78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Ustad Vilayat Khan

These sides feature Vilayat Khan at the early height of his powers. Listening through the surface noise and distortion is worth it; he plays with intensity, concentration and emotional clarity in a way that has never been duplicated.

This is not the cover of the record you are listening to.


Vilayat Khan was born in Gauripur, British India to Enayat Khan, a sitar maestro. His family of musicians trace their pedigree back to the court musicians of the Mughals. His father, recognised as a leading sitar and surbahar (bass sitar) player of his time, as had been the grandfather, Imdad Khan, before him. He was taught in the family style, known as the Imdadkhani Gharana or Etawah Gharana, after a village outside Agra where Imdad Khan lived.

However, Enayat Khan died when Vilayat was only nine, so much of his education came from the rest of his family: his uncle, sitar and surbahar maestro Wahid Khan, his maternal grandfather, singer Bande Hassan Khan, and his mother, Bashiran Begum, who had studied the practice procedure of his forefathers. Vilayat’s uncle Zinde Hassan looked after his riyaz (practice). As a boy, Vilayat wanted to be a singer; but his mother, herself from a family of vocalists, felt he had a strong responsibility to bear the family torch as a sitar maestro.

Raga Shyam Kalyan

Raga Bhairavi:

Vilayat Khan taught or otherwise influenced many of of today’s prominent musicians. These include Vilayat Khan’s two sons Ustad Shujaat Khan, and Hidyat Khan, as well as Pdt. Arvind Parikh. Even Vilayat Khan’s younger brother, Ustad Imrat Khan (sitar and surbahar) was taught by him in his younger days. It should also be noted that Vilayat Khan’s nephew Rais Khan is also a famous sitarist.

Vilayat Khan died of lung cancer at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai on March 13th, 2004. He was 75 years of age.


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