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Ali Akbar Khan ( ) (14 April 1922 – 18 June 2009), often referred to as Khansahib or by the title Ustad (master), was a Hindustani classical musician of the Maihar gharana, known for his virtuosity in playing the sarod. Khan was instrumental in popularizing Indian classical music in the West, both as a performer (often in conjunction with Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar), and as a teacher. He established a music school in Calcuttamarker in 1956, and the Ali Akbar College of Musicmarker in 1967, which is now located in San Rafael, California and has a branch in Baselmarker, Switzerland. Khan also composed several classical ragas and filmscore.He was a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Trained as a musician and instrumentalist by his father, Allauddin Khan, Khan first came to America in 1955 on the invitation of violinist Yehudi Menuhin and later settled in California. Khan was nominated for five Grammy Awards and was accorded India's second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, in 1989. He has also won a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts's National Heritage Fellowship.

Childhood and training

Ali Akbar Khan was born in the village of Shibpur, Comillamarker, in present-day Bangladeshmarker (then East Bengal), to revered musician and teacher, Allauddin Khan and Madina Begum. Soon after his birth, khan's family returned to Maiharmarker (in present day Madhya Pradeshmarker, India) where his father was the primary court musician for the Maharaja of the princely state.

From an early age Khan received training from his father in various instruments as well as vocal composition, but finally gravitated towards the sarod. Allauddin was a perfectionist and a strict taskmaster, and Khan's lessons started before dawn and often lasted 18 hours a day. Khan also learned to play the tabla and the pakhavaj from his uncle, Aftabuddin Khan, who he visited at Shibpur. During this period he met several prominent musicians, such as the sarodist Timir Baran and flutist Pannalal Ghosh, who came to study with his father; in later years he was joined in his lessons by his sister Annapurna Devi, who became an accomplished player of the surbahar, and fellow student Ravi Shankar. Shankar and Annapurna Devi were married in 1941.

Of his training on the sarod, he wrote:

Career

Ali Akbar Khan, after years of rigorous training gave his debut performance at a music conference in Allahabadmarker in 1936, at the age of 13. Three years later, in December 1939, he accompanied Ravi Shankar on the sarod during the latter's debut performance at the same conference; this was the first of many jugalbandis (duets) between the two musicians. In 1938 Khan gave his first recital on All India Radio (AIR), Bombay (accompanied on the tabla by Alla Rakha), and starting in January 1940, he gave monthly performances on AIR, Lucknowmarker. Finally in 1944, both Shankar and Khan left Maihar to start their professional careers as musicians; Shankar went to Bombaymarker, while Khan became the youngest Music Director for AIR, Lucknow and was responsible for solo performances and composing for the radio orchestra.

In 1943, on his father's recommendation, Khan was appointed a court musician for the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Hanumant Singh. There, he taught and composed music besides giving recitals and was accorded the title of Ustad by the Maharaja. When the princely states were wound down with India's independence in 1947 and Hanumant Singh died in a plane crash in 1948, Khan moved to Bombay.

In Bombay, he won acclaim as a composer of several film scores, including Chetan Anand's Aandhiyan, Satyajit Ray's Devi, Merchant-Ivory's The Householder, and Tapan Sinha's Kshudhita Pashan ("Hungry stones"), for which he won the "Best Musician of the Year" award. Later in 1993, he would score some of the music for Bernardo Bertolucci Little Buddha.

Beginning in 1945, Khan also started recording a series of 78 rpm disks (which could record about 3 minutes of music) at the HMV Studios in Bombay. For one such record he conceived a new composition Raga Chandranandan ("moonstruck"), based on four evening ragas, Malkauns, Chandrakauns, Nandakauns and Kaushi Kanada. This record was a huge success in India and the raga found a worldwide audience when a 22 minute rendition was re-recorded for the Master Musician of India LP in 1965 - one of Khan's seminal recordings.

He performed in India and traveled extensively in the West. In 1956, Khan founded the Ali Akbar College of Musicmarker in Calcuttamarker, with the mission to teach and spread Indian classical music. He founded another school of the same name in Berkeley, Californiamarker in 1967 and later moved it to San Rafael, Californiamarker. In 1985 he founded another branch of the Ali Akbar College of Musicmarker in Baselmarker, Switzerlandmarker. Khan was the first Indian musician to record an LP album of Indian classical music in the United States and to play sarod on American television.

Khan has participated in a number of classic jugalbandi pairings, most notably with Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee and violinist L. Subramaniam. A few recordings of duets with Vilayat Khan also exist. He also collaborated with Western musicians. In 1971 Khan performed at the Madison Square Gardenmarker for the Concert for Bangladesh along with Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha and Kamala Chakravarty; other musicians at the concert included Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. An album and a movie of the concert were later released.

Khan was based in the United States for the last four decades of his life. He toured extensively until he was prevented from doing so by ill-health in the period prior to his death from renal failure.

Personal life

Ali Akbar Khan married three times and is survived by seven sons and four daughters. His eldest son, Aashish Khan is also a reputed sarod player.

Awards

Khan was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1989, among other awards. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1991. In 1997, Khan received the National Endowment for the Arts' prestigious National Heritage Fellowship, the United States' highest honour in the traditional arts. Khan has received two Grammy nominations.

Notes

  1. "Renowned Indian musician and former UCSC Distinguished Adjunct Professor Ali Akbar Khan dies at 87"
  2. http://www.hindu.com/2009/06/20/stories/2009062057862000.htm
  3. http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_legendary-sarod-maestro-ali-akbar-no-more_1266466


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