Born in 1935, Ustad Imrat Hussain Khan comes from a great lineage of traditional musicians, amongst whom Ustad Imdad Khan, his grandfather, and Ustad Inayat Khan, his father, were well known masters of the past, who brought fame to their family.
Imrat Khan was very young when he lost his father, but was fortunate to go through a thorough musical discipline under his illustrious elder brother, Ustad Vilayat Khan, who taught him the technique and philosophy of playing Sitar. From his paternal uncle, Ustad Waheed Khan, he learnt to play surbahar in the Dhrupad style, and learnt the Khayal style of vocal music from his maternal grandfather, Ustad Bandeh Hassan Khan. Learning from such great masters for many years has given the music of Imrat Khan a richness, depth, and variet which is hard to equal. Of course, the excellence of his Sitar playing is largely derived from the training he received from his brother, who specializes in the Gayaki style, but Imrat khan's magnificent style of Dhrupad alap, which he has developed on the Surbahar, has added futher charm and scope to his outstanding musical personality and his deciddly established his independent stature as a musician of a very high calibre.
A deep acknowledgement is due to Imrat Khan from all lovers of music for the determined way in which he has concentrated on playing the Surbahar, a noble but almost forgotten instrument. Imrat Khan has imparted a new life to this deep and sonorous instrument by developing and raising its technical and musical standards.
The guitar was looked upon, until recently, as an accompanying instrument that suits only lighter forms of music. Although there had been a few artistes earlier who attempted to play Indian Classical music on Guitar, it is perhaps due to the ingenuity of Brijbhushan Kabra that this light instrument was transformed into an important instrument for playing ragas, including the khayals and thumri styles. A disciple to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Kabra has been, to a great extent able to produce its sound in a way as to resemble that of sarod and no wonder a duet or trio-recitals of sarod, sitar, flute and santoor with guitar these days attracts much response even from those who generally consider themselves as purists.
Born in 1937 at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Brijbhushan Kabra has recently been participating in conferences all over India and is acclaimed as an important instrumentalist. It is argued that Brijbhushan has taken much from the sarod players by way of improvising his pattern, but, in the process, he has been able to translate the effects into a harmony that balance well with a total design. In guitar he playes such difficult but tender ragas as Miyan-ki-todi, while light pieces as mand are sure to evoke a distinctive emotional excitement at times. The grandeur and depth even of Darbari Kanada are never missed during his recital on the guitar.
One of the great instrumentalists of all time, Ustad Allauddin Khan was a greater teacher and perhaps the greatest among musicians who cared for devotion and discipline as the way towards music. Music, for him, was the only symbol of divinity. In fact, after years of exemplary ‘Sadhana’, Ustad Allauddin Khan became a legend in his lifetime. His humility and unassuming personality, his belief in music as a way of life rather than a profession earned for him a place in the music world rarely equalled by any other contemporary. After years of constant struggle in pursuit of learning, he came in contact with Gopal Chakravati, one of the renowned musicians of the time. He went through a rigorous course of training for seven years learning diligently at the feet of his guru.
But soon afterwards, his destiny led him to the renowned state of Rampur where Ustad Wazir Khan not only accepted him as a disciple, but began to love him as his son and imparted all he wanted to learn. He started with the Sarod but eventually learnt Rabab and Surasringar; by the time he was fifty, he could play almost all the Indian musical instruments and many Western types including Violin. After completing lessons from Ustad Wazir Khan he went to Malhar State in the year 1918. He was immediately appointed the court-musician of Malhar and continued to be in that post till his death in the year 1972. Ustad Allauddin Khan was the first among the traditional musicians to mould Indian classical music on an orchestral pattern. The famed Malhar Band which he created was able to demonstrate a raga for a couple of hours. He was awarded Padmabhushan by the Government of India.
