Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, 1922-2009

From The Hindu:

Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan died in San Francisco, U.S., on Friday after a prolonged kidney ailment, according to a family friend here.

Khan, 88, died at his music centre, according to Rabin Pal, secretary of sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Mr. Pal said he was informed about the death by the Ustad’s family in San Francisco.

Khan’s secretary here Ashish Roy said the maestro, who was on dialysis, was ailing for over four years and his condition deteriorated in the last four months.

A recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, the Ustad was a colossus in the world of Indian classical music for the last five decades. He is survived by his wife Mary, three sons and a daughter.

Hailed by violinist Yehudi Menuhin as ‘the greatest musician in the world,’ Khan had many firsts to his credit in taking Indian classical music to the west. He was admired by both eastern as well as western musicians for his brilliant compositions and his mastery of the 25-string instrument.

The illustrious son of Ustad Alauddin Khan was the first to cut a long play record of Indian classical music in the U.S. and to give a sarod recital on American TV.

The Ustad was also the first Indian musician to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1991. He was nominated for Grammy Awards five times between 1970 and 1998.

Born on April 14, 1922 in Shibpur village of Comilla district, now in Bangladesh, Khan took up music at the age of 3, learning vocal music from his father and percussion from his uncle, Fakir Aftabuddin.

His father trained him in several other instruments too, but he decided to concentrate on sarod and vocals.

Khan gave his first public performance in Allahabad at the age of 13 and made his first gramophone recording in Lucknow when he was in his early 20s. He became the court musician of the Maharaja of Jodhpur and continued for seven years until his patron’s death. The state of Jodhpur bestowed upon him the title ‘Ustad.’ At the request of Menuhin, Khan visited the U.S. in 1955 and performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

He founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Kolkata in 1956. In 1965, he began teaching in the U.S. and later opened a branch of his college there and in Switzerland.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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