UAE - Dubai - Jan 26 - 2011: Indian musician Aashish Khan pose for a portrait at Palm Jumeirah.( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper ) Magazine
"My grandfather learnt in a very hard way and wanted to pass on what he knew to his disciples. I never had the normal life of a child."

Aashish Khan's long-lost song with George Harrison

Gathering dust in an attic, a long-forgotten recording has lain buried for more than 40 years, never played in public.
Aashish Khan's untitled 1969 collaboration with George Harrison is thought to be the inspiration for the Beatle's song My Sweet Lord, released the same year. The earlier song is six minutes long but its significance is far greater than the sum of its parts: a medley of Khan's haunting ragas on the sarod interspersed with Harrison's rock guitar.
Its notes hark back to both a contemporary western fascination with Indian classical music and a burgeoning of fusion music, of which 72-year-old Aashish - the last in a long line of famous Indian musicians - was a pioneer.
"At that time, people did not know the word 'fusion'," he says during a flying visit to Dubai, where his sister Lajo Gupta has lived for 25 years.
"George and I became friends while working on a movie production. The filmmakers wanted a song based on pop music so I asked for his help because I did not know what pop music was. He played the intro and a solo in the middle on guitar while I sang. It was based on the fact we are all children of God.
"The movie was never [properly] released and neither was the song. Maybe I will release it one day. It is a gorgeous track and it will be huge when I do."
The Khan family boasts a musical heritage stretching back to the court of the 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar the Great.
As the eldest of 12 children, it was expected that Aashish would continue the family tradition, as his father, Ali Akbar, had done before him. Aashish's grandfather, Allauddin Khan, who played more than 200 instruments and is widely credited for reinventing the 18th-century Maihar gharana school of Indian classical music, taught him to play the sarod from the age of five.
A cousin of the Arabian oud, the 25-stringed lute-like instrument has a deeper, more resonant sound than its close relative, the sitar - an instrument popularised by Ravi Shankar, Aashish's uncle.
"By the age of eight or nine, I was practising 12 hours a day and being home tutored," Aashish recalls. "My grandfather learnt in a very hard way and wanted to pass on what he knew to his disciples. It used to annoy me sometimes that I did not have any free time to do anything else.
"He was very strict and when he beat me, I used to hate it. I never had the normal life of a child."
Aashish's experiences echo those of his father. Allauddin was a perfectionist. Accordingly, his son's lessons started before dawn and often lasted for up to 18 hours.
Ali Akbar once wrote: "If you practise for 10 years, you may begin to please yourself; after 20 years you may become a performer and please the audience; after 30 years you may please even your guru. But you must practise for many more years before you finally become a true artist - then you may please even God."
The violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who invited Ali Akbar to America in 1955 as curiosity about Indian classical music was beginning to grow, called him "an absolute genius, the greatest musician in the world".
Aashish's father went on to establish the Ali Akbar College of Music in California and taught when he was not on tour. He also played alongside Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh in New York in 1971, although he claimed that the music was so bad he had to stuff toilet paper in his ears.
Aashish had much to live up to. When he was 12, he first performed on stage with his virtuoso relatives at the Indira cinema hall in Calcutta.
"It was the first time we had all played together," he says. "Part of the stage broke because so many people stood on it. It was very exciting. I still have that feeling when I am playing a big concert but after 10 minutes, I just forget the audience is there."
He left India to help set up his father's school, then performed his first overseas concert in the Purcell Room of London's Southbank Centre in December 1967, later going on to tour throughout Europe. He also formed one of the first fusion groups, Shanti, with the tabla player Zakir Hussain in 1969, playing the sarod using a Fender guitar amplifier with a vibrato effect.
In addition to collaborating with Harrison on the soundtrack to his now-cult film Wonderwall, he discovered a love of jazz and partnered the likes of Alice Coltrane, John Handy, Charles Lloyd and the pianist John Barham. At the same time, he began teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Sadly, Shanti disbanded in 1972 and Aashish's performing career has suffered from bad management and a number of other setbacks since.
"That was the biggest blow," he says of these tough times. "I was going through a lot of hardship. I had just got divorced and it was difficult for me to survive."
Still, he continued to play concerts in India and still performs regularly to this day in the jazz-fusion bands Shringar and Inner Voyage.
Now, it appears that Aashish's own musical lineage has come to an end. He has remained estranged from his only son, Faraz, since an acrimonious divorce more than 20 years ago.
However, Aashish still hopes to pass on his skills to a younger generation of musicians. Four years ago, he took up a teaching post as a professor of Indian classical music at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles.
"Last year they made me a permanent member of staff," he says with pride. "Whatever I know, I try to teach my students. I want them to at least appreciate the music.
"As I grow older, I am finding how difficult that is. It is not just playing mechanical notes - you have to teach the soul of the listener. Only in the last four years have I been at peace. My whole life has been a struggle. but that is the life of a musician."

