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Article: Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan passes away

By Haresh Bakshi

Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on Friday died in San Francisco in the US.

Legendary sarod exponent Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, one of the greatest Indian classical musicians of modern times, was in personal life a man of great compassion, innocence and humility, and sharp memory.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, who took Indian classical music to the world stage, passed away in California Friday after a prolonged kidney aliment. He was 87.

He is the greatest musician India has ever produced He tops the list of three trend-setters in Indian music that includes Begum Akhtar and Ustad Amir Khan.

Born on April 14, 1922, in Comilla in present day Bangladesh, maestro Ali Akbar Khan traces his ancestry to Mian Tansen, the 16th century musical genius and court musician of Emperor Akbar. His sister, Annapurna Devi, was married to sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar.

The sarod maestro is survived by 11 children, including the great sarod player Ustad Ashish Khan.

Ali Akbar was one of the early band of Indian classical musicians who took Indian traditional music to the world - especially to the US and helped it carve a niche for itself.

He is the creator of several famous ragas, including Gauri Manjari, Lajwanti, Madhavi and Madhu Malati.

He gave his first public performance at the age of 13. In his early 20s, the sarod exponent cut his first HMV label and subsequently became the court musician of the Maharaja of Jodhpur for seven years. He learnt music from his father Ustad Allauddin Khan as well as uncle Fakir Aftabuddin. He was also part of the Uday Shankar's music and dance ensemble.

His upbringing was austere and he practised music for 18 hours a day.

He founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Kolkata in 1956 and relocated to US in 1965 to teach Indian music to American youth. He set up the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in San Rafael near San Francisco and Switzerland. He has millions of fans across the globe.

Musician-writer Peter Lavezzoli, in his book 'Bhairavi' says Ali Akbar Khan was the first Indian classical musician to appear on US television. At the request of violinist Yehudi Menuhin, Ali Akbar visited the US in 1955 and performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He also cut an LP - the first recording of Indian classical music - in the US.

Ali Akbar Khan composed the songs and background score for the 1953 movie Aandhiyan, a Navketan production directed by Chetan Anand, starring Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik. The music was widely acclaimed, Dutt said.

His list of awards is long. In 1960, he was conferred the Best Musician of the Year Award for his work in the movie Hungry Stones directed by Tapan Sinha and in 1963 he was honoured with the President of India Award. He was also given the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibushan by the government.

Besides, he won several prestigious awards in US and Britain.

[Excerpts, courtesy]




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