You are here

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan or Khansahib as he was known as (born April 14, 1922 in Bangladesh, the erstwhile East Bengal) is the son of the late Padma Vibhusan Acharya Dr. Allauddin Khan, the greatest musician of North India of the century. He belongs to gharana (the ancestral tradition) to Mian Tansen, the 16th century court musician and musical genius of Emperor Akbar. He is the maestro of the sarode a 25-stringed Indian instrument. Ustad Aashish Khan, a Grammy nominee of 2007 and well known sarod player, is his son.

Ali Akbar Khan is considered ‘National Living Treasure’ in India and is admired as an accomplished musician by both the Eastern and Western musicians. The late Lord Yehudi Menuhin called him, ‘An absolute genius...the greatest musician in the world’.

Education & Career of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Ali Akbar Khan took initiation into music at the very early age of three studying vocal music from his father besides several instruments. He studies drums from Fakir Aftabuddin, his uncle. He then decided to focus on the sarode as well as vocal. His father continued to teach him till he died in 1972. Khansahib followed his father's tradition, Sri Baba Allauddin Seni Gharana of Maihar and Rampur, India.

His first public performance was at Allahabad at age thirteen. His first recording was done in his early twenties at Lucknow under the HMV label. He became thereafter, he joined as the court musician of Maharaja of Jodhpur until the King’s death seven years later. The king conferred on him the title of ‘Ustad’, or Master Musician.

Contribution in Music by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

He performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955 at the invitation of Lord Menuhin. He was the first Indian classical musician to record a Western LP and to give the first television performance on Allistair Cooke's Omnibus.
In 1956, he founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Kolkatta.

He also taught in America in 1965 founding the Ali Akbar College of Music in Berkeley in 1967, he founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Berkeley (later moved to Marin County, California). His college opened a branch at Basel, Switzerland, (which is run by Ken Zuckerman, his disciple). He tours all over the world.

He has also composed and recorded music for films such as ‘Aandhiyan’ (1953), ‘House Holder’ (Ivory/Merchant), ‘Khudita Pashan’(winning ‘Best Musician of the Year’ award), ‘Devi’ (Satyajit Ray), and ’Little Buddha’ (Bernardo Bertolucci).
He performed at the United Nations in New York and at Kennedy Center in Washington DC in 1997 in celebration of the 50th Year of Independence of India at the requested of Indian government.

Awards and Achievements of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Khan received the National Endowment for the Arts' prestigious National Heritage Fellowship (1997); Asian Paints Shiromani Award - Hall of (1997); the MacArthur Genius Grant (1991); and Padma Vibhushan (1989). He was also conferred the title of Hathi Saropao and Dowari Tajeem at the Jodhpur (1993) at the Jodhpur Palace's Golden Jubilee Celebraton. His father gave him the title, Swara Samrat (Emperor of Melody), a recognition that he was proud of.