21 October, 2020

Ustad's Califate

California may not be Maihar, but sarod great Ali Akbar Khan has made it his exiled gharana

Ustad's Califate
"We take care of our tummy, our tongue, our nose, our eyes, but we rarely take care of our soul. Our soul needs music, nice good music and that is the food of the soul. It opens your mind. Raga, you see, is the language of God."
—Sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan

ON the edge of downtown San Rafael in upscale Marin County, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge that connects to San Francisco city, stands the imposing building of the Ali Akbar College of Music (aacm). You can't miss the college because of the massive, colourful glass image of Sarasawati that dominates its facade. This is considered the abode of music in the Bay Area, where sarod (spelt sarode in these parts) maestro and Padma Vibhushan Ustad Ali Akbar Khan has been teaching for 35 long years the language of God, where the spiritually hungry come to devour food for the soul.

Entering the two-storeyed complex feels like stepping into an ashram. Peace and stillness hang in the air, mixing with a floating medley of notes. The rhythm is languid—a slight return to a subcontinental life from...


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