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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan - India's National Treasure Passes Away In An Alien Land

India's flakey editorial class may adulate a Narayanamurthy or even a A R Rehman as models of Global Indians, but this generation for all the fuss, does not remotely compare with the audacity, the cultural confidence and the joy and genius of the pioneering creators of Brand India.

There are many in the West, the Thatcher/Reagan types,- thankfully fading out (?) - who affect a loathing of the 60's, and their witless Indian acolytes have imported and imposed that deracinated disdain on a fearful and unquestioning generation.

But India individuated in the 60's. India was an idea in the 60s - a masterfully old and astonishingly fresh aphrodisiac of an idea.

India was the ginseng of the 60's.

India may have been materially undernourished, still searching for the right path to recovery, but there could be no questioning its rugged, cornucopian soul.

And what a soul ! From Jawaharlal to J Krishnamurti to JRD Tata, From Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to Homi Bhabha, Indira Gandhi to Rukmini Arundale - these and so many others were Indian Originals.

Exemplars not just of innovation. But of Innovation and Integrity.

To my mind, and this is entirely my fond, personal opinion, nobody typifies the Universal Indian as Pandit Ravi Shankar does.

I have been truly blessed to have felt the Ravi Shankar vibe at very close quarters, a vibe that I would describe as a being unbounded by mastery.

In the sixties, Panditji played with Ali Akbar Khan Sa'ab and Allah Rakha Sa'ab. I have watched them and heard them and even as a child, I adored them. I adored the music. I adored the life that gushed from the carefully cultivated synthesis of rigour and spontaneity.

I thought Ali Akbar Khan sa'ab's sarode was the gentle, adoring restraint to the effervescence of Panditji.

I am deeply saddened that Ali Akbar Khan Sa'ab is no longer with us.

It matters to me that he could not be in India.

It says something about the babuised India of today, that his obituary was almost completely cogged from his website.

If some journalist had just Googled, "how to write an obituary", she may have found five and a half million entries. Reading even one, may have helped.

It will be a good day for all of us when an influential section of our ruling elite unlearns the idea that a surrender to tawdriness is the only response to pressure.

Maybe then our Masters will recognise the land they left behind and return to lay down their weary heads.

Must read:

Famed Indian-born musician Ali Akbar Khan dies SF Gate Jonathan Curiel
Ali Akbar Khan dies at 87; sarod player helped bring Indian music to U.S. LA Times Jon Thurber
Remembering Musical Giant Ali Akbar Khan Sandip Roy India Currents New America Media
Ali Akbar Khan, Sarod Virtuoso, Dies At 87
William Grimes, New York Times.
Don't forget to scroll down for treats from the NYT archives.

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