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices


Processor: Apple M2, 8-core CPU, up to 10-core CPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Display: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina, 2560 x 1664, 224ppi, 500 nits, True Tone, wide colour

Memory: 8/16/24GB

Storage: 256/512GB / 1/2TB

I/O: Thunderbolt 3 (2), 3.5mm audio, Touch ID

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0

Battery: 52.6Wh lithium-polymer, up to 18 hours, MagSafe charging

Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD

Video: Support for Apple ProRes, HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10

Audio: 4-speaker system, wide stereo, support for Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking (with AirPods)

Colours: Silver, space grey, starlight, midnight

In the box: MacBook Air, 30W or 35W dual-port power adapter, USB-C-to-MagSafe cable

Price: From Dh4,999

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Plan to boost public schools

A major shake-up of government-run schools was rolled out across the country in 2017. Known as the Emirati School Model, it placed more emphasis on maths and science while also adding practical skills to the curriculum.

It was accompanied by the promise of a Dh5 billion investment, over six years, to pay for state-of-the-art infrastructure improvements.

Aspects of the school model will be extended to international private schools, the education minister has previously suggested.

Recent developments have also included the introduction of moral education - which public and private schools both must teach - along with reform of the exams system and tougher teacher licensing requirements.


Manchester United v Manchester City, Wednesday, 11pm (UAE)

Match is on BeIN Sports

The specs

Engine: 6-cylinder, 4.8-litre
Transmission: 5-speed automatic and manual
Power: 280 brake horsepower
Torque: 451Nm
Price: from Dh153,00
On sale: now

How Filipinos in the UAE invest

A recent survey of 10,000 Filipino expatriates in the UAE found that 82 per cent have plans to invest, primarily in property. This is significantly higher than the 2014 poll showing only two out of 10 Filipinos planned to invest.

Fifty-five percent said they plan to invest in property, according to the poll conducted by the New Perspective Media Group, organiser of the Philippine Property and Investment Exhibition. Acquiring a franchised business or starting up a small business was preferred by 25 per cent and 15 per cent said they will invest in mutual funds. The rest said they are keen to invest in insurance (3 per cent) and gold (2 per cent).

Of the 5,500 respondents who preferred property as their primary investment, 54 per cent said they plan to make the purchase within the next year. Manila was the top location, preferred by 53 per cent.

The flights

Return flights from Dubai to Windhoek, with a combination of Emirates and Air Namibia, cost from US$790 (Dh2,902) via Johannesburg.
The trip
A 10-day self-drive in Namibia staying at a combination of the safari camps mentioned – Okonjima AfriCat, Little Kulala, Desert Rhino/Damaraland, Ongava – costs from $7,000 (Dh25,711) per person, including car hire (Toyota 4x4 or similar), but excluding international flights, with The Luxury Safari Company.
When to go
The cooler winter months, from June to September, are best, especially for game viewing. 

Moving Out 2

Developer: SMG Studio
Publisher: Team17
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 4/5

Most Read
Top Videos