Song of Surrender

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Who’s Who in Indian classical music

Sarod maestro Aashish Khan

By Priyadarshini Ram

Ustad Aashish Khan (also known as Aashish Khan Debsharma) has recently been in the news for his efforts to revive the Indo-Jazz musical group Shanti which he founded in 1969 collaborating with Ustad Zakir Hussain.  The keenly awaited event happened in Bangalore featuring compositions based on popular Hindustani ragas, which were given English names.

Being in the limelight comes easy to Aashish Khan, a third generation sarod maestro in the lineage of his late grandfather, Padma Vibhushan awardee Baba Allauddin Khan and his father, Ali Akbar Khan, the renowned sarod maestro.  With his mastery of the instrument and his virtuosity in playing style, he is one of India’s leading sarod exponents.

Born in 1939 in Maihar, a princely state in the erstwhile British Empire notable for its rich musical tradition, Ustad Aashish Khan was initiated into the fascinating journey of North Indian classical music at the tender age of five by his grandfather, Baba Allauddin Khan.  Growing up in Maihar and Calcutta (now Kolkata), he continued his rigorous training under the guidance of his father, Ali Akbar Khan and his aunt, Annapurna Devi, leading exponents of the Senia Maihar school of music which followed the traditional Beenkar and Rababiya gharanas in the Dhrupad style.  His first public performance accompanying his grandfather came in 1952 when he was only 13, on the National Programme of All India Radio, New Delhi.  The same year, the Tansen Music Conference in Calcutta saw young Aashish give a recital in the company of his father and grandfather.

His foray into Indo-Jazz propelled him as a pioneer in the world music genre.  His links with the musical culture of New Orleans, considered the Mecca of Jazz, and notable musicians like Charles Lloyd, Don Pope, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and the Philadelphia String Quartet have endeared him to the international music fraternity as a promoter of Indian classical music in the Western music arena.  Closer home, his association with Pandit Ravi Shankar saw the setting of many musical compositions for stage productions and path breaking films directed by Satyajit Ray, that have passed into the annals of history.

With a rich repertoire of experience on the faculties of the University of Washington, Seattle and the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, Ustad Aashish Khan continues his musical journey as a most admired musician and teacher to his vast group of students not only in India but in Canada, Europe and the US as well. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of Music at the California Institute of Arts, LA, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The recipient of many international awards and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Aashish Khan is the first Indian classical musician to become a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

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