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Pride of Musicians Play Like Lions at MVFF34

Diverse array of musicians join tribute show to the late Indian classical musician Ali Akbar Khan, including his sons Alam and Manik as well as Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman.

"Alam never plays alone - he is always accompanied by his heritage."

So said Rohnert Park filmmaker Joshua Dylan Mellars in introducing the to Alam Khan's father, the late Indian classical musician Ali Akbar Khan, at  Saturday night. The point was made clear by , which screened at the last week.

On this night, sarod player had plenty of accompaniment beyond his esteemed lineage, including his brother Manik Khan on tampura, Salar Nader on tabla and Arjun Verma on sitar. The early part of the night was dominated by the riveting interplay between Alam Khan and Nader, with a subtle nod from Khan sending the pair into a free-form, catch-me-if-you-can exchange that soared at times.

Mill Valley legends Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman joined the group for a groove-laden spell, and Ghanaian drummer and folklorist Kwaku Daddy brought along a 15-piece percussion ensemble of his students from the City College of San Francisco. Sukhawat Ali Khan and Riffat Sultana closed out the evening with a set of tunes inspired by North Indian and Pakistani classical music.

Interwoven between the performances were tributes from some of Ali Akbar Khan's collaborators and fans, including saxophonist John Handy, who jumped onstage and said that Khan "played notes in a way that sounded like praying." Guitarist Derek Trucks and tabla master Zakir Hussein recorded video tributes, with the latter saying that Khan was "the catalyst for Indian music becoming what it needed to become" and that "his contribution is unparalleled in the world of music."

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