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‘Music is the Greatest Wealth that I inherited from my Forefathers’ : Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

“Music is one of the most important 'food' for the intellect. Each musical note is connected to this most important part of our minds," Ustad Amjad Ali Khan said

Amjad Ali Khan is an Indian classical musician who plays the Sarod. Wikimedia

-by Himani Kumar 

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was recently denied the visa for the United Kingdom to play the Sarod London, but his passion for the instrument never dies and he has the strength, humility, and enthusiasm to spread his message of music.

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“I am grateful to British High Commission for finally granting me a visa. However, I understand that a country is not obligated to give a work visa to any individual. Seeing the response at Royal Festival Hall in September, it was obvious that they sincerely wanted me to perform in London. It was one of my most memorable concerts in London. I was equally honored to perform at La Villette Grand Hall, Paris,” Khan said.

Since he did  not meet visa requirements as it did not meet the requirements of Britain’s immigration rules, Khan said that he wanted to call PM Narendra Modi at the time of crisis, but did not have his phone number.

The 70-year-old Khan said on Friday he was “shocked and appalled” that his application for the visa to perform at a festival in London had been rejected.

Khan was to perform on Sept 17 in London.

According to media reports, Indian-origin lawyer Keith Vaz argued Khan’s case saying that it could damage Indo-UK relations. Vaz is the longest-serving Indian-origin MP and Chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. Vaz said that he had written to the Home Office and asked for an explanation and reversal of the decision and  was astonished that Amjad Ali Khan, one of India’s greatest living artist’s visa had been refused.

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“Relations between the UK and India can be severely damaged by this kind of action., Vaz said. According to media reports, securing a visa has become more complex.  Asking for ease in visa seeking and cheaper visa facilities for Indians, the Royal Commonwealth Society recently called for Britain extending a visa pilot project underway in China to India.

Ustad’s major influences in life have been none other than his father.

Khan’s  inspiration for the music was triggered early on. “I cannot remember a particular day that I was initiated into the world of music. It was a part of me from as early as I can remember,” Khan said. “ Indeed, I cannot think of a moment when music has been separated from my life. For my father Haafiz Ali Khan, though, there was no question of a life outside of music. Life itself was music and Music was Life. And so I came to inherit from him the legacy of five generations of musicians as naturally as a bird taking to the air,” he added.

“Music is the greatest wealth that I inherited from my forefathers. One that I am constantly sharing with my disciples. I believe in blessings and hard work. We can only do our best and leave the rest to the power up there. Music for me is a way of life. It’s not a profession but a passion. The love and the pull were inbuilt. I really didn’t have to work on that bit. In a traditional musical family, most of the kids become responsible very early in life and they have the highest order of family pride. I was very fortunate that I was the youngest child of my father and guru Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb. I got the opportunity to be my guru and along with music, realize the importance he gave to humanity values of life and complete surrender to God. It is said, I could not enjoy the freedom of my childhood,” the maestro added.

On the Sept. 15, the trio performed Sarod  in India Festival of France  and on  Sept. 18, at Royal Festival Hall London and at Festival of Chants of  India at Washington organized by Hare Krishna Hare Rama. “By the grace of God, Almighty Amaan and Ayaan have been accepted by the people and the organizers of the music world. They are dedicated and committed to Indian Classical Music  and also to the collaboration of World Music,” Amjad Ali Khan said.

Ustad Khan along with his sons did  residency at the Jacob  School of Music in Indiana till Oct. 15. Khan also hopes to play in Chicago and  get a concert in Chicago Symphony Hall.

“Jacob’s School of Music invited me this semester as an artist-in-residence. This was a partnership between the Jacobs School of Music and Indiana University’s  School of Global and International Studies,” he said. “The course was called “Fundamentals of Indian Classical Music,” which was open to graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students in the Jacobs School. It was highly interactive, and students learned the fundamental concepts of Indian classical music through time-honored traditional methods,” he added.

Audiences react well  to Sarod in India and abroad.

“I am very glad that Sarod today has become a universally known Indian instrument, Khan said. “Even in the west, Sarod is a very loved instrument. My family is on a collective mission to make this beautiful instrument as popular as the Guitar! Since my childhood, I always wanted my instrument, the Sarod to be able to express the entire range of human emotions…to sing, shout, whisper and cry. All the emotions! It has been a long journey so far and by the benevolence of the heavens, the Sarod has become far more expressive than it was 40 years ago,” he added.

On youngsters  taking up Sarod, Khan said youngsters was optimistic.

“Our mind is like any living organism. It must be nurtured and needs stimulation to develop and grow.” Ustad Khan said. “Music is one of the most important ‘food’ for the intellect. Each musical note is connected to this most important part of our minds. Music has many faces. Conversation, recitation, chanting and singing are all part of music. Music can be either vocal or instrumental. Vocal music appeals to most of us because of its poetical or lyrical content. Instrumental music on the other hand, such as what I play on the Sarod, is pure sound. It needs to experience and felt. Since there are no lyrics, there is no language barrier between the performer and the listener, and that is why instrumental music transcends all barriers,” he added.

“ Music is one of the most important ‘food’ for the intellect,” Ustad explained. “Each musical note is connected to this most important part of our minds. Music is the greatest wealth that I inherited from my forefathers; one that I am constantly sharing. Musicians and listeners of music have been communicating with each other across all barriers through this ‘language’ from time immemorial. As we use flowers in worship, welcoming, honoring, departure, and celebration no matter what our race, origin, religion or language, we similarly arrange musical notes into ‘bouquets’ or compositions which display all our human feelings and emotions. There isn’t an instant coffee culture that I can follow! Only practice  can work; not any kind of digital correction can!,” he added.

