Friday, 25 June 2010

Maestros of Etawah Gharana

Ustad Imdad Khan
Ustad Imdad Khan being accompanied by his sons Ustad Enayat Khan on the Sitar (L) and Ustad Wahid Khan on the Surbahar (R) and other students

Instrumental in developing the unique style that characterizes the Etawah Gharana, Imdad Khan was one of the most influential instrumentalists of Indian Classical Music. He helped to establish the Etawah Gharana, which is also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana.
Imdad Khan was born into a musical family. His father was Sahabdad Khan, the founder of the Etawah Gharana.
Sahabdab Khan was a relative of  Haddu Khan of Gwalior Gharana and he learnt vocal music from Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan. He also received Been and 'Surbahar' taleem from the famous Beenkar Nirmal Shah or Miyan Mauj. He later moved to Etawah, from which the gharana’s name is derived.

Although Sahabdad Khan was the founder of the Gharana, It was Imdad Khan who developed the instruments, and created an innovative instrumental style that became characteristic of the Gharana. Imdad Khan heard and studied the contemporary styles of various stalwarts of music of his time. He then developed an original style, one that was radically different from the then prevalent Senia style for playing the surbahar and sitar, thus ushering in a new era.

Imdad Khan introduced elements of khayal gayaki into the alap for the first time. All gayaki ornamentations were implemented and systematically developed into the techniques for this newly developed style for playing sitar. All khayal taans, tabla and pakhawaj bols, and the numerous rhythmic variations and subdivisions of the tempo were interspersed, strengthening the interaction of the swara and the laya. Jhala and thok jhala were introduced as separate sections. A definite sequence was brought into playing the gat toda, and the composition of exciting todas with matching tihais added new grandeur to a sitar recital. This new style that was to gain in popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and that continues to flourish with proponents of the Gharana, has come to be known as Imdadkhani.

Commissioned by Mysore kings in whose courts he served, Imdad Khan became the first Sitar player to come out with a recording. RPG / EMI has brought out those timeless recordings in a two CD album.  Chairman's Choice - Great Gharana - Imdadkhani (CMC 882507-08).

                                     Ustad Enayat Khan

Enayat Khan was a master of Sitar and Surbahar. He gave a new dimension to the crafting and manufacture of the sitar and his structural modifications of the instrument are still used in the instruments of today whilst his musical contributions are standardized practice for today's musicians. The flair with which he played made him one of the greatest musicians of his generation and his recordings illustrate and record the contributions he has made to music. Enayat Khan was a great ambassador for Indian classical music in India. He popularized the sitar and made it accessible for the general population. This was a time when many of the famous Indian music festivals were started. He had a great and unrivalled following throughout the country. This contribution to popular arts and culture can be illustrated by his friendship with Rabindranath Tagore, the legendary writer, artist and poet.
Enayat Khan dedicated his life to music; He played, taught and lived with an equal passion to strengthen the name of his Gharana and the profile of classical music in his country.

Ustad Wahid Khan
Ustad Wahid Khansahab accompanied by Ustad Saik Dawood (tabla) and Pandit Ravi Shakar

Wahid Khan, the great Surbahar and Sitar player, was born in a small town near Agra called Etawah in UP. He was the younger son of the legendary Imdad Khan.

When Wahid Khan was still quite young, Imdad Khansahab moved into Kolkata from Etawah with his family. There they used to stay at the house of noted connoisseur Taraprasad Ghosh, where Imdad Khan rigorously trained his two talented sons Enayat Khan and Wahid Khan. Wahid Khan, at a very young age, was first initiated into Dhrupad, Khayal and Thumri. After which he was trained extensively on the Sitar and Surbahar by his father Imdad Khan over many years. Under the able guidance and supervision of his father, Wahid Khan put in many years of very rigorous riyaz and mastered both the Sitar and Surbahar. The later generations will regard him as one of the greatest Surbahar-players of his generation, however he was also one of the greatest sitar-players of his generation. His available disc recordings of Khamaj (Vilambit Gat-Toda) and Piloo (Drut Gat) both on the Sitar offer a glimpse of his virtuosity on the instrument. His melodious 78 rpm recording of Bhimpalasi (Alap, Jod, Jhala) on the Surbahar is an wonderful exhibition of the incredible techniques of  Surbahar-playing that has made this Gharana famous.

In Kolkata, Wahid Khan used to accompany his father in many of the latter's concerts on the Sitar and the Surbahar and received huge appreciation and critical acclaim everywhere. Imdad Khan, later, moved out of Kolkata to settle in Indore as the Court-musician of the Maharaja Holkar of Indore. His sons Enayat Khan and Wahid Khan accompanied him to Indore. There Imdad Khan breathed his last. Following which Enayat Khan left Indore and went back to Kolkata, while Wahid Khan was appointed the Court-musician of the Indore Darbar where he remained for the next 18 years on a very high salary. Wahid Khan also served the Patiala Darbar for 3 years as their Court-musician. He was also the Court-musician of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Wahid Khan was a regular performer at the All India Radio. He also performed all over India and received numerous awards and medals from the famous institutions of Tikamgarh, Rewa, Baroda, Mysore, Dhaulpur, etc.. Wahid Khan was also felicitated by the the Governor of Bombay for his tremendous contribution to music with a prestigious award and certificate. His life-long service and contribution was awarded when he became one of the very first instrumentalists to receive the coveted "Presidant's Award" (now known as the Sangeet Natak Academy Award), the highest musicial honour in India from the then Presidant of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.
[Copyright © 2010. Subhranil Sarkar. All rights reserved; Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited]

