The White Mogul

Fiction - Cultural
256 Pages
Reviewed on 08/19/2015
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Author Biography

Al Gromer Khan was born in Germany. At seventeen he left home to become a Beat poet and jazz musician. In London, England, where he lived for six years, he maintained close friendships with many musicians and artists, among them Ronnie Scott the jazz saxophonist, Mike Figgis the film maker, and Cat Stevens the pop star. It was in London that he met his sitar teacher Ustad Imrat Khan. In India he became a student in the Vilayat Khan / Imrat Khan Gharana. In 1975 the ghandaband ceremony with Imrat Khan took place. Travel and concerts in Europe and India followed. To this day Al Gromer Khan practices daily on his instrument. As a composer and producer he developed a new style of music – his ´Paisley Music´ has found a worldwide following.
In 2006 he wrote the novel ´Jazz Christmas´, and in 2007 ´Jimi of Silence´. Since 1990 he also writes music documentaries for various national radio stations.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

The White Mogul by Al Gromer Khan is a poignant tale set in the 1960s where the nineteen-year-old protagonist, Hans von der Thann, rebels against the restrictions and clash of cultures that lead him to discover a spiritual freedom through music. Running away from his country to India to learn the sitar gave him confidence as sound began to influence his life slowly. The India which initially rejects, insults and mocks him finally blesses him. As the story progresses, readers take the journey along with Hans von der Thann from London to Bombay where his life is inextricably entwined with encounters of manipulation and deceit, which contribute to a large extent to his spiritual growth.

In one word I would describe the story as 'exotic.' The book is divine, it's exotic, it touches the soul. The cover design rocks. The book captures the essence of India during those times with the ambiguity and mysterious tones of Urdu poetry, the palace ambiance, and the young boy's struggle to adjust to his new world. The author's descriptive narration captivates readers as they get a peek into the life that existed behind the palace walls in India. As the story shifts between London and India, readers are glued to the story with its many dimensions that connect to them on different levels. The underlying spiritual vibes provided by the music in the book are surreal and the healing power of music runs effectively through the plot. The story gives a new meaning to the freedom that runs through all of us with the help of music, making it refreshingly original.

Al Gromer Khan

Well written review, AGK very pleased. Thanks. It was the intention to write something which could be read and interpreted on different levels, with a spiritual resonance as it were. At the same time it was meant to be critical of everything phony and hypocritical in the guru business. With music providing relief, if only temporary, from the turmoil of clashing cultures. You saw and pointed this out in your review – I congratulate you in that.


ZUSTAND-AL GROMER KHAN/The White Mogul: Suppose Nick Hornby had other aspirations than being a Limey writing about music in hipster, American neighborhoods. Would he have it together to write this world wide novel of eye opening proportions that reads like a modern day “On the Road” with music as the driving force? Enough with the “Eat, Pray, Love“ already, guys have to have a few eye opening journeys as well when given the time and tide to pursue such opportunities. As compelling as any of the eye opening novels by Cohen, etc, Khan takes you on a journey that feels like Townes Van Zandt taking a side trip through the Indian music underground and perhaps coming out of it with his teeth intact. A thick tome that could easily be a commuters pal for several weeks of urban scooting, this is a dandy read that’s musically vibrant enough along the way to almost open your ears as well. Seekers, start your engines and check it out.


“The novel provides insights into a dazzling world. This search for the miraculous and for spiritual healing is depicted by Gromer Khan in a fascinating, poignant, and literary ambitious manner. The book deserves to be ´listened´ to”


“A modern fairytale that doesn´t exhaust itself in a simple moral but leads the reader through amazing ups and downs and, by the way, comes up with some of the most beautiful descriptions of Indian music that I have ever read. A book that is salutary, thrilling, and funny”

David in Virginia

Entertaining, profound, revealing - a joy to read
By David in Virginia on June 12, 2014
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I have been familiar with Al Gromer Khan's music for years - its haunting blend of East and West, and its mystical and ineffable qualities. Although this novel is a work of fiction, the author has clearly drawn on his own experiences, from rain-soaked London to the oppressive heat of Mumbai. Very revealing here is the pattern of guru-disciple relationships in the Indian tradition: it's not all sweetness and light, to say the least. This story has moments of serious discomfort as well as joy. The descriptions of Indian classical music are astonishing in their depth and insight.

Once minor irritant - this English translation contains some grammatical errors (eg in plural possessive forms) and could have benefited from a more rigorous editorial review. But this is a minor complaint for what is truly a valuable work of literature.

Craig Sams

Craig Sams 04.04.14
The book was very atmospheric - I think even if I'd never been to India I would have understood the state of mind that one enters there. It was more of a page turner than I expected at the beginning - you want to see how things turn out along the various threads that weave in and out, sometimes quite unexpectedly, of the narrative. Your willingness to be servile as a student combined with your need to survive and your increasing awareness that the masters are just like the rest of us comes through again and again. I really enjoyed it, though it hasn't really greatly altered the way I listen to music, either yours or other music...except perhaps the drums - that old boy Feroze really registered in my memory and I've read it a few times, with your onomotopoeic tickatickaticka or should I say Dirdindir dhin dhin dhinna - dirdir dhina dhin dhin that needs to be read aloud by the reader to illuminate the text.
Anyway, many thanks for an enjoyable read that also brought back many memories of my own times in the region back in 1965.

Rolf Silvio Andreas

The White Mogul By Rolf Silvio Andreas on June 18, 2014
For me this was a remarkable read. The story works on a number of different levels simultaneously, with a story-line that draws an amazing arc of suspense throughout the book. A kind of book which you remember during the day, making you look forward to night-time reading pleasure. The protagonist, a somewhat naïve German hippie boy, gets right in between the clash of cultures, religions, old and new, restriction and freedom. Through his seemingly endless plight he receives a philosophical compurgation through music, turning him into an intermediary in these times of change from devotion to rebellion and back again into a sphere beyond institutions, towards a kind of true spirituality. All of this the author tells with the kind of tongue in cheek humor that leaves no stone unturned, no human sentiment left out, from the lowest to the highest, with the bottom-line pronouncing that we're all human, and that music can make us free. Unputdownable, as they say.

Steven Hill

02.02.2014 Stephen Hill, Owner, Hearts of Space, California, USA National Radio
Dear Khan-sahib,
I use this salutation more knowingly than before now that I've finished the book. Quite a splendid tale, Al. I think it's the best and most fully personal work of art you've given us; the book format gives you ample room to expose all aspects of your personality. And who knew you were such a good raconteur? The translation and proofing were both excellent. The only thing I had trouble with was the occasional bit of German, which I've never had the occasion to learn.
I hope it's a big success. Keep writing novels and eventually you'll sell the film rights, which will allow your golden years to be truly golden!
Personal regards :: Dr. Space

Nick Campbell

Nick Campbell: Senior partner of CZWG Architects LLP, London
‘... your book is good and the translator should be commended for her excellent work!
04.11.2013 I am engrossed in your book which I am enjoying immensely... and have learnt that in life "everything has an end" except a German sausage. The piece about the 102 year old tabla player was thrilling and proves that point that we all like a happy ending. The translation, with a few very minor exceptions, is excellent and the translator should be congratulated. I will continue to read avidly. Thank you.
A most excellent novel at many levels! Respect!