MacArthur Fellows Program

Ali Akbar Khan

Classical Indian Music Performer | Class of 1991

Classical Indian Music Performer
San Rafael, California
69 at time of award
June 19, 2009
Published July 1, 1991

About Ali's Work

Ali Akbar Khan is a master musician who brings the ancient court tradition of North Indian music to an international audience.

Ali Akbar Khan is known for his mastery of the sarod, an Indian instrument of twenty-five strings, and of raga and tal, complex musical forms requiring the command of vast and difficult traditional and improvisational melodies and rhythms.  His musical tradition can be traced back to Mia Tansen, the legendary court musician of the sixteenth-century emperor, Akbar.  Coming from a culture in which the musician is responsible for the creation, maintenance, cultivation, and transmission of music, he is the composer of many new ragas and talas.  As a performer, he has made more than ninety long-playing recordings.


Ali Akbar Khan has developed a following of professional musicians in the United States who are skilled in the classical music of North India in its pure form.  He is the founder of Ali Akbar Colleges of Music in Calcutta (1956), in Marin County, California (1967), and in Basel, Switzerland (1983).

Ali Akbar Khan studied sarod, vocal music, and a variety of instruments under his father, Padma Vibhushan Acharya Dr. Allauddin Khan, and tabla from his uncle, Saint Aftab Uddin. 

Last updated January 1, 2005

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