Born at Gouripur in Bangladesh in 1924 in a family of rich musical heritage, Ustad Vilayat Khan is sixth in an unbroken line of celebrated maestros going back to the Moghul Period. His father, the late Ustad Enayat Khan, still remembered as one of the greatest Sitar players of his time, initiated the young Vilayat Khan in the art of Sitar playing, and he has been playing on the Sitar from childhood. With inconceivable virtuosity, he came into prominence in the Indian scene as an instrumentalist who had shown perfect command over fingering, and in his fast sapat taans he seemed to have few equals in the country. An artist with a rare imaginative vision, Ustad Vilayat Khan has been able to carve out a distinctive style, something different from what Ustad Emdad Khan played and what his illustrious son Enayat Khan displayed, on the sitar.
With Vilayat, the correct mood has always been the primary factor and, as with the romantic school of artistes, he has shown his mastery whenever he has found the right mood. His ingenuity in tackling even the very difficult ragas is proverbial. There is a dignity in his approach to the Sitar though, it must be admitted, he takes ample freedom during his raga development when exclusively romantic predominating ‘Gayaki ang’ style, he is a perfect kheyaliya, who takes ample themes from ‘thumri’, even from dhun and that could be said to be the salient feature of his presentation.
He excels in jorparan and throughout the vilambit or the drut gat he shows ample flair for an imaginative sequence that is woven out of his highly imaginative concepts. In thumri pieces, as with a Pilu or a Khamaj, he has perhaps few equals in the country.
The most outstanding shehnai player in India, Ustad Bismillah Khan, is now as popular an artist as any other top-ranking vocalist or instrumentalist. By sheer precision and an astute artistic sense, he has made for himself a place in the domain of Indian classical music. He claims descent from one Paigambar Bux and married the daughter of Mian Bilatu, a veteran shehnai player of all-India fame. Moreover, he received advanced training from Mohammad Hussain, son of Natthan Khan of Agra Gharana. As a result, the shehnai player had two-fold training that shaped well in perfecting his style of rendition to a degree yet unconceived by any other shehnai player of his time.
Bismillah Khan hails from the State of Bihar and was initiated into the art of shehnai playing by his uncle. Later after he had obtained proficiency and popularity, he became attached to the famous shrine of Lord Vishwanath at Banaras, the holiest of the holy cities. He is now settled there.
Bismillah Khan has revolutionized the style of playing shehnai and transformed the traditional folk instrument into a major one by dint of innovation and craftsmanship. Shehnai had so long been suitable for short pieces, thumri, dhun, and folk tunes. But Bismillah Khan started playing vilambit and Drut gats in the typical style of Hindustani Classical music. Thus shehnai, with this brilliant artist, is no longer considered just for occasional playing on social ceremonies; it has found a distinctive place in the realm of classical Indian music as a major concert-instrument.
Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest living exponents of Indian music, Ustad Bismillah Khan has been bestowed with national honors, awards, and titles. He has participated in several International Festivals and Conferences and has extensively toured Europe, America, Canada, Soviet Russia, Japan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Arab Countries.
Ustad Ali Ahmed Hussain is a Shehnai exponent who has already been widely acclaimed for his art of Shehnai playing. He belongs to a family of musicians who had carefully maintained the tradition of Shehnai playing and handed down the art from generation to generation. His grandfather late Ustad Wazir Ali was a well-known Shehnai player who had the proud privilege of giving a recital in Buckingham Palace and winning a special Award in 1910. Ali Ahmed was initially trained by his father late Ustad Ali Jan Khan and later by his uncles late Ustad Nazir Hussain Khan of Varanasi.
With full command over his instrument, Ali Ahmed has achieved great virtuosity and his recital is always marked by tuneful blowing, a keen sense of aesthetics, and emotional fervor. He is quite adept in the elaboration of Ragas in Kheyal style and with a progressive outlook, he excels in the presentation of light classical, modern, and folk tunes. His appearances in concerts and conferences all over the country are quite frequent. He is on the staff of All India Radio at Calcutta and he has enthralled his audience several times in classical music festivals in Berlin, London, and other places of Europe.
Perhaps the most alert violinist, who plays in the North Indian style, Vishnu Govind had initial training from his cousin Shankarrao Athavale and the late Ganpat Rao Purohit. Later, he had his training from Vighneswara Shahtri and he completed his learning from Srikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar, a great musicologist and musician. He had the opportunity to receive valuable guidance from Ustad Allauddin Khan also. A lecturer at the Bhatkhande Music University, Lukhnow, from where he received his highest academic distinction, Jog became into prominence as a violinist in the early fifties. Later he joined the staff of All India Radio. He left Radio in 1972 and he is now devoted entirely to the cause of music teaching and propagation.
An artist with immense charm and gentle manners, V.G. Jog can feel the pulse of his audience more than any other artiste and plays with a sporting spirit whenever called for. He is not only marked for solo performances but, as an accompanist, he is in great demand by almost all the leading vocalists of India. It is surely a privilege for any musician to accompany such masters as Faiyaz Khan, Omkarnath Thakur, and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Kesarbai Kerkar, Hirabai Barodkar, and many other luminaries and the privilege goes to Jog. Apart from his training from masters, these associations have also helped to formulate basic designs for raga patterns for him.
Pandit V.G. Jog enjoys himself in duets with such celebrities as Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, and Jnanprakash Ghosh, not to mention masters of Karnatak music like Venkataswami Naidu. Recipient of Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1980, he has participated in countless conferences and concerts all over the country and abroad.
Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa was truly the Grand Old Man among contemporary Indian percussionists. He had the unique distinction of playing with four generations of musicians from the 19th Century Ustad Imdad Khan to Rais Khan of the present day.
Thirakwa, who comes from the Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, was initiated into the mysteries of percussion art by his father Hussain Baksh, himself a noted Sarengee player. He came under the influence of Ustad Munir Khan at the age of twelve and under the guidance of that great master. Thirakwa pursued his practice relentlessly for many years. The result was that he had learned all the subtleties and refinements of his master’s art and came to be regarded as a percussion prodigy while he was still in his twenties. Both as a soloist and an accompanist. Thirakwa had earned name and fame all over the country and no musical event was complete without his performance.
A worthy disciple of Ustad Munir Khan, Ameer Hussain Khan belongs to a distinct branch of the Farakkabad Gharana of tabla players. Grandson of Kale Khan, the great name in tabla, he took his lessons from his maternal uncle. Munir Khan, considered as the best exponent of the Farrakabad baaj Ahmedjan Thirakwa had been in the same schooling through which they ultimately developed along with their distinctive styles.
Ammer Hussain showed his brilliance even when he was a boy of fifteen and participated in conferences, where he got opportunities of showing his skill. It was as a solo tabla player that he made his mark, and at concerts, his lahara took the audience by storm. His teen tal has had a grand theme and the laya measured to perfection. In such difficult talas as rupak, he showed equal brilliance which he played with great command and artistry. His treatment of jhamptal has all the dignity and poise it demands. His fingerings, neat and perfect to the point produced bols with miraculous speed retaining at the same time clarity and distinctiveness.
Jnanprakash Ghosh is a music institution by himself rather than an artiste. He is an Important tabla player, a vocalist of some renown, a good harmonium accompanist, and a teacher of the highest order. All combined he is now considered as a symbol of music in the contemporary Indian scene. A composer of songs Jnanprakash Ghosh has earned also a distinction for his contribution to the light of music as well. And so Jnanprakash Ghosh has already left behind him a tradition of music., enriching its horizon in more than one way. Born in a family of music lovers, he came in touch, quite early in life, with the leading musicians of the country. He tried to learn and unlearn many things from them enriching his area of learning to a great extent.
He took tabla as his first choice and became a disciple of Masidulla Khan of the Farakkabad Gharana. It is as an accomplishment on the tabla that he made his name. He gave support to almost all the leading vocalists of the time. He can, moreover, play with equal competence most of the percussion instruments. In the ‘Drums of India’ LP disc, we find Jnanprakash as a composer of the highest order who has, in his imagination, a total view of music as such.
V Balsara's orchestral group, has been widely popular with the Indian listeners. What is more important in the orchestration that is being popularised in India since Alauddin Khan's time is the blending of raga-motiff instead of western tunes. One may find now complete Indianisation of the orchestra team playing the age old ragas retaining all their characteristic traits.
To V Balsara, a composer of rare imagination, the western music is as familier as the Indian melody pattern, But he has not experimented with their fusion now and then. Rather he has retained for most of the time the typical Indian flavor in his delineation of the standrad Indian ragas. In hadling almost a score of instruments he has shown exceptional integrity. His approach to music, at the same time, is not at all conventional though he has tried to maintain traditional standards.
Ustad Abdul Kalim Jaffar Khan, better known as Halim Jaffer, has for many years since the late fifties, participated in conferences all over India, as a sitarist. He is known mostly for his facile hand and prolific strokes. His fingerings on the sitar, it seems at times, are electrically operated and there are very few sitar players today who can compare with his speed and dexterity. Among his significant innovations is the introduction of the Jaffar Khani baaj, the simultaneous use of two strings, the technique of producing harmonic notes, and the creation of different types of echoes.
Born in 1929 at Jawra, Madhya Pradesh, Halim Jaffer comes of an ancient family of musicians. He took to the study of vocal music and sitar at the age of five from his father, the late Ustad Jaffar Khan who was a famous vocalist, beenkar, and sitarist of Bande Ali Khan Gharana of Indore. Thus he has achieved a find blending of vocal music, the been, and the sitar in his style. A pleasant, lively personality Halim Jaffar is known throughout the country as the sitar player who has in his strokes and frenzied sapat tans that range nearly two and a half octaves. His conception of raga design is well balanced.
Halim Jaffar plays alapchari quite extensively and can mold the fashion to the best satisfaction of his audience, but it is the successive stages of gat and tantora that he excels.
His sensational sitar debut in Calcutta in 1976 left critics, connoisseurs, and audiences raving about Discover of the Era. The youth chose music as his first love and forsook a stellar career in Metallurgical Engineering, but not before a first-class first in the subject.
Born in December 1955, Buddhaditya played his first tentative strokes on the sitar at the age of six. He was initiated into classical music by his father, Bimalendu Mukherjee, Chief Engineer of Mines and Quarries, Bhilai, and a reputed Sitarist himself who belongs to the school of the great Ustad Enayat Khan.
Many distinctions have since been conferred upon him. He won the Prayag Sangeet Samity and AIR music competitions in 1970. Later he was awarded the Ustad Allauddin Khan fellowship by the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the ‘Sangeet Visharad’ by the Gandharva Mandal of Bombay. He has performed in several East European countries and of course and all over India.
What displays Buddhaditya as a distinguished sitarist is a discipline with which he develops the melodic patterns following the scriptural concepts and the dexterity with which he controls the fretboard of his instrument weaving the most complicated patterns, systematically and aesthetically interlinked.