Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the sarod maestro who took Indian classical music to the West along with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, died in San Francisco on Friday, 19th June 2009. Once described by the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin as the greatest instrumentalist in the world, the 88 year old ustad had many firsts to his credit. The list includes introducing classical music in film scores. He also taught thousands of students from the West and set up his first institute in Kolkata in the late 1950s.
Born on April 14, 1922 at Shivpur in the then undivided Bengal, Ali Akbar Khan was the only son of Ustad Alauddin Khan, one of India’s greatest musicians. He grew up in the princely state of Maihar under the watchful eyes of his father, a strict disciplinarian. He had to start riyaaz at dawn and practise for several hours till he was allowed to eat.
Mand : (Download)
Madhu Malati : (Download)
In 1955, on the request of violin master Yehudi Menuhin, Ali Akbar Khan first visited the US and performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. By the sixties, the West was clamouring for more and he pushed India on the world music map, with a little help from his friend Pandit Ravi Shankar (who was earlier married to Ali Akbar Khan’s sister, Annapurna Devi).
Darbari Kanara : (Download)
Panihari : (Download)
Responding to a wave of interest in the West, he began teaching and living in the US and, in 1967, founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in California, where he had been teaching since, along with tabla stalwart Ustad Zakir Hussain. Khan Sahib also opened a branch of his college in Basel, Switzerland, run by his disciple Ken Zuckerman, where he taught when on his world tours. Speaking from London, Ustad Zakir Hussain said, “He was one of the greatest musicians ever, a musician’s musician.”
P.S : One of my many wise visitors has very rightly pointed out, my not mentioning the name of tabla maestro, Pandit Swapan Chowdhury in this post. Yes indeed, Pandit Swapan Chowdhury is one tabla player, who had one of the longest association with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, not only as an accompanyist, but also as a principal teacher at the A A K College of Music.