His visited Europe and America extensively with the great dancer. Uday Shankar as the music director of his troupe and charmed the Western audience with his orchestral compositions and solo recitals on Sarod. Though the Ustad could handle all the Indian and several Western instruments, he was primarily known as a Sarod player. His austerity, discipline and balance in life were reflected is his Sarod playing. His alapchari was methodical and the development followed strictly the ‘dhrupad’ pattern of the Senia gharana. His approach to raga was, however, orthodox and he always liked to maintain the traditional baaz.
The vitality of the stylisation and the versatility of its creator are borne out by the fact that five of our great virtuosi are disciples: his son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the inimitable Sarodist, his daughter Annapoorna Devi, the undisputed Surbahar and Sitar player, Ustad Ravi Shankar, the peerless Sitarist, Timir Baran, the renowned music composer and Sarodist and the incomparable Flautist Pannalal Ghosh.
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan belongs to the Senia Gharana and to the great galaxy of maestros – his grandfathers Ustad Nanne Khan and Ustad Murad Ali Khan. Born on 9th October 1945, Amjad Ali received training from his illustrious father Padmabhushan Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan and started playing the sarod at a very young age when he was acclaimed as a child prodigy. At ten he was holding public performances and by fifteen he was already an accomplished musician.
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s music is marked at once for its robust touch and delicate nuances as well. It is said that his artistry with the sarod reflects his Pathan heritage. A celebrity in the domain of Indian Classical music, Amjad Ali Khan has a progressive outlook with the urge for experimentation and creative variations. A complete master of his instrument, he was introduced Khayal style on the sarod, thus enlarging its span and creative range. This, however, does not mean that he has discarded the old instrumental technique of sarod-baaz which he still maintains in all its pristine purity. His elaboration of Raga or Alap in ‘Dhrupadang’, his delineation of the various Bol patterns in the Jhala on the Sura Srinagar technique and the Bol-bant of the been are other facets of his strict adherence to the traditional form.
With his virtuosity, aesthetic presentation and charming personality, Amjad enthrals his audience in every concert in this country and abroad. Since his early age, he has been receiving recognition and tributes in good measure from all over the world and connoisseur at home. The Prayag Sangeet Samity conferred upon him the title of Sarod Samrat in 1965. He was awarded Padmashree in 1975. The renowned International Music Forum of Paris conferred upon him the coveted UNESCO Award in 1971 when he was just twenty-six.
Even before Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan gave the Sarod his magic touch at a public performance, the atmosphere used to become electric. He possessed a magnetic presence. He was overwhelmingly charming and as eloquent as his exquisite music which was not just an artistic performance but a form of prayer. No wonder that every stroke of melody that he produced resulted from a superb combination of nimble fingers, clear intellect and a magnificent heart. Ustad Hafiz Khan was born in an ambience of old-world courtliness and music. His great grandfather came from Afghanistan with a talent for the Rabab. His grandfather Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan carried on the good work; with his modifications the Sarod, as we know it today, came into his own. He was initiated in the tradition of the Senia ‘gharana’ by Ustad Pyar Khan and Ustad Jafar Khan, direct descendants of Tansen.
The influence of the school was passed on to successive generations. This was Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan’s rich inheritance. To this was added his grounding in dhrupad and dhamar under the guidance of Shri Ganeshlaji of Mathura, a descendant of Swami Haridas, Mian Tansen’s guru. And to round it off, he sat at the feet of Ustad Wazir Khan of Rampur. The patronage Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan received from the royal court of Gwalior subsequently added polish and perfection. The rest was an individual talent – the man himself symbolising creativity harnessed to purity.
Accolades came in profusion throughout his life. In the early 1940’s he was honoured with the title of ‘Aftab-e-Sorode’ by the All Bengal Music Conference in Calcutta and ‘Sangit Ratna Alankar’ by the Maharaja of Gwalior. In 1952 he received the Sangit Natak Academy Award and the next year was made a fellow of the Akademi. The Universities of Visva Bhara and Khairagarh conferred doctorates on him. To cap it all came the award of Padma Bhushan in 1960 Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan spanned four generations. Meanwhile, the milieu has changed, so have the tastes and habits of music buffs. From the glittering courts to public performances – it is a strange metamorphosis. The Ustad lived to transcend it and even after his death in 1972 at the age of 95, his art lives on in the work of his illustrious sons.
