I was very happy to return to the 63rd Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata this January. I had to skip the last two editions of the conference because of prior commitments. To attend the festival this year, I had to decline an invitation for the reception hosted by the president of India in honour of the president of the United States.
It is interesting that music festivals in West Bengal have been called conferences for many decades. This particular festival is historic and continues to draw a large number of music lovers from all over the world. In fact, many NRIs plan their yearly visit to India keeping the festival dates in mind. These dates have remained the same over the years, January 22 to 25. This is the only festival in India where the concept of night-long sessions still exists. I took the stage at 3am and wrapped up by 6am; it was the last performance of the festival. There was a fabulous line-up of many artistes the previous night, which also included my elder son, Amaan Ali Khan. This festival, for four nights, is always a sell-out.
I was most intrigued and spiritually uplifted while performing at the Buddha Festival in Nagpur the previous week. The festival takes place at Deeksha Bhoomi, the modern capital of Buddhism in India. Nagpur Buddhist Centre has taken the initiative to promote the righteous way and the true heritage of India through art and culture. The wisdom and compassion of Buddhism has had its resonance all over the world. It was truly inspiring to be part of a festival that is associated with India's heritage.
Another beautiful festival I recently participated in was the Rajarani Music Festival. It was held against the backdrop of the eleventh century Rajarani temple in Bhubaneswar, and the verdant premises of the magnificent temple made the ambiance and surroundings truly inspiring.
I am so happy that many young artistes like Sudha Raghunathan and Shekhar Sen have been honoured with Padma awards for their contributions. It is a special feeling to be recognised by your own countrymen.
I witnessed a great performance by Sudha Raghunathan just a few days before the award was announced, at the Nishagandhi open air auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram. I also performed the following day at the festival organised by the tourism department of Kerala.
I would like to congratulate eminent singer and theatre director Shekhar Sen on his appointment as chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the country's premier institution for performing arts. As a young boy, it was an inspiration to watch President Rajendra Prasad honouring my guru and father, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1953 and fellowship in 1954, along with many great creative people, such as Vidwan Semmangudi R. Srinivasa Iyer, Prithviraj Kapoor and Kesarbai Kerkar.
My sons, Amaan and Ayaan, will be presenting three new pieces for the New York Chamber Music Festival at Symphony Space with internationally renowned violinist Elmira Darvarova, the first female concertmaster in the history of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Instrumental music, be it western classical or Indian classical, transcends all barriers. As there are no lyrics, there is no language barrier between the artiste and the listener.