Editor’s note: Ali Akbar Khan passed away on June 18, 2009.
In his native India, Ali Akbar Khan is considered a national living treasure. This revered figure has passed down his musical mastery to more than 10,000 students worldwide. With a teaching style very distinct from Western classical musicians, Khan composes new “ragas” (melodies) on the spot as his students listen and try to play by ear. Spark sits in on a class at the Ali Akbar College of Music and watch Khan in concert to experience his unique melody-making.
Born in Bangladesh in 1922, Khan began his musical studies at the age of 3. Later, concentrating on vocals and the sarode (a lute like instrument made of 25 metal strings), Khan became the court musician to the Maharaja of Jodhpur and made the first Western LP recording of Indian classical music. Throughout his career, he has also composed and recorded music for international films.
In 1956, Khan founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Calcutta, India. Almost a decade later, recognizing the extraordinary interest and abilities of his Western students, he established a college of the same name in San Rafael, California, where he currently maintains a teaching schedule of six classes a week for nine months out of the year. Khan continues to perform all over the world and has earned some of music’s highest honors, including the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Over a lifetime of practice and performance, sarode maestro Khan has learned about 75,000 different ragas.
Ali Akbar College of Music
Where: 215 West End Avenue, San Rafael
Phone: (415) 454-6264