The world’s greatest single-artist repository of music teaching, the Ali Akbar Khan Library, is now open without charge to all who wish to learn more about one of the subtlest and most beautiful of human art forms, the thousand-year-old tradition of North Indian classical music. It is located at 215 West End Avenue, San Rafael, Californiam with hours from 11 am to 6 pm Monday and Wednesday, 11 am to 9 pm Tuesday and Thursday.
It is as though you could get a painting lesson from Picasso or a class in physics from Albert Einstein. In the past century, the late sarode player Ali Akbar Khan – “Khansahib” – was among the absolute master musicians on the planet. He is the man Yehudi Menuhin said was an “absolute genius…the greatest musician in the world.”
He first came to the United States in 1955 at the invitation of Lord Menuhin, initiating the bridge that would introduce Indian music to the West. In 1967, he founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Marin County, California, and for the next 40 years he taught six classes a week for nine months a year to what would total around 10,000 students.
Those classes were recorded, either in audio or video. So were 900 concerts. It’s been digitized, organized, and cross-referenced to a fare-thee-well ($375,000 worth of grants and donations).* It is a veritable (and virtual) mountain of musical wisdom, a unique trove of profound teaching that is now accessible to the public. There’s never been a musician’s archive like it.
Introductory examples of Ali Akbar Khan teaching classes is currently available on line at www.aliakbarkhanlibrary.com, but for real access, the true pilgrim will want to go to the Library.
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The brilliant English guitarist Julian Bream visited India and played with Khansahib and said of the experience, “He seemed to me just about the finest musician that I’d ever met in my life…I just admired his mastery. It was above the normal professional mastery that most of us have on the instruments of our choice…his improvisations were so interesting, so fluid, so inventive, so evocative, so exciting, that I felt that this is the way to play music.”
The master tabla player of our time, Zakir Hussain, said of Khansahib that he was “The musician of the century of India…one of those musicians who show up in a blue…year and give the music the nudge it needs to move on to the next level.”
Khansahib’s music lives.
At the Library: Director Mary Khan, 415 454-6372 firstname.lastname@example.org
Press: D. McNally (415) 310 2448. email@example.com
*= Khansahib taught 361 ragas over the years, and from them derived the 7,197 compositions currently in the library; they came at three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), and for voice (20 styles, from ancient Dhrupad to Kheyal to Thumri, and 17 more) and instruments (sarode, sitar, bow & flute). The ragas are classified un