Showing posts with label the sarod. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the sarod. Show all posts

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ali Akbar Khan, 1922-2009

The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that Ali Akbar Khan, the master Indian musician and composer who was a key figure in introducing the music of India to the United States, has died at age 87. Khan was born 14 April 1922, in Shivpur, East Bengal (now Bangladesh), and began playing the sarod (a 25-stringed instrument that is similar to the Middle Eastern oud) and other instruments as a boy. He became a legendary sarod player and music teacher, but for many his greatest significance was in the popularization of Indian music to the West. Remarkably, he recorded more than 95 albums, was nominated for five Grammy Awards, and composed scores for both Indian and Western films, including Satyajit Ray’s DEVI (1960), Merchant-Ivory’s THE HOUSEHOLDER (1963), and Bernardo Bertolucci’s LITTLE BUDDHA (1993). The L. A. Times obituary said:

“He was instrumental in transforming Indian music into an international tradition in a way that was unprecedented,” said David Trasoff of Los Angeles, a senior student of Khan’s who has studied north Indian classical music and sarod performance for the last 36 years. “What he attempted to do and, I believe, succeeded in doing was to transplant this very deep musical tradition by committing himself to a level of teaching that resulted in a number of protégés who have gone on to present this music throughout the world,” Trasoff said.

Khan’s earliest record in the West was issued on the Angel label in 1955; Odeon began issuing his records in the early 1960s (available in the U. S. as imports), followed by a series of records issued in the United States by the Connoisseur Society beginning in 1965. Additionally, Khan’s duets with Ravi Shankar were a key factor in introducing the latter musician to rock culture. By the late 1960s, the music of the sarod became frequently associated with the psychedelic experience, that is, with transcendence and transformation, and while Khan recorded very few pieces for films in the West, his influence can be heard, for instance, in soundtracks such as that of Jack Nitzsche’s for PERFORMANCE (1970). As I indicated earlier, Khan recorded many dozens of albums, but here are few of them that had some influence on the rock music of the 1960s:

Morning & Evening Ragas (Angel, 1955)
Music of India (with Ravi Shankar) (Odeon, 1960)
Classical Music of India (Odeon, 1961)
Ali Akbar Khan (Odeon, 1965)
Master Musician of India (Connoisseur Society, 1966)
Predawn to Sunrise Ragas (Connoisseur Society, 1967)
Flowers of Evil: Six Poems By Baudelaire narrated by Yvette Mimieux (Connoisseur Society, 1968)
Shree Rag (Connoisseur Society, 1969) (1970 Grammy Award Nomination)
Concert for Bangla Desh (with Ravi Shankar) (Apple, 1971)
In Concert 1972 (with Ravi Shankar) (Apple, 1972)

Although there many sites on the web featuring Khan playing the sarod, for convenience I've made a link to one of them here.