USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Ustad Ali Akbar Khan is a North Indian classical musician of the Maihar gharana who plays the sarod. His performances worldwide have established the modern sarod idiom and contributed to greater awareness of Indian classical music.


Ustad Ali Akbar Khan is one of the most accomplished Indian classical musicians. He is admired all over the world for his brilliant compositions and his mastery of the sarode. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan is considered by many as the “Indian Johann Sebastian Bach.”


Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was born on April 14, 1922 in East Bengal (Bangladesh). His family traces its gharana (ancestral tradition) to Mian Tansen, a 16th century musical genius and court musician of Emperor Akbar. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s father, the late Padma Vibhusan Acharya Dr. Allauddin Khan, was regarded as the greatest figure in North Indian music in 20th century.


Ali Akbar Khan started learning music from the age of three. He learnt vocal music from his father and drums from his uncle, Fakir Aftabuddin. Ali Akbar Khan learnt several other musical instruments too but finally decided to concentrate on the sarode and on vocal.


Ustad Ali Akbar Khan gave his first public performance in Allahabad at the age of thirteen. In his early twenties, Ali Akbar Khan made his first recording in Lucknow for the HMV label, and the next year, he became the court musician to the Maharaja of Jodhpur. He worked there for seven years and the state of Jodhpur bestowed upon him the title of Ustad. Several years later Ustad Ali Akbar Khan received the title of Hathi Saropao and Dowari Tajeem at the Jodhpur Palace’s Golden Jubilee Celebraton in 1993.


Ali Akbar Khan first visited the United States in 1955 on the request of Lord Menuhin and gave a memorable concert at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan played a major role in popularizing Indian classical music in the US. He founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Calcutta, India, in 1956. He began teaching in America in 1965. Later, he founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Marin County, California.


Ustad Ali Akbar Khan has given music in several films. These include: “Aandhiyan” by Chetan Anand (1953), “House Holder” by Ivory/Merchant, “Khudita Pashan” for which he won the “Best Musician of the Year” award, “Devi” by Satyajit Ray, and “Little Buddha” by Bernardo Bertolucci.


In 1997, Ali Akbar Khan was chosen for the Asian Paints Shiromani Award - Hall of Fame. He was the second recipient of the award after Satyajit Ray.


Presently, he lives in USA and teaches Indian classical music.