Sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan passes away at 87

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 19, 2009 16:01 hrs

Noted Sarod player Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, who belonged to Sania Maihar Gharana, breathed his last on Friday at his residence in San Anselmo, San Francisco, USA. He was 87.

During his illustrious career, was awarded Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honour 1989, National Heritage Fellowship (1997) highest award for traditional Arts in the US, MacArthur Genius Grant (1991) and was nominated for five Grammy Awards.

Born in 1922, in village of Shibpur, Comilla in Bangladesh Ali Akbar Khan was the child of Baba Allauddin Khan, the illustrious multi-talented maestro and Madina Begum.

Khan had his training in both vocal and Sarod from his father at a very early age. He began learning music at the age of three. He learnt vocal music from his father and drums from his uncle, Fakir Aftabuddin. He learnt several other musical instruments too but finally decided to concentrate on the Srod and on vocal.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan gave his first public performance in Allahabad at the age of thirteen. In his early twenties, Ali Akbar Khan made his first recording in Lucknow for the HMV label, and the next year, he became the court musician to the Maharaja of Jodhpur. He worked there for seven years and the state of Jodhpur bestowed upon him the title of "Ustad".

He was also adept in playing several other instruments like Sur Bahar, Sitar, Tabla, Drums etc. He became a court musician of Jodhpur Kingdom at the age of 22. He performed all over India and extensively in the West.

Khan married three times and was the father of 11 children. His son Aashish Khan is a noted Sarod player.

He founded Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in 1956 at Kolkata and another College of the same name at Berkeley, California in 1958.

A branch of this college was opened in Basel, Switzerland in 1985. The School at US was moved to its present location at San Rafael, California in 1968.

Khan's style of Sarod playing was to bring out more melody with fewer strokes. He was known for his long expansion of Raga in Alap and Jod and mesmerising Gat and Jhala.

He also performed many Jugalbandis with the likes of Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Nikhil Bannerjee, Pt. Vilayat Khan, Vid. L. Subramanyam and many western musicians. He was the first Indian to cut a Long Play record of Indian music in the West. (ANI)

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