Ari Babakhanov was born into a Bukharan Jewish family which can look back on an outstanding dynasty of traditional musicians. It was founded by his grandfather Levi Babakhan ( 1873 - 1926), the legendary court vocalist of Alim Khan, the last emir of Bukhara. Levi Babakhan's son Moshe Babakhanov (1910 - 1983) was also a famous vocalist who accompanied himself on tanbur and the frame drum doira.
In contrary to his grandfather and father, Ari Babakhanov became a pure instrumentalist. After his musical studies according European curriculum at the Tashkent conservatory he graduated in 1959 with the state examination. Soviet cultural policy limited the use of traditional instruments which were mainly permitted for a European repertoire. By the discrepancy between the monophonic Uzbek music and the European polyphony, these constraints led to an artificial cultural hybrid.
In spite of his artistic successes in Tashkent, he returned to Bukhara where he taught for the following 40 years at the music college. With the help of his father and musicians like Maarufjon Tashpulov, Najmiddin Nasriddinov und Aminjon Ismatov, he gradually found back to the traditional Bukharan music, the Shash maqom. He made it his life task to develop this art and achieved a unique contribution for keeping it by writing down an enormous number of notes and texts of Persian Poetry as well as popular Uzbek and Tajik poems. Hereby he revived a series of lost creations which had formerly belonged to the Shash maqom repertoire. This basis inspired him to compose own instrumental pieces and songs in the traditional style, several of which became very popular in Uzbekistan.
In 1991, when Uzbekistan declared its independence as the Soviet Union was about to be dissolved, Ari Babakhanov founded at the Bukhara Philharmonic Society the Shash maqom Ensemble which grew within a few years from initially 10 to 19 members. Shortly afterwards, the group under the artistic direction of Ari Babakhanov performed for the Uzbek radio and TV and established itself in the traditional music scene.