I was devoted to Maestro Ali Akbar Khan andhad boundless respect for him because he embodied qualities that are rare in any human being. I see him as someone who, at every era in his life, was continually devoted, deeply, to his creative work. He was, after achieving a huge amount of recognition in the early 70’s, completely unaffected by it. Instead, he was obsessed with continuing to improve the quality of his playing, and his caring for every single note in every single piece elevated him to a level where it was not him that was playing anymore. He achieved the siddhi of music, the gift of being able to find that space where music itself emerges and communicate that space to people who he performed for, so that you were not just hearing the music, you were absorbed into it.
Each of us, in the field of our own endeavor, has the possibility of discovering, of realizing something very profound. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with the field of your endeavor, because making contact with a profound potential which is present for you requires you to transcend your own agendas, almost obliterate your own personal wants and needs. It requires you to transcend the field of activity in which you’re involved. In doing so, you become yourself in the biggest possible way. You manifest the skill of whatever it is that you’re involved in doing in a way that reaches from that potential that you’re absorbed into the potential that is present in every human being whom you touch, and something very amazing and special can happen.
There are so few people who care enough to strive for that level of accomplishment, and there are so few Americans who are willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of any higher achievement. It was really an honor to know Khansahib, and I have been continually inspired by him.
This is a video I made on behalf of the Maestro and Me, a campaign to preserve his legacy.