Ali Akbar Khan
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Ali Akbar Khan (April 14, 1922 – June 19, 2009) was an Indian sarod player. 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. He came to prominence during the first and second waves of world music, in recordings produced by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin in the 1950s. He was at one time the brother-in-law of Ravi Shankar.
Ali Akbar Khan, after years of rigorous training gave his debut performance at a music conference in Allahabad 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, Lucknow. Finally in 1944, both Shankar and Khan left Maihar to start their professional careers as musicians; Shankar went to Bombay, 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 pricely 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, 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 Kshudista 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 Kanra. 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 Music in Calcutta, with the mission to teach and spread Indian classical music. He founded another school of the same name in Berkeley, California in 1967 and later moved it to San Rafael, California. In 1985 he founded another branch of the Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel, Switzerland. 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 Garden for the 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.