Khansahib: In memoriam

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See also: Ali Akbar Khan discography


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This page expresses my appreciation for the incomparable musician Ali Akbar Khan, written after his passing in June 2009. His Wikipedia page contains a wealth of interesting biographical information; I won't repeat any of it here. The picture on the left shows him as a young boy (in 1933, at age 11), literally under the hand of his father, Ustad Allauddin Khan. The picture on the right (from Concert for Bangladesh, 1971) is how I remember him. Charles Amirkhanian's lengthy 1992 interview with Khansahib at radiom.org gives an overview of his life and music, followed by a performance of Raga Chandranandan.


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During my college years in the 1960s, my audiophile friend Ed introduced me to Khansahib's astonishing Connoisseur Society LPs, with amazing sound and electrifying performances. I loved the music, but I didn't understand much about it yet.


I listened to more Hindustani music, including the suddenly popular Ravi Shankar, and occasionally to Nonesuch's recordings of Carnatic music as well. In the summer of 1967, Ravi Shankar's Festival from India toured the USA and stopped in Boston. My first exposure to live Hindustani music completely blew me away: Ravi Shankar, the matchless Alla Rakha, Lakshmi Shankar, Shivkumar Sharma (playing both santoor and tablas), and many others. I was hooked. I went back for a second night.


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But I still hadn't seen Khansahib live. When I came to northern California for graduate school, I learned that Khansahib lived and taught nearby. Before long, Ed and I made the pilgrimage to an Ali Akbar College concert in San Rafael. Soon after, Khansahib played a magical all-night concert at a small church on a Terra Linda hilltop, with Nikhil Banerjee listening attentively from the front row. Connoisseur Society kept issuing LPs; here are two of my great favorites, the fantastic Raga Manj Khammaj duet with Mr. Banerjee and Shree Rag with Shankar Ghosh playing tabla.


Many more Bay Area concerts followed over ensuing decades: in Dinkelspiel auditorium at Stanford, with Khansahib confounding his tabla player, a very young Zakir Hussain; an afternoon Sangeet Mela at a small park across from Stanford Shopping Center, celebrating the 100th birthday of Allauddin Khansahib; at Wheeler Auditorium and St. John's Church in Berkeley; a memorial concert for Allauddin Khansahib in Alameda (program below); at the De Young Museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and Cowell Theater in San Francisco; so many wonderful memories.


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More LPs followed too, and cassettes, and eventually CDs. This illustrated discography lists the Khansahib recordings I own.


Indian music concerts usually do not supply printed programs, but I saved a few programs and concert fliers from the 1980s and 1990s.

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SF
9/13/87
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SF
10/01/88
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Alameda
6/03/89
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Alameda
6/03/89
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SF
10/22/95
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SF
10/18/98
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SF
10/18/98

I wrote Khansahib to congratulate him when he received a MacArthur award in 1991, and he wrote this reply.

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I love the music of many Indian musicians, but none more than Khansahib's; the beautiful complex shaping of each note during an alap, the explosive attack when he pounds a string, his amazing melodic invention, the incredible rhythmic complexity during a gat as he wanders farther and farther from the beat, only to return as if by magic on sum, his glorious jugalbandis with Mr. Banerjee and Dr. Subramaniam. I treasure his wonderful recordings, and I look forward to future years of listening to the devoted students to whom he gave so much in the last four decades of his life. The music lives on!


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