Can American-born musicians learn to play your music? 1

Can American-born musicians learn to play your music? 1

Ali Akbar Khan
Photo courtesy The Ali Akbar School of Music

In the history of America, people never had a chance to learn or hear Indian music, so this has been a completely new thing for them. I was the first man to introduce Indian classical ragas to America in 1955. Slowly, slowly people have had a chance to hear much more Indian music. The purpose of this music is to change the whole system of people’s minds and souls and to help them to understand the real joy of life.

God created the ragas and talas. Therefore, we say, nada Brahma, sound is God. He taught all of the selected ragas and raginis to Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva taught them to the naradmuni rishis. Through the rishis the ragas came to this planet because music is the easiest way to understand and reach to the 9 essential moods that have been given to us by God: peace, devotion, joy, pathos, wonder, detachment, fun, and power. We don’t use the 9th mood in music, and that is ugliness; this is used in dramas and effect music.

Even Sri Ramakrishna Paramahangsa Dev, Swami Vivekananda, and other saints learned pure music, and through music it became easier for them to understand how to use these moods to give greater service to people and reach to God.

I opened my college, the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, more than 36 years ago, and since then over 10,000 American and European students have come to learn from me as well as many performing musicians from India. Many advanced students are still with me after 29 years.

My 18-year-old son, Alam, has been born and raised in America. He started learning with me when he was 7. Now I allow him to perform with me everywhere in order to learn how to become a performing musician. Also, many of my advance students are still learning, performing and playing well.

It is very good that Americans have started learning Indian music. My college is working hard to preserve and archive the music. I pray to God that they will keep the purity of the ragas and raginis that is slowly dying.


North Indian sarod master, teacher, and composer Ali Akbar Khan is based in San Rafael CA where he runs the Ali Akbar College of Music.

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