Ali Akbar Khan, 87, a Bengali musician who was regarded as one of the finest artists of Indian classical music and who helped popularize the genre in the West through appearances on television, record and stage, died June 18 at his home in San Anselmo, Calif., of a kidney ailment. The son of a revered musician and teacher, Mr. Khan began intensive training as a child and partnered with sitar player Ravi Shankar — his future brother-in-law — performing duets throughout India. So, our hearts do go out to our friends the Shankar’s and their entire family. Mr. Khan was a virtuoso of the sarod, a 25-string instrument in the lute family. His chosen musical genre is based in part on the concept of the raga, which consists of improvised music based on a variety of scales. From these scales, or permutations of them, Indian musicians follow traditional forms but add their own inflections and feeling. Once, the late American violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who became one of his earliest champions in the West, said he considered Mr. Khan “an absolute genius, the greatest musician in the world.” As a young man exploring musical journeys, I was fortunate enough to see this amazing artist live at our local performing arts center and left that building a new person…I often speak of Mr. Khan when discussing in open my travels and explorations in sound hearing with anyone giving him such high praise as a road of his own in my adventures.
R.I.P. Ali Akbar Khan
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