community or from the government,  you know whatever. It will be nonprofit and especially free for the kids because I want them to learn our music. Afterwards, if they are serious if they want to continue then they will be free. If I see any talented student who has a future in music. I will be teaching them without anything yeah.

John Gardner: Wow, that is amazing. Well, we hope you get that because it will be great for so many people. Ustadji, thank you so much for your time.

Aashish Khan: Thank you I enjoyed very much.

John Gardner: It’s been great to speak with you and even better to hear you last night performing it. I’m still in awe. Beautiful. Thank you, Thank you

Outro Music Begins:

John Gardner: That is just a dedication to music. It’s a lifestyle, it’s his identity. You know, there’s so many important musical systems around the world that we should give reverence when we hear them, we should take time and quietly listen when given the opportunity to experience the traditions and knowledge that have been passed down for so many decades. We’re excited that we got the chance to speak about this important one, Indian Classical music, with Aashish Khan. You can follow Aashish Khan and the Aashish Khan School of World Music on Facebook for updates on where this musical lineage is headed next. Of course, the extra curious can head over to WMFPodcast.org/4. We thank you so much for listening. Remember to listen widely. Open ears equals open minds. And, we’ll see you next time. 

For The Extra Curious


Musical Mentions

0:30 Aashish Khan
2:35 Sandip Burman
3:13 Sarod
4:51 Tonic
5:08 Chikari
5:18 Taraps
5:35 Reverb
5:58 Plectrum
7:04 Raag (or Ragas)
7:11 Ragas (or Raag)
9:23 Mian Tansen
9:35 Swami Haridas
9:38 Emperor Akbar (1542–c. 1605)
9:48 Allauddin Khan
9:55 Wazir Khan
10:00 Rampur
10:03 Uttar Pradesh
10:05 Lucknow
10:14 Ali Akbar Khan
10:19 Annapurna Devi
10:20 Sitar
10:24 Subahar
10:30 Timir Baran Bhattacharya
10:32 Sarod
10:35 Ravi Shankar
10:40 Pannalal Ghosh
10:41 Bansuri flute
10:52 Folk Instrument (Indian)
10:54 Classical Instrument (Indian)
11:12 Piccolo flute
11:18 Assam
11:24 Indian
11:34 Bahadur Khan
11:51 Dhyanesh Khan
12:57 Ameena Khan
12:03 Pranesh Khan
12:04 Tabla
12:09 Violin
12:19 Alam Khan
12:23 Manik Khan
13:02 Cello
13:15 Oboe
13:23 Guitar
15:16 Indian Fusion Music
15:21 Shanti (band)
15:41 Richard Bock
15:53 Ravi Shankar
15:57 World Pacific Record Company
16:13 Zakir Hussain
16:27 Swapan Chaudhuri
16:40 England
16:41 America
16:55 Neil Seidel
16:59 Steve Leach
17:04 Steve Haehl
17:08 Frank Lupica
17:13 Pranesh Khan
17:18 Dholak
17:21 Shanti (band)
17:36 Atlantic Records
17:42 CD
17:44 Vinyl
18:05 Shringar
18:12 Thinking of You (song)
18:14 Tim Green
21:20 Charles Lloyd
21:25 John Handy
21:26 George Harrison
21:34 John Barham
21:35 The Beatles
21:45 Western Notation
21:54 North Indian Music
22:06 Piano
22:37 George Harrison
22:45 Pop Music
22:52 Ringo Starr
22:55 Eric Clapton
22:57 Billy Preston
24:29 Mian Tansen
27:28 Saraswati
28:01 Bengal
28:13 Bansat Pancham
29:37 Pakhawaj
29:47 Uday Shankar
30:16 Ludwig van Beethoven
30:47 Maihar Band
33:19 Cassette
33:21 Reel to reel
35:30 Taleem (Explain in the episode)
38:03 Gharana
38:05 Senia Maihar Gharana
38:51 HMV (His Master’s Voice)
40:15 Nikhil Banerjee
40:14 Jotin Bhattacharya
43:31 Jazz
43:32 Classical Music (Western)
43:50 The Beatles
43:54 Elton John
43:58 Bob Dylan
44:09 Lay, Lady, Lay
44:22 Stevie Wonder
44:26 Lionel Richie
44:46 Michael Jackson
45:11 Shiraz Khan