Sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan dies at 88 Press Trust of India Posted: Saturday , Jun 20, 2009 at 0343 hrs IST Kolkata: Ashish Roy, late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s secretary in Kolkata, wouldn’t possibly forget the 2006 chapter of the Dover Lane Music Conference in the city. Not only because it was the last conference he performed at but also because that one evening summed up all that the late maestro embodied. “He was very unwell and had to go through dialysis thrice-a-week. We were not even sure if he could play that evening. But the moment he was on the stage and the sarod was handed over to him, every trace of pain disappeared from his face. In fact, if the audience was not told about his ailment, they wouldn’t have known that he was in severe pain,” says Roy. Khan (88) succumbed to a prolonged kidney ailment on Friday at San Francisco where he was based for the past several decades. Patrons, disciples and music lovers remember the legendary sarod player as someone who transformed music from art to a philosophy that defined the beauty, privations and inconsistencies of life itself. Hailed by violinist Yehudi Menuhin as ‘the greatest musician in the world’, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan had many a first to his credit in taking Indian classical music to the West. Khan was admired by both Eastern as well as Western musicians for his brilliant compositions and his mastery of the 25-string instrument. The illustrious son of Ustad Alauddin Khan, he was the first to cut a long playing record of Indian classical music in the US and to give a sarod recital on American TV. Khan was also the first Indian musician to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1991 and was nominated for Grammy Awards five times between 1970 and 1998. Born on April 14, 1922 in Shibpur village, now in Bangladesh, Khan took up music at the age of three, learning vocal music from his father and percussion from his uncle, Fakir Aftabuddin. A recipient of Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan, Khan gave his first public performance in Allahabad at the age 13.