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Aman and Ayaan have been well received by the audiences and carry on the legacy of their father well.

“For a lot of young people of India, Amaan and Ayaan have become role models,” Ustad  Amjad Ali Khan said.  “In fact, I have learned a lot while teaching them.  Today Amaan is also the Khalifah (The older son of a guru who holds the same place next to the Guru or father) of our Gharana.  Fortunately from the very beginning their way and approach to music were very different.   Ayaan has had his own way of expression whereas Amaan has all the ingredients and qualities of being the elder brother. I never wanted to create another two Amjad Ali Khans! That was never my intention. I feel blessed that as soloists or as a duo, they have both carved out a niche for themselves in a rather deep-rooted fashion,” he added.

Ustad Khan also said that technology should be used in the proper way.

‘My guru often told me that he did what he felt was right and I should do what I felt was right. Generally, a classical musician’s guru imposes all the do’s and don’ts on the shishyas. That’s one reason why there are so many copy masters who sing and play identical like their gurus,” he said. “I still remember the love and warmth I received from revered Jaddu Krishnamoorthy, the great philosopher, and guide. I was very happy to see the guru-shishya parampara being upheld in these schools as well as others that I have visited across our country. It is this legacy that will facilitate the growth of knowledge and wisdom in harmony with well-deserved Indian traditions, in current times. I am really proud of the achievements of mankind but technology must be cultivated in harmony with peace and tradition. What worries me is that the future children of this world should not behave or look like robots. To ensure thus, it is vital that modernization must be accompanied by a reverence for India academic traditions which have been valued through times,” the maestro added.


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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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Number of Women in Workforce Falls Significantly in India! Why is it so?

Swati Sharma quit her job soon after her older daughter was born six years ago because of long working hours and lack of suitable childcare facilities. Women in workforce in India are facing challenges. VOA
  • India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth
  • An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade
  • Three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active

New Delhi, June 06, 2017: Using a work-from-home facility, Swati Sharma worked for a few months after her baby was born six years ago but quit when her company withdrew the option.

“They wanted people to come to work every day, it became very difficult,” she said, pointing out that child care facilities near her home in New Delhi did not have high standards.

Stories of women leaving jobs are common: An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade, both in sprawling cities and the vast countryside where fewer women now work on farms.

It’s a staggering number that researchers are trying to decode.

Indian economy is robust

Despite India’s buoyant economy, female employment has fallen dramatically over the last decade. Only 27 percent of women are in the workforce compared to about 40 percent in the mid-1990s. That is less than many lower-income countries like neighboring Bangladesh or other emerging economies like Brazil.

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A World Bank study released recently says India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth.

The study said three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active.

Higher incomes play role

But not all the reasons are negative. An era of high growth has increased household incomes and propelled millions of families into the middle and upper-middle class. The relative household affluence has given many women the option to drop out of the workforce.

In the lower-income strata, better incomes for farm and construction labor also resulted in many poor families in rural areas educating girls. As a result, the number of those between 15 and 25 years in school and college has doubled to 30 percent.

“Many of these young women who were working before perhaps out of necessity are now in school and building up their human capital,” said Frederico Gil Sander, senior economist at the World Bank in New Delhi.

More jobs needed for the well-educated

However not all women stay at home because there is a dearth of suitable opportunities.

“If you survey women, many of the women they want to work, but the fact is that not enough jobs are being created that women can take up,” Sander said.

Garima Verma, who relocated from New Delhi to Jaipur, says there are fewer job opportunities for women in smaller towns compared with the large cities. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

In an urbanizing country, while large cities offer regular jobs in services and manufacturing, similar avenues are not available in smaller towns.

Garima Verma, 32, for example, quit her job a year ago because she wanted a break. But some months later she moved from New Delhi to Jaipur and says finding a suitable job in a smaller city has not been easy.

“Lesser (opportunities) I would say as compared to metros definitely,” she said.

Indian workplaces can be unfriendly to women

But even in booming urban centers, women often find it hard to stay the course, partly because most Indian companies have rigid work structures and reliable child care facilities are few and far between.

Sairee Chahal, founder of SHEROES, a portal for women job seekers, said in an era of global competition, extended work hours have become the norm at most workplaces. And patriarchal attitudes in a conservative society do not help.

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“Firms are very unwelcoming around the need for flexibility, maternity is still considered a challenge. And while women have made it to the workplace, men have not picked up stuff at home and that continues to burden women at home,” Chahal said.

A need for more high tech jobs

The low participation of women in the workforce is especially surprising in a country where a large number of college graduates are women – women like Garima Verma and Swati Sharma, who both have college degrees.

“Even highly educated women are not working and this is in a way a form of a brain drain,” Sander said. “Only 34 percent of women with either a diploma or college degree are working.”

Pointing out that this includes a large number of women graduates in science and technology, the World Bank said India needs to create opportunities to tap this human capital.

Swati Sharma, for example, would like to return to work once her 6-month-old baby is a little older, but with working conditions in companies too challenging, she is taking a course so that she can teach “the only option left for me,” she said.

The World Bank said the key to closing the gender gap is to create more jobs, especially regular salaried jobs that are flexible and can be safely accessed by women.

But that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, warns human resources professional Chahal, and reversing the declining trend poses many challenges.

“We do have women who are educated – basically all set and nowhere to go, all set and no doors opening for you,” she said. (Benar News)

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