Ali Akbar Khan Endowment for Indian Classical Music

The Ali Akbar Khan Endowment for Indian Classical Music, was established in 1999 at UCSC. It enriches courses in Indian music and has in the past helped make possible the presence on campus of Ali Akbar Khan.

ali akbar khan
Ali Akbar Khan

One of the world's most accomplished Indian classical musicians and raga composers, the legendary Khan was revered by jazz, classical, and pop musicians worldwide. He performed for more than 8 million people, recorded nearly 100 albums, and received numerous awards and honors--including a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" award, four Grammy nominations, and a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Ali Akbar Khan died in June, 2009 at his home in San Anselmo, California.

Named a national treasure by the Indian government in 1989, Khan was instrumental in helping popularize North Indian Classical music in the West. In 1971, he performed at the renowned Concert for Bangladesh benefit alongside Ravi Shankhar, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison. A virtuoso of the 25-string sarod, Khan was first brought to the United States in 1955 at the invitation of violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who described him as "an absolute genius" and "the greatest musician in the world."

In 1999, Khan was named Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Music at UC Santa Cruz after the campus established a $250,000 Ali Akbar Khan Endowment for Classical Indian Music. Contributors to the endowment included Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Talat and Kamil Hasan, Sid and Anu Maitra, Arjun and Kiran Malhotra, and Shiv and Kiran Nadar. At UC Santa Cruz, Khan presented concerts, master classes, and workshops, both on his own and with his associates. He also served as an adviser to the Arts Division in the development of courses and resources in Indian classical music, and helped facilitate bringing outstanding guest performers and teachers to the campus.

Those of us in Northern California have had another privilege. In 1967, the great ustad (master and maestro) established the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael where students visited to learn from him as well as from other notable musicians who came to teach and perform there, developing the larger Bay Area into one of the more resonant communities of connoisseurs outside of India, expanding in the 1990s to the University of California, Santa Cruz. Indian classical music is an oral tradition and so the passing of our ustads has a particular sting-we associate their art forms less with compositions, which have the potential for inscribed legacy, and more with live performances. But the cycle of loss and renewal has revolved for countless generations; an ustad is not just a maestro performer but a master teacher and in that respect Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was prolific-he nurtured numerous students into maestros who will carry forth his heritage as well as the repertoire of his lineage, known as the Maihar Gharana. His eldest son, Ustad Aashish Khan, is one of the senior musicians today and has been teaching workshops during the spring quarters at UC Santa Cruz for the past several years.

To learn more about Ali Akbar Khan, click here.