Ali Akbar Khan | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ali Akbar Khan

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Ali Akbar Khan is the master of Hindustani classical music whose virtuosity on the sarod--a deep-voiced 25-string relative of the sitar ("The sitar is like a woman, the sarod like a male," Khan explains)--has brought him recognition as one of the music's greatest living practitioners. Originally from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Khan emigrated to the United States in 1965 and now lives in the Bay Area, where he teaches. Despite what might to most Americans seem the esoteric nature of Khan's art, there's much in it that anyone might find immediately remarkable. Khan's rich flow of melodic invention avoids cliche and undue repetition and his exquisite control over pitch and sonic texture allows him to express an emotional content of enormous range and subtlety. If one may indulge in the potentially misleading gambit of analogizing Khan's music to that of key Western artists, it could be said that while at times he manifests an economy like that of Thelonious Monk, at others he achieves the passionate excitation of a John Coltrane, all while maintaining the classical grace and dignity required by the Hindustani tradition. Hearing Khan is a good lesson in how the greatest and most disciplined musicians can make music that draws from their deepest recesses of feeling and yet never slip into empty theatrics or romantic melodrama. Saturday, 8 PM, Centre East, 7701 N. Lincoln, Skokie; 525-7793, 708-983-7887, or 708-673-6300.

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