When the history of North Indian music in the 20th and 21st centuries is written, one of the giants of the story will be ALI AKBAR KHAN, who passed away at his home here in Northern California on June 18th, 2009, at the age of 87.
By any measure Khansahib, as he was called by his thousands of students and admirers, was an extraordinary musician who led an extraordinary life. On this special transmission of Hearts of Space, we celebrate his life, his playing, and his enormous contribution to contemporary music.
It was ALI AKBAR KHAN and his fellow student RAVI SHANKAR, with the help of violinist YEHUDI MENUHIN, who truly brought Indian classical music to the west beginning in 1955. Menuhin called him "an absolute genius...perhaps the greatest musician in the world."
ALI AKBAR KHAN was born in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1922. At the time, his father ALLAUDIN KHAN was already a major figure in Indian music, and was established as the chief musician at the court of the Maharaja of Maihar in central India. It was here that Ali Akbar Khan grew up and became his father's student.
Hindustani music traces back to Vedic times over 3000 years ago and was originally based on the singing of sacred texts. This legacy gave North Indian classical music a serious, devotional quality, but eventually the full range of emotional experiences were incorporated into the music.
In Indian music, the system of ragas or "seed compositions" on which the player improvises, has developed over many generations of oral transmission. Raga is the basis of both performance practice and the teaching tradition embodied in the musical guru/disciple relationship. Ali Akbar Khan received this tradition from his father and passed it on to generations of students during a lifetime of teaching, concertizing and composing.
His father Allaudin Khan, who lived to be 110(!) and is said to have played over 200 instruments, decided that young Ali Akbar would concentrate on just one: the sarode, a fretless Indian instrument in the lute family descended from the Persian rebab, with 25 strings — 4 main strings for melody, 6 for rhythm, and 15 drone or sympathetic strings for harmonics and ambience. The instrument is made of teak, with a goatskin diaphragm stretched over a resonator, and a polished metal fingerboard. With his sarode, his tradition, and the power of his teaching, Ali Akbar Khan...moved...the world of music.
While each raga is designed for a specific time of day, on this program we feature selections from several ragas from Ali Akbar Khan's dozens of recordings: a Morning Meditation from the album JOURNEY; two alap movements or slow introductions — Rag Shri from ALI ALKBAR KHAN PLAYS ALAP, and the alap from Raga Gauri Manjari; and the most famous of his original compositions, Raga Chandranandan from SIGNATURE SERIES, Volume 1. Finally, the evening raga Darbari Kanra, from the album GARDEN of DREAMS. In tone, technique, phrasing, mood and depth, you'll hear the work of a master musician at his peak.
A tribute to ALI AKBAR KHAN...on this edition...of Hearts of Space.