Being the son of legendary sarode maestro Ali Akbar Khan (1922-2009) has been an honor and privilege for Alam Khan, who continues his father’s tradition of playing classical Indian music with heart and soul.
“My intention is to emulate the teachings of my father,” says Khan.
GIG Performance Space presents Khan, who teaches advanced instrumental classes at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, on May 5 in performance with drummer Javed Butah, a disciple of world-renowned tabla master Pandit Anindo Chatterjee.
“I’m playing pure classical Indian music, nothing contemporary, at the GIG concert,” Khan explains.
“I’m always trying to bring an authentic approach and tone to my music. When there’s inspiration beyond structure, magic can occur. If I can be anything like my father, that’s what I’m aiming for.”
A student of the sarode since age seven, Khan began accompanying his father on stages around the world in 1996 in venues as renowned as New York’s Lincoln Center and the Royal Jodhpur Palace in India. His solo career launched in 1998.
Khan has performed alongside some of India’s greatest tabla masters, including Swapan Chaudhuri, Zakir Hussain and Anindo Chatterjee. He also has collaborated and performed with a wide array of artists from different genres such as the Grammy award-winning blues/rock Tedeschi Trucks Band, world fusion and electronic group Beats Antique, rapper Eligh, film composer and performer Michael Andrews, composer Christopher Hedge, the San Francisco and Fremont Symphonies and oud musicians Yair Dalal and Rahim AlHaj.
During the final years of Ali Akbar Khan’s life, Khan was his personal assistant. He recalls the most important words his father ever heard, which came from his father’s father.
“My grandfather called my father ‘swara samrat,’ which means ‘emperor of melody’,” says Khan. “That title made my father so happy. Playing the sarode gets me to a place of happiness. It’s a never-ending process of learning.”