Ali Akbar Khan is a name that is virtually synonymous with the sarod. He is one of the first people to take the instrument into the international arena. This is due to his untiring efforts as a performer and an educator.
He was born in 1922 in Bengal, in a region that is now Bangladesh. He began his musical training at the age of three under his father, the legendary Allauddin Khan. He also began to learn percussion under his uncle Fakir Aftabuddin. He studied voice and a number of instruments before settling on the sarod. He continued to learn from his father until his father passed away in 1972.
His professional career hs been very rich. His first public performance was in Allahabad in at the age of 13. He made his first recording when he was only in his 20s. As a young man he was made the court musician to the Maharaja of Jodhpur. He retained this position however for only three years; his service came to an end with the death of the Maharaja.
Ali Akbar made his first trip to the United States in 1955. This tour was one of the factors that would lead to the popular acceptance of Indian music during the 1960s. It is said that his TV performance during this period was the first public broadcast of Indian music in the US.
Ali Akbar's long career has been rich indeed. He has performed and composed music for numerous films. Two notable ones are Satyajit Ray's "Devi", and Bernardo Bertolucci's "Little Buddha". He has also received numerous awards, titles, and honorary degrees. Notable among them are honorary doctorates from, New England Conservatory of Music, Viswa Bharati University, California Institute of the Arts, University of Delhi, University of Dacca, Rabindra Bharati University. He also has numerous Grammy nominations.
He is a tireless educator. He established the Ali Akbar College of Music in Calcutta in 1956. In the 1960s he established a branch in Marin County in California. Ali Akbar also regularly teaches in Switzerland. He is a distinguished Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of California in Santa Cruz.
Ali Akbar Khan passed away on June19, 2009 at the age of 87.
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