Ustad Hafeez Khan 

A select few are born with an extraordinary gift of talent yet, more often, these people end up being oblivious to their own talent, and people are left wondering what would have happened had this person lived up to his full potential.  Hafeez Khan was on of them. He was the eldest son of the legendary musician Wahid Khan.  He not only received extensive training on the sitar and surbahar but also in vocal music.  After the independence of India, the patrons of Indian Classical Music that is the Maharajas and Nawabs became commoners and classical musicians suffered as a result.  Classical music, at that time, was still a form of chanber-music, and with the demise of the great Ustads like Allahdiya Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Enayat Khan, Faiyyaz Khan, the future of a performing classical musician was looking very bleak.  It was at this time that Hafeez Khan decided to enter the Bombay Film Industry as a playback singer to earn his daily bread.  He went on to become a celebrated playback singer known in the film industry as H. Khan Mastana. Incidentally, one of the most famous playback singers of all time, Mohammed Rafi started his playback career as a chorus singer in one of his songs.  He also composed music for several films. 

Be it as a vocalist or instrumentalist Hafeez Khan could have easily gone on to become one of the foremost musicians of his generation, yet he never gave it a real try. Rare 78rpm disc recordings of Bihag and Khamaj  by Hafeez Khan, present in the family archives, reveal the virtuosity of this talented musician both as a vocalist and instrumentalist.  People are left wondering what would have happened had this person persued a career as a performing Indian Classical Musician.
[Copyright © 2010. Subhranil Sarkar. All rights reserved; Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited]

Here is a video of Ustad Hafeez Khan singing for himself (from a film) : --

Ustad Aziz Khan
Aziz Khan is the youngest son of sitar and surbahar maestro Wahid Khan.  The young Gunna Bhai, as Aziz Khan was lovingly addressed by his family members, was introduced to music at a very young age and as years passed by he received extensive “taleem” (lessons) in the music of the gharana from his lengendary Guru and father Wahid Khan, in vocal music, sitar and surbahar.  He also received some taleem from his equally legendary uncle Enayat Khan. Although his repertoire of traditional taleem was highly enviable, he did not take up sitar or surbahar as a source of lively hood.  Instead, he took up music–composition as his profession.  However, he never left his “sadana” that is music and performed in occasional concerts from time to time.  He became a professional music composer in the Bombay film industry composing under the pseudonym Aziz-Hindi.  Even here his musical talents came to the fore.  He enjoyed considerable success while composing for films like “Intezar ke bad,”  “Parvartan -1949,” “Putli - 1950,” “Actor 1952,” “Thoop Chaon – 1954,” “Danka –1954,” “Chalta Poorza – 1958.”  He composed for “Heer- Ranjha”.  “Parda,” “Biwi,” “Pyar ki batein,” etc, which were all musical hits. However, no matter how good he was as a composer or how famous he became as a composer, Aziz Khan’s taking up music as a profession did not go down well with his father. Wahid Khan was of the idea that a “gharanadar” and “khandani” musician, who has received so much taleem, must earn his bread through concerts only and not through any other means.  Wahid Khan made his displeasure known to his sons and told that he could only be pleased if and only if, he was assured that his grandchild would be trained in the music of the gharana  so that his grandchild could one day go on to become the torchbearer of the Etawah Gharana.
[Copyright © 2010. Subhranil Sarkar. All rights reserved; Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited]

Ustad Aziz Khan's composition for the film Putli. 

Ustad Vilayat Khan
Ustad Vilayat Khan being accompanied by Ustad Keramatullah Khan (tabla) while a young Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is all ears to what the Ustad has to say

Vilayat Khan stands out as one of the greatest sitar players of all time. He was born in year 1928 in the village of Gauripur (present day Bangladesh). During his lifetime, he became one of the most influential musicians of Indian Classical Music. Several people influenced Khan sahib's music. Enayet Khan, (his father), Wahid Khan (his uncle), Zinda Hussain Khan (his maternal uncle), Faiyaz Khan and Abdul Karim Khan deserve special mention in this regard. He developed the "Gayaki Ang" which became his trademark. Vilayat Khan made several modifications to the structure of the sitar and these include the concept of "Gol Jawari". Vilayat Khan's professional career was extensive. He made several international tours, he has numerous recordings, and has scored music for several films, including Satyajit Ray's "Jalsaghar".
He was a longtime critic of the political machinations that were behind the awarding of many of India's honours. He refused the Padmabhushan (one of India's top civilian honours), and was a longtime critic of the manner in which All India Radio was run. The only title that he ever embraced was the title Aftab-e-Sitar (Sun of Sitar).
Vilayat Khan died of lung cancer at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai on March 13th, 2004. He was 76 years of age.

Ustad Imrat Khan
Ustad Imrat Khan plays the sitar as his mother Bashiran Begum listens to it

Imrat Khan is the younger brother of the late Vilayat Khan and is one of the most important artists of his generation. He is accomplished in both sitar as well as the surbahar. He was born in Calcutta in 1936 into this illustrious musical family as the younger son of the famous Enayat Khan. He is a student of his uncle Wahid Khan and maternal grand-father Bande Hassan, he also learnt from his illustrious brother. Imrat Khan is a master of the "Gayaki" style of playing.  This style is strongly influenced by India's vocal tradition.  It uses ornaments that one does not normally find on stringed instruments.
Imrat Khan has received many awards and distinctions.  He is a visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis.  He is also a member of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. Furthermore, he has performed in numerous international festivals. Ustad Imrat khan is undoubtedly one of India's musical treasures.

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