Aashish Khan

Aashish Khan
Background information
Born (1939-12-05) 5 December 1939
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 Indian classical musician, a player of the Sarode. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2006 in the 'Best World Music' category for his album "Golden Strings of the Sarode". He is also a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Besides being a 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

Ustad Alauddin Khan tradition

Aashish Khan was born in 1939 at Maihar, a small princely state of British India, where his well known grandfather 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 Ali Akbar Khan's first wife. He was initiated into Hindustani classical music at the age of five by his grandfather. His training (or taalim) later continued under the guidance of his father Ali Akbar Khan, and his aunt, Annapurna Devi. The "Senia Maihar Gharana" follows the traditional "Beenkar" and "Rababiya" pattern of the "Dhrupad" style.


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.

Aashish Khan is also a founder of the Indo-American musical group "Shanti" with tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain in 1969, and later, of the 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 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, Jalsaghar, and 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 (for which he received Best Film Score Award) 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 Ravi Shankar, and flautist Pannalal Ghosh.


Aashish Khan has collaborated with such diverse western musicians as John Barham, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, The Beatles, 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 leading "Shringar" with 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.

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


He has been awarded 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. On 24 May 2007 Ustad Aashish Khan became the first ever Indian classical musician to become a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the UK's highest society in Asian arts and culture.[1]

Religious conversion

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 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. 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." [2]



  1. Royal Asiatic Society News
  2. We were always hindu. Archived 25 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine. The Times of India – 1 September 2006

External links

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