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Obituary - Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Ranjani Saigal

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, founder of the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael and one of the greatest musicians of all time, died Thursday night, June 18, at his home in San Anselmo, California. He was the Guru of MIT Professor and New England Sarod Maestro Dr. George Ruckert who is the founder of MITHAS.

"It's a profound moment for George...for both of us... and for so many.  Thankfully,  George was able to fly out to San Francisco yesterday and to sit with Khansahib before his passing.   Khansahib had been seriously ill for some years, and having regular dialysis treatments - all the while continuing to teach one or two days a week - until recently.  He died at home, surrounded by family" said Gretchen Hayden , who is the wife of George Ruckert.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was the first Indian musician to be honored by the MacArthur Foundation with its so-called genius grant.” Along with his Guru bhai, sitar player Ravi Shankar,  Khansahib was responsible for bringing classical Indian music to the attention of audiences worldwide.

"Khansahib has been such a hugely profound person/presence in our lives.  I'm sitting here reflecting upon all the phenomenal music this person brought into the world!  Upon all the teachings he gave day-in and day-out, year after year - to so many musicians and students.   And thinking of all the years (seventeen straight) that George sat several days a week at Khansahib's feet, taking in the sarod lessons and learning the music.  Remembering all the work George put into establishing and running the Ali Akbar College of Music during those early years of the institution.  And of all our moments in Baba's company. This is heart-heavy time" says Gretchen

Gretchen Hayden is responsible for bringing Kathak to the Boston area. She also credits Khansahib for bringing Kathak to her life and introducing her to her Guru. She also credits her with bringing her and George together.

We can't help but feel deeply grateful for the circumstances that brought Khansahib to invite Chitresh Das (guruji and founder of Chhandam) to the AACM to establish a kathak program in 1971 -  thereby bringing kathak and an exceptional kathak master to California, into my life and into the lives of so very many here in the US.  

It was also through the music and dance at the Ali Akbar College of Music that George and I got together. And it is due to the consistent, dedicated teaching of Khansahib, Chitreshji and others that George and I are here today, passing along what we have learned of classical Indian music and kathak dance to present and next generations
" says Gretchen. "This moment marks the passing of a giant in the world of Indian classical music - and the music world at large. To Khansahib/Baba - we say good-by with our deepest respect, grateful pranams and immense love.   You'll live on forever in our hearts and music/dance!

The outpouring of words and accolades continue to fill the newspapers and media worldwide.
Some of notable interest are:

New York Times:

Los Angeles Times:

San Francisco Chronicle:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/20/BAIN18AJ79.DTL

Marin Independent Journal:

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/06/19/AR2009061903266.html

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/22/obituary-ali-akbar-khan-sarod-music

The Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/obituaries/articles/2009/06/21/ali_akbar_khan_87_brought_indias_classical_music_to_us/

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