Aashish Khan

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Aashish Khan
Born (1939-12-05) 5 December 1939 (age 75)
Origin Maihar, India
Genres Indian classical
Occupation(s) Sarodiya, composer, educator
Instruments Sarode
Years active 1970–present
Associated acts Allauddin Khan
Ali Akbar Khan
Ravi Shankar
George Harrison
Eric Clapton

Aashish Khan Debsharma (born 5 December 1939) is an eminent Indian classical musician, known for his virtuosity on the Sarod. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2006 in the 'Best World Music' category for his album "Golden Strings of the Sarode".[1] He is also a recipient of Government of India's highest honour in performing arts, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Besides being a high-profile performer, composer, and conductor, he is also an adjunct professor of Indian classical music at the California Institute of the Arts, and the University of California at Santa Cruz, in the United States.

Family and life[edit]

Ustad Alauddin Khan tradition[edit]

Aashish Khan was born in 1939 at Maihar, a small princely state of British India, where his revered grandfather Ustad Alauddin Khan, founder of the "Senia Maihar Gharana" or "Senia Maihar School" of Indian classical music, was a royal court musician at that time. His mother the late Zubeida Begum was Ustad Ali Akbar Khan's first wife. He was initiated into North Indian classical music at the age of five by his grandfather. His training (or taalim) later continued under the guidance of his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and his aunt, Annapurna Devi. Though the music school they represent is popularly known as "Senia Maihar Gharana"; it is essentially the traditional "Senia Gharana". (The founder of this "Senia Gharana" or "Senia School" is believed to be the court musician of Mughal Emperor Akbar Mian Tansen. "Senia Maihar Gharana" follows the traditional "Beenkar" and "Rababiya" pattern of the "Dhruvapada" style of the original "Senia Gharana". However, followers of the "Senia Maihar School" tradition have principally been responsible for a renaissance in Indian classical instrumental music in the twentieth century.

Music and accomplishments[edit]

Aashish Khan grew up in Maihar and Calcutta performing Indian classical music among distinguished circles of connoisseurs. He gave his debut public performance at the age of 13, with his grandfather, on the All India Radio "National Program", New Delhi, and in the same year, performed with his father and his grandfather at the "Tansen Music Conference", Calcutta. Since then he has performed at major venues of classical music and world music both in the Indian subcontinent and abroad.

Besides his virtuosity as a traditional Sarode Ustad Aashish Khan is also one of the pioneers in the establishment of world music genre, as founder of the Indo-American musical group "Shanti" with tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain in 1969, and later, fusion group, "The Third Eye". In "Shanti", Aashish Khan is featured playing the acoustic Sarode sometimes through a fender guitar amplifier with vibrato effect.

Under Pandit Ravi Shankar, he has worked as a background artist on musical products for both film and stage, including Oscar Winner Satyajit Ray's Apur Sansar, Parash Pathar, Jalsha Ghar, and Sir Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi. He has also worked as a background artist with Maurice Jarre on John Huston's film The Man Who Would be King, David Lean's A Passage to India, and composed the music for Tapan Sinha's films, Joturgriha (he received Best Film Score Award for Jotugriha) and Aadmi Aurat.

During 1989–1990, Aashish Khan served as the Composer and Conductor for the National Orchestra of All India Radio, New Delhi, India, succeeding musical stalwarts like Sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, and flautist Pandit Pannalal Ghosh.


Aashish Khan has pioneered in the art of collaborating Indian classical music with Western music, and world music. He is thus remembered by the music fraternity as one of the representatives of Indian classical music in the Western world. He has collaborated with such diverse western musicians as John Barham, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Charles Lloyd, John Handy, Alice Coltrane, Emil Richards, Dallas Smith, Don Pope, Jorge Strunz, Ardeshir Farah, and the Philadelphia String Quartet. Ustad Aashish Khan is currently co-leading "Shringar" with Andrew McLean and other notable New Orleans musicians such as Tim Green and Jason Marsalis. Shringar is the first foray of any classical Indian musician into the music culture of New Orleans, widely considered the Mecca of Jazz. His recordings include Wonderwall Music, Young Master of the Sarode, California Concert, Sarode and Piano Jugalbandi, Shanti, Live at the Royal Festival Hall London, Homage, Inner Voyage, Monsoon Ragas, The Sound of Mughal Court, and the latest, Jugalbandi Sarode & Sarangi Duet, with Ustad Sultan Khan.


Aashish Khan is a music teacher, currently serving as adjunct professor of Indian Classical Music at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, US, and as an adjunct professor of Music at the University of California at Santa Cruz, United States. He has formerly taught at the faculties of the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, University of Alberta in Canada and the University of Washington, Seattle. While pursuing a busy career as a concert artist and composer, he teaches students throughout the US, Canada, Europe, and Africa, as well as India. Many of his students have established themselves as stage performers in India and abroad. Notable mention among them would be of Sarode players Anupam Shobhakar, Rick Henderson, Debanjan Bhattacharjee (He has secured the FIRST position (President's Gold Medal) in the music competition held by the All India Radio (AIR) in the year 2008), Aditya Verma, Ranajit Sengupta and Siddhartha Banerjee (USA); Sitar player Amelia Maciszewski; Santoor player Dishari Chakraborty;sarode player Atish Mukhopadhyay and sarode player Dharmendra katha and Rabab player Rishi Ranjan .

