Self-titled as “the world’s greatest classical music festival”, the BBC Proms first welcomed Indian classical music in 1971, and has since hosted such world-class performers as Ravi Shankar, Imrat Khan, and Shaan. 76-year-old sarod master Amjad Ali Khan returned to the Proms for the first time since his Proms debut in 1994. The small but unusually diverse audience gave him a standing ovation as soon as he entered the stage.
True to form, Khan is as expressive with his instrument as the human voice: in the space of a single phrase, he plucks with raspy attack, or softly strokes; some notes are staccato, while others he sustains with wild bend, using a metal finger-slide tube.
Khan also squeezed in a bit of non-programmed tarana singing into the 90-minute Prom, and hearing his mellifluous voice side-by-side with his sarod also showed the extent to which he truly lives and breathes this music.
For the third section, Khan duetted with his two sons, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, representing the seventh generation of the Senia Bangash School. The call-and-response format of the semi-improvised raga (where Khan would improvise a short fragment and his sons would attempt to parrot it) could be seen as slightly gimmicky, compared with the rest of the programme. But there is something magical about seeing this ancient oral tradition in miniature, passed down from father to son, live on stage.
Tickets for all 72 Proms are available from just £7.12 on the BBC Proms 2022 website.