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One year ago: Ali Akbar Khan

Called a National Living Treasure in India, Ali Akbar Khan, who died one year ago today, was literally instrumental in bringing the music of his homeland to the West.

Khan recorded more than 95 albums, was nominated for five Grammy Awards and composed scores for both Indian and Western movies.

He was also awarded the National Endowment for the Arts' prestigious National Heritage Fellowship, the highest U.S. honor in traditional arts, in 1997.

Khan, who was born in Bangladesh, began playing music as a young boy. His father, Ustad Allauddin Khan, widely considered the greatest figure in north Indian music in the 20th century, vigorously trained his son, sometimes pushing his practice sessions to 18 hours.

But because of this sometimes brutal training at a young age, Khan felt his musical talent came effortlessly.

"I started to learn this music at the same time I began to talk," Khan told music writer Don Heckman in The Times some years ago. "So it is as natural to me as speaking. It's not something I have to think about any more than I have to think about the words I'm saying."

David Trasoff, a student of Khan's, was quoted by The Times saying this about Khan:

"What he attempted to do and, I believe, succeeded in doing was to transplant this very deep musical tradition by committing himself to a level of teaching that resulted in a number of proteges who have gone on to present this music throughout the world," Trasoff said.

Read Ali Akbar Khan's complete Times obituary for more information about his life.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Ali Akbar Khan. Credit: Lawson Knight

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