Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunrise Raga: Ustad Ali Akbar Khan




Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was apparently hailed as ‘the world’s greatest musician’ by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who was responsible for introducing the genius of the sarod to Western audiences in the 1950s. 

The son of influential Hindustani musician Allaudin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan was one of the Eastern world's greatest musicians. A master of the sarod, a 25-stringed, lute-like, Indian instrument, Khan brought the Northern Indian classical music to the international stage. A five-time Grammy nominee, Khan was called, by Yehudi Menuhin, "an absolute genius, the greatest musician in the world." Tracing his ancestral roots to Mian Tansen, a 16th century musician in the court of Emperor Akbar, Khan began studying music at the age of three. Initially studying vocal music with his father, he studied drums with his uncle, Fakir Aftabuddin. Although he tried playing a wide variety of instruments, he felt most comfortable on the sarod. Training and practicing 18 hours a day, he slowly mastered the instrument. In 1936, he made his public debut during a concert in Allahabad. In the early '40s, Khan became a court musician for the Maharaja of Jodhpur. He soon acquired the title "Ustad" (master musician).

In 1955, Khan accepted an invitation from Menuhin to perform in the United States. In addition to performing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he recorded the first Western album of Indian classical music and became the first Indian music on an American television when he appeared on Alistair Cooke's Omnibus. In 1971, Khan performed with his brother-in-law, Ravi Shankar, during George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden. Khan received numerous awards including the President of India Award in 1963, the Padma Vibhusan in 1988, the Bill Graham Lifetime Achievement award in 1993, and the Asian Paints Shiromani Hall of Fame Award in 1997. He received the Kalidas Sanman from the Madya Pradesh Academy of Music And Fine Arts and became the first Indian musician to be awarded a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" in 1991. Khan received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1997.

In 1956, Khan founded the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in Calcutta. Teaching in the United States since 1965, he opened the Ali Akbar College of Music in Berkeley, CA, two years later. (In 1968, the school moved to a new site in San Rafael.) Khan taught six classes a week for nine months a year. In the early '90s, the school opened branches in Fremont, CA, and Basel, Switzerland. The lengthy list of films featuring Khan's music includes Chetan Anand's Aandhiyan, Satyajit Ray's Devi, and Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha. He received a Best Musician of the Year award for his soundtrack for the film Khudita Pashan. (AMG)

I am away from home and exhausted; so this short introduction will suffice for now. Tonight’s record is from 1977 and highlights one of the Ustad’s own compositions, raga malayam. Based on several morning ragas the name refers to those of his mother (Malaya) and father (Alam).

A lovely recording to play on Sunday (or any) morning.


Track Listing;
  1. Raga Malayam (Alap)
  2. Raga Malayam (Gat, Vilambhit, Drut)




6 comments:

Keido said...

Thank you for posting a wonderful recording (and congratulations on a great website). I was fortunate to attend a concert by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in Berkeley in the late 80s. I forget which raga he played but from the first notes I was completely mesmerized, as if the power of the Godhead was passing through the maestro into me like a laser. It was such a moving, mystical experience that when the raga ended I did something I never do at concerts: I screamed (everyone else just applauded). Like many others, I rate Ustad Ali Akbar Khan up there with the great artists of the century: Hariprasad Chaurasia, Alla Rakha (and Zakir Hussain), Ram Narayan, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, and Ravi Shankar. Keep up the good work. Thanks again. Keido

Torbill Duallman said...

Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks once again sir! Your site continues to inspire many a intrepid listener the world over I am sure. I just wanted to say my thanks and let you know I am still listening and absorbing all this wonderful music and knowledge you so generously impart on us.
Love your site! long may it continue!

Mofonk

Unknown said...

Ustad saheb was beyond mastery and all the current masters. Zakir hussain called him the master of the masters - someone whom all masters died to play with..His raag nat bhairav is daily imbibed with my morning tea in the hope something seeps in with the sips.

kae tang said...

thank u for all the music. this is definitely one of my favourite sites.
long may u run.

Nathan Rabe said...

Kae Tang,
Thanks for the comments and glad you enoy the site and that album!