Friday, May 11, 2007

Haridas and Bina Chaudhuri Award for Distinguished Service

Sarod Great Ali Akbar Khan Honored by California Institute
By LISA TSERING India-West Staff Reporter Friday, May 11, 2007
SAUSALITO, Calif. - After a lifetime dedicating himself to music, Ali Akbar Khan has racked up some impressive credentials. The sarod maestro, now 85, has earned India's Padma Vibhushan, a MacArthur genius grant, several Grammy nominations and the National Endowment for the Arts' prestigious National Heritage Fellowship.
But he said he was especially touched by an honor he received recently from the California Institute of Integral Studies. "Your love and feeling for me is so wonderful," the frail artist whispered into a microphone to a warmly appreciative crowd after being named the recipient of the Haridas and Bina Chaudhuri Award for Distinguished Service at the annual banquet of the California Institute of Integral Studies held April 28 at Gaylord India restaurant.
Khan, a Kolkata native who settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1965 and founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in 1967, "embodies the sound of the sarod," said CIIS president Joseph Subbiondo in his opening remarks. Khan's achievements, he said, mirror the school's mission as laid out by the Chaudhuris, founders of the CIIS, who sought to "integrate higher values of East and West."
Chosen for the honor because of his work nurturing and fostering a worldwide appreciation of Indian music, Khan is a noted composer and teacher as well as instrumentalist.Born in 1922, he started his musical training at age three at the feet of his father, the virtuoso Padma Vibhushan Acharya Baba Allauddin Khan. Trained by his father in vocal music as well as several instruments, Khan later settled on the sarod, giving his first public performance at the age of 13 in Allahabad. Khan (who hails from the gharana founded by the great 16th century musician Mian Tansen) became the court musician for the royal family of Jodhpur before becoming one of the first Indian professional musicians to perform in the United States, making his U.S. debut in 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
For over 20 years, Khan practiced 18 hours a day and always held the utmost respect for his illustrious father. He has often said that of all the honors he has won, it was the one bestowed by his father and guru, "Swara Samrat," or emperor of melody, that made him most proud.
So it was not surprising that Khan evoked his famous father in his comments receiving the award. "He taught many, many students," said Khan in a soft voice. "He wanted everyone to be happy." Khan, who is known for blending spiritual lessons in with his music tuition, referred to "Nad Brahma," or the Vedic idea of the sacred vibrational current of one's essence, with the comment: "I request that to make your life happy, you need to have awareness of Nad Brahma."
The evening was marked with sincere comments of appreciation from Prasad Vepa, the CIIS's chair of the board of trustees; Margy Boyd, CIIS trustee; Dr. Rina Sircar, a longtime CIIS faculty member who sang a touching invocation; and two talented youths - Gaayatri Kaundinya and Ram Kaundinya - who performed a song to Khan that left the audience rapt.
The late Haridas Chaudhuri, a philosopher, educator, and humanist from West Bengal who was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, founded the CIIS in 1968. An accredited institution of higher education, the CIIS expands the boundaries of traditional degree programs with specializations in psychology, philosophy, religion, cultural anthropology, transformative learning and leadership, integrative health, and the arts. His wife, Bina, carried on his work until her death last December, creating a void that lent a melancholy air to the gathering, leading Subbiondo to suggest a moment of silence before the festivities began. :by indiawest

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