He presently divides his time principally between Calcutta, and California, where most of his students and disciples are located.


He is the recipient of several distinguished honours in recognition of his excellence in Indian classical music and world music as well. He has been awarded, among many, the Fellowship of the Illinois Arts Council, US in 2002, and India's highest award for performing arts, i.e., the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2005. In 2006, he was nominated for a Grammy award in the 'Best World Music' category. He is one of the very few Indian musicians who have been nominated for this award (other Grammy nominees and/or winners include Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, Sarode maestro Ali Akbar Khan, and Guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt; all are from "Senia Maihar Gharana"). Among Sarode maestros, he is second to only his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan who earlier received Grammy nominations. On 24 May 2007 Ustad Aashish Khan became the first ever Indian classical maestro to become a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the UK's highest society in Asian arts and culture.[2] Several Indian media have also declared that Ustad Aashish Khan is "India's greatest living Sarode player".[3]

Religious conversion[edit]

In September 2006, he announced at a press conference in Calcutta that since his forefathers were Hindu Brahmins of the East Bengal, and held the surname "Debsharma", he wished to use his forefathers' surname to help people understand the root of his great musical lineage. He also stated that his family were never officially converted into Islam and the surname "Khan" did not necessarily imply he was a Muslim.[4] He based this assertion on the fact that his grandfather the late Ustad Allauddin Khan wrote in his biography (Aamar Katha, (Bengali), published by Ananda Publishers, Calcutta) that his forefathers were indeed Hindus with the surname "Debsharma". He also said that his name (Aashish) and his brothers' names (Dhyanesh, Pranesh, Amaresh) were all given by their grandfather Allauddin; and these are essentially Hindu names. However, his father Ali Akbar Khan has rejected Aashish's claims as fallacies. An anguished Ali Akbar Khan told the Times of India newspaper in an e-mail: "I do not support his (Aashish's) choice. Unfortunately, many statements made by my son in the newspaper regarding the history of my family are incorrect. My family has been Muslim for many generations, and we will remain Muslims. It's a shame that he is trying to reinvent the history of our family and in turn hurting past generations of our family." [5]


  • Aashish Khan: Inner Voyage; Raga Bhimpalasi (Pilgrimage), Raga Jog (Two Dimensions), Raga Mishra Kafi (Inner Voyage), Raga Mishra Gara (Remembering You), Raga Mishra Abhogi (Love Within), Raga Mishra Kafi (Under The Stars); Keyboards and Producer: Alan Scott Bachman; and Percussion: George Grant. (DDD)
  • Aashish Khan: Raga Desh Malhar, Raga Mishra Sivaranjani, Raga Mishra Khamaj. Accompanists: Pranesh Khan in Tabla and Amie Maciszewski in Tanpura. Bihaan Music, Calcutta, India. (DDD)
  • Aashish Khan: Peace & Joy: Music For Relaxation; Raga Darbari Kanada, Raga Kaushi. Accompanist: Swapan Chaudhuri in Tabla. Ninaad Records, India (NC 0035). (DDD)
  • Aashish Khan & Sultan Khan: Jugalbandi – Sarode & Sarangi Duet; Live in Stuttgart 1995; Raga Shri, Raga Maru Behag, Raga Maand; Tabla: Zakir Hussain, Tanpura: Shefali Nag & Madhuri Chattopadhyay. Chhanda Dhara, Germany (SNCD 70197).(DDD)
  • Aashish Khan: Rainy Season Ragas; Raga Desh Malhar – Alap, Jod, Jhala, Raga Mian Ki Malhar – Gat in Tintal, Ragamalika – Gat in Tintal; Tabla: Zakir Hussain, Tanpura: Karuna Eff & Daniela Birschel. Chhanda Dhara, Germany (SNCD 70394).(DDD)
  • Aashish Khan & Indranil Bhattacharya: Homage to Our Guru – Jugalbandi; Raga Darbari Kanara – Alap & Jod, Raga Kirwani – Gats in Teental, Raga Khamaj in Thumri Style – Taal in Chanchar; Tabla: Anindo Chatterjee. Chhanda Dhara, Germany (SNCD 70994) & Navras Records, UK. (DDD)
  • Aashish Khan: Golden Strings of the Sarode; Raga Bhimpalashi, Raga Bhairavi, Raga Lalitagouri; Tabla: Zakir Hussain. Moment Records, USA (MRCD 1022) & Music Today, India. (DDD)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Moment Records
  2. ^ [2] Royal Asiatic Society News
  3. ^ [3] Chennai Online News
  4. ^ "Aashish Khan Embraced Hindu Religion, Claimed Never Followed Islamic Rituals". 
  5. ^ We were always hindu. The Times of India – 1 September 2006