By Tren Sommers

In May of 1971, Maestro Ali Akbar Khan was in Vienna to play a concert in Vienna’s Symphony Hall—used by Beethoven, Mozart, and many other greats. We were staying in a hotel in the old part of Vienna, near the university. The hotel was on a narrow street lined with coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants. Khansahib and Susan were on the 4th floor and Shankar Ghosh and I shared a room directly beneath them.

On the afternoon of concert day, Shankarji was practicing tabla and I was clapping tin tal for him when Khansahib started to play his sarod above us. We were immediately mesmerized by the beautiful music. It was as if music was descending from heaven down into the ancient Vienna street. He played for about three minutes and then stopped, but it was like a lifetime, as time seemed to stop. The most beautiful music I ever experienced. Shankarji and I sat in a trance hoping Khansahib would play more, but he didn’t.