Alam Khan is a musician, composer and educator. He plays the sarode. We spoke with Khan about his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the legacy of Maihar gharana and his love for both Hindustani or North Indian classical music and hip-hop.
Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was one of the most famous sarode player and Khan is carrying on the legacy of his father’s music and Maihar gharana that traces its roots to Tansen, the court musician in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Members of Maihar gharana include Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi, Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee and others.
Ustad Ali Akbar Khan founded a music school in San Francisco Bay area in 1967 and his music influenced quite a few iconic musicians like The Grateful Dead and others. Khan teaches at the school just like his father did. The school celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017.
Khan shares how growing up in Marin county he listened to both Hindustani music and mainstream American music like Crosby, Still and Nash, Jim Hendrix and hip-hop. He learnt to play the guitar from Jai Uttal as a teenager. Khan dabbled with playing the sarode as a 7-year old and then returned to it as a 12-year-old and spent many years learning to play the sarode from his father.
Besides Hindustani music Khan is a also a big fan of hip-hop music and recently released an album called Grand Tapestry with Elijh on vocals, Saler Nader on tabla and Alam Khan on sarode.
What did Ustad Ali Akbar Khan have to say about hip-hop and rap music. “Too much talking and not enough music,” was his answer as his son shares in the interview. Rap music is “loop-based and about words,” adds Khan. It sounds like Khan has found a way to embrace both Hindustani and hip-hop music in a happy way.