Beyond Words

Some things just can't be put into words. In the case of Indian classical music, neither can they be put on paper.

"It would be extremely difficult to record and subsequently interpret the subtle nuances [of the music] on paper," writes maestro Amjad Ali Khan, the much-admired sarod artist who will perform this Saturday in Scottsdale. "We therefore follow an 'oral' tradition," he continues, explaining that his haunting ragas are never written or scored.

But the phrase "oral tradition" is perhaps misleading. Khan's music, produced on the sarod -- a short-necked, unfretted lute -- has no accompanying lyrics. Instead, it intimates emotion through slides in pitch and graceful embellishment: characteristically Indian devices that, brilliantly executed, have secured Khan's international reputation.

"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 says.

Khan's Scottsdale concert, Notes of Hope, will transcend borders as well as barriers: All profits will benefit ASHA-Arizona, a nonprofit organization that funds programs for underprivileged children in India. Recent programs sponsored by the local volunteer group (whose name, asha, means "hope" in Hindi) include a home for orphaned children and the Association for the Promotion of Social Action, a community development organization that helps street children and child laborers.

"When Amjad Ali Khan performs," according to no less an authority than the Dalai Lama, "he carries a deep human spirit, a warm feeling, and a sense of caring."

This week, he offers his audience the opportunity to demonstrate the same.