Swarsamrat Ali Akbar Khan Sahab – The Musician of musicians

In last few days, due to an unfortunate incident, few words or concepts have been the talk of the town in India. One such is the word – ‘Nepotism’. Well, there is no doubt it exists in almost every field of fine arts. But we must always try to look at the other side of it before commenting on such a delicate topic.

Time – 1938, Place –Bombay, sixteen years old Shibu Dutta was residing at a Hindu Hotel. He had to do play somewhere for living. He decided to visit the Radio station there. Shibu Dutta’s first recording was broadcasted from Bombay. A staff artist accompanied Shibu Dutta on tabla. Today the music world worships this staff radio artist of tabla. We worship him as Ustad Alla Rakha  Khan.

Radio was one of the few modes of entertainment at that  time.  Their performance was broadcasted. Almost 1200 kms away, Maharaja Brijnath Singh of Maihar, listened to that program and informed Baba Allauddin, that this Shibu Dutta, could be his son Ali Akbar, who ran away from Maihar a few days back.   

Not only once, but Ali Akbar Khan Sahab had to run away from his Guru and father – Ustad Allauddin Khan Sahab – twice.

Now, why did he run away? He stated that reason clearly in his interviews. It was really difficult to cope up with the kind of Talim which was prescribed for him. Baba Allauddin, The legendary Guru of numerous eminent musicians, was also known for his very strict teaching style.  According to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahab, he had to wake up at 5 in the morning and was supposed to start his Riyaz right then, till 11 at night with a minimum recess period.

Baba Allauddin  Khan’s life was not less than any fable. He carried the ocean of music within him through his years and years of talim and sadhna.

Probably he wanted to pass on that legacy to his disciples including  Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt Nikhil Banerjee, Pt Pannalal Ghosh, Pt Rabin Ghosh, and most certainly to his heir, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Annapurna Devi. Baba nourished them all with his infinite musical wisdom. But he was uncompromisingly strict about the disciplines of his Talim.

Ali Akbar Khan Sahab had to carry forward that legacy. But the pressure of Riyaz was always there. That too with constant monitoring by Baba.  At times it must have been suffocating. But Swar-samrat, himself had acknowledged that much needed, strict schooling later.

The seed of Talim which was sowed at his very early age, started blooming when Ali Akbar was only thirteen. The tapestry of raag sangeet, which was knitted by his father, coloured the mind of innumerable listeners all across the world. The lullaby of his music take us to a journey to transcendence.

  Through a research I got a chance to dig into the archive of Amrita Bazar Patrika. There, I came across a  press release of All Bengal Music Conference. Published at Amrita Bazar Patrika, On 2nd January, 1940,– wherein the artist line up you would find the name of ‘Prof Allauddin with Ali Akbar’. He accompanied Baba so many times, from a very young age.

From the shadow of a legendary father and  Guru – the maestro emerged. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahab, the musician musicians, the sage, made his journey to eternity on this day, eleven years back. His music works as an elixir to many of us, his philosophy shown us marga – the path.

 “it is a path for realization and salvation.”

….to be continued

 Courtesy: Atanu Chakrabarty, Kolkata Music Mapping, Amrita Bazar Patrika.

6 Replies to “Swarsamrat Ali Akbar Khan Sahab – The Musician of musicians”

  1. Very intriguing facts to know about such maestros!
    Thank you for letting us know.
    Will wait for the next blog…..

    1. It is impossible to portray an ocean from a pond, just tried to sketch a fraction of his prodigious life. Thank You so much for your comment, keep exploring Kolkata saga, keep inspiring us.

  2. The present and the past is beautifully compared in the first few lines!
    The way it’s penned, it keeps the reader so deeply involved that at the end it kept me wanting and waiting for more.
    An extremely engaging and enriching narration!

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