Maestro Ali Akbar Khan (1922 - 2009)

June 22, 2009

Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, considered by many to be among the greatest musicians of our times, passed away in San Rafael, CA on June 18, 2009. He was in many ways a true embodiment of Asian America and was one of India's most important musical ambassadors to the west. His father, the mystical music genius Baba Allaudin Khan, trained Ali Akbar Khan rigorously and instructed him to take classical north Indian music to the West. Khansahib carried with him the open spirit of his father, who made it possible for any one, regardless of background, to learn classical north Indian music from a master. He established the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, CA in 1967, and went on to teach thousands of students.

You can watch a brief video of Ali Akbar Khan demonstrating the sarode here

The following obituary was written by Teed Rockwell:

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

1922 - ­2009


Swara Samrat Maestro Ali Akbar Khan passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family on June 18, 2009.  Khansahib (as he was affectionately and respectfully addressed) had been a dialysis patient since 2004, and had been enduring numerous health issues ever since. He continued teaching publicly at the Ali Akbar College until just weeks ago, and taught music at home until the day he died.
The obituaries throughout India and the rest of the world have rightly stressed that Khansahib was a musical genius of the stature of Beethoven and Mozart. However, those of us in the Bay Area are especially grateful for another of his great accomplishments. This was not something he directly created, but rather something that he inspired in others. Students of Indian music came to the Bay area solely because he was here, from Japan, South America, Europe, even India itself. Other great Indian teachers followed, and the result was a community devoted to classical Indian culture that deeply influenced the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The early issues of India Currents were devoted almost entirely to calendar listings of concerts by these students and teachers, and Khansahib remained the central inspiration of that community for decades. He was admired and loved, and will be greatly missed.
Khansahib was famous for his performances at the world greatest concert halls, and for his many recordings. Eight months of every year, however, he gave himself entirely to his students. We were constantly inspired by Khansahib¹s example of artistic dedication and compassionate patience, and  anyone who tried to master the profound intricacies of his lessons was forever changed by that experience. These lessons contained centuries of tradition seamlessly interwoven with his own unique genius. No one learned how to play them as well as he did, but everyone learned how to listen, and shared their enthusiasm with friends, and friends of friends. The result was an audience for Hindustani music which was unmatched for both ethnic diversity and devotion to artistic excellence. It is both heartbreaking and inspiring to realize that this community can and must now go on without him.
The memorial service and burial was held at Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery Sunday, June 21st at noon. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Ali Akbar College of Music (AACM) for the Ali Akbar Khan Library. Online donations can be made at

Teed Rockwell
Music Critic, India Currents.
2419A Tenth St.
Berkeley CA 94710

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to AACM for the Ali Akbar Khan Library.


Robin Sukhadia
Mr. Hyphen 2006/2007

Mr. H logo.GIF





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