Ashish Khan’s musical lineage is a hereditary one too and it is as prestigious as the instrument he plays. He was born in Malhar in 1939 and is the son of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and the grandson os Ustad Allauddin Khan the doyen of North Indian instrumental music. He was also the pupil of both and also of his uncle, Ravi Shankar and aunty, Annapoorna Devi. He appeared in duets with his grandfather in AIR National Programme at the age of fourteen and late at the Tansen Music Conference where he received the highest award for his age. He participated in the East-West Music Encounter in Tokyo (1961), has been on a concert tour of South East Asia and is today one of the youngest musicians who is widely travelled appearing in many concerts in Europe, America and Canada.
Borin in 1931, Nikhil Banerjee has come to be respected today as any other major artiste in India and is often favourably compared, now without justification, even with the stalwarts of this generation. The secret of such astounding success as Sitar player lies primarily is his approach to music as a whole where all the differentiating parts organise themselves in balanced symmetry. His alapchari is quite in conformity with the gat, his jor and jhala reciprocate each other, taan patterns proceed smoothly from the highly methodical bistar, strokes are neither too hard, nor too soft and one leaves the concert after listening to Nikhil Banerjee’s programme filled with aesthetic pleasure.
This is the background, which has been well equated with the technical mastery he has developed so well through decades of devoted training and intensive practice. He plays not just a raga, not only brings out its salient characteristics which even a connoisseur, but goes beyond it, and unfolds the life, the spirit, the harmony that a raga embodies in its totality.
Trained initially by his father late Jitendranath Banerjee and other Sitarists of the time, Nikhil Banerjee went to Maihar to sit at the feet of the legendary Ustad Allauddin Khan, learnt all he could from the great maestro. His final touches were shaped by Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, who it may be easily assumed, took intense care to train up this young and promising Sitarist. And so when Nikhil Banerjee started playing the Sitar it was not just a particular gharana unfolding itself, rather the personality expressing in its totality. It could be mentioned that he has been tremendously influenced by vocal maestros of contemporary period, particularly by Ustad Amir Khan of Indore. He has mastered the art of blending the misra ragas with a superb artistry. Nikhil Banerjee has given us something in his Sitar that very few have perhaps yet offered in recent times and there lies his uniqueness as a musician.
Incredible would be the word to sum up the musical attainments of the young sitar virtuoso, Shujaat Khan. Son of the great sitar maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan, chubby and handsome Shujaat Khan, born in 1960, represents the seventh generation of a great heritage of Hindustani music.
Shujaat Khan was initiated into the mysteries of the sitar by his illustrious father at the age of three. At the same time, in keeping with the true “master and pupil” tradition, the child was given an insight into percussion and vocal music.
By the time he was five, Shujaat was provided with regular table accompaniment. At six, he started giving public concerts in art conscious metropolitan cities like Bombay and Calcutta, with the percussion support of many a noted player.
Grooming him initially in khayal ang. Ustad Vilayat Khan taught Shujaat, in course of time, to evolve a rigorous blend of the Sitarkhani baaj also, with greater and greater scope for the right hand. That is how Shujaat’s style today embodies a rare fusion of khayal ang and tantrakari ang. In 1974 the budding talent visited the Scandinavian countries where he gave solo concerts as well as duets with Ustad Vilayat Khan. In 1976, he participated in the Meta Music festival with his father and emerged as blue blooded concert artiste.
Accompanying his father throughout the European tour, Shujaat also gave recitals in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and the U.K. In 1978, he was invited to perform by Bloomingsdale, New York. The unique father-son duo gave more than 20 concerts all over the States.