Celebrating the life and music of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Renowned Sarod exponent Ustad Ali Akbar Khan | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s centenary year will be celebrated in Delhi by the SRF Foundation, with a two-day (December 10 and 11) music festival. The highlight of the event was a performance by two of his sons, Alam Khan and Manik Khan. Born to his last wife Mary, the handsome young men are worthy inheritors of their father’s unmatched musicality. They also run the Ali Akbar College of Music that he established in California in 1967.

The SRF Foundation has patronized the world of arts in India for decades; the link with the Maihar gharana (which Ustad Ali Akbar Khan represents) is particularly close, with founder Arun Bharat Ram having learned in the tradition; his brother Vinay Bharat Ram has also been a prominent vocalist, belonging to the same tradition.

alam khan.

alam khan. , Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The festival line up features leading Maihar gharana instrumentalists. The festival opens with Mumbai-based sitarist Purbayan Chatterji, who additionally learned from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Next is sarodist Tejendra Narayan Mazumdar, who also learned additionally from the Ustad. The evening concludes with vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande’s concert.

The next day features Kushal Das on the surbahar, followed by vocalist Ulhas Kashalkar, veteran violinists N. Rajam and her daughter Sangeeta Shankar, and concludes with sarod recitals by Alam and Manik.

The California-based Alam shared that this would be his first live concert in memory of his father and his first journey after the lockdown. His other significant concerts during his India tour included a commemorative festival in Kolkata, again in memory of his father, the four-day Swara Samrat festival in Kolkata, the Sawai Gandharva festival in Pune, and concerts in Goa.

Talking about his father, Alam recalled how he did not like being referred to as ‘Ustad’. “The title he cherished most was the one my grandfather Ustad Allaudin Khan gave him β€” ‘Swara Samrat’.”

Alam’s morning concert earlier in the week had the audience in awe of his simple music that had an emotive appeal.

Brother Manik, who is currently learning from Alam, is equally passionate about taking his father’s legacy forward; A highlight of his trip is being in Kolkata at a ceremony where a road will be named after Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

β€œIt’s a huge honour, Baba loved Kolkata,” said Manik.

‘Smaran’ will take place at the Modern School on Barakhamba Road in Delhi, and like all concerts hosted by Shriram group, this event is also non-ticketed. It’s thoughtful on the part of the organizers to start the concerts at 4 pm (first day), and 3 pm (concluding day), so that the audience can enjoy listening to afternoon raags and reach home before the winter fog sets in.

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