Vol. 5 Num 862 Tue. October 31, 2006  

In conversation with Ustad Khurshid Khan
A scion of the legendary 'Khan' family

Sitar player Ustad Khurshid Khan traces his lineage from the legendary 'Khan' family of Brahmanbaria. The family is recognised far and wide for their remarkable contribution to classical musical instruments in the sub continent.

For four generations this family -- Sabdar Hossain Khan his two sons Ustad Alauddin Khan and Ayet Ali Khan, their offspring Ustad Mubarak Hossain Khan, Ustad Abed Hossain Khan, Ustad Bahadur Hossain Khan and the next generation-- have been committed musicians.

At the age of ten in 1949, Khurshid Khan took his first music lessons from his eldest maternal uncle Ustad Abed Hossain Khan. To further develop his skills on string instruments such as sitar, sarod and surbahar he trained under the legendary Ustad Ayet Ali Khan, his maternal grandfather. Later, he went to Kolkata to learn more on sitar from his maternal uncle Ustad Bahadur Hossain Khan.

Ustad Khurshid Khan said, "My first mentor Ustad Abed Hossain Khan fastened nara (the traditional practice of becoming a guru). As I stayed at the residence of my grandfather Ayet Ali Khan, I learnt all the ten thaats that I frequently played from him. From there I was sent to learn the modern approach of playing classical instrument from the acclaimed Ustad Bahadur Hossain Khan in Kolkata."

Returning from Kolkata, Khurshid Khan joined the pilot TV project in 1964 as the chief of the music section and retired from BTV in 1994 as music director. Subsequently he was a teacher of Chhayanat from 1963 to 2005.

"Of the ragas that I usually play, raga Eman is one of my favourite. Moreover, I enjoy playing raga Hemant-- created by Ustad Alauddin Khan. I also take pleasure in playing misra pilu and misra kafi in sitar," he went on.

Have you developed any string instrument or created any ragas like your predecessors? "Unfortunately, patronage is essential for creative endeavors. If an artiste has to worry about where the money is coming from, he/she cannot fully concentrate on the art," responds Khurshid Khan.

His grouse on the current music scenario of Bangladesh was apparent in his tone. He mentioned that this was not the ideal one for the development of classical music. "How many classical music concerts take place a year? How much time does an instrumentalist get to perform in those concerts? How many albums on classical instruments are sold here?" he questioned.

In fact, like many music exponents of the country, Khurshid Khan is quite frustrated and does not see light at the end of the tunnel. "During my involvement with Chhayanat, I rarely witnessed interest among the young generation towards our traditional instruments such as sitar or tabla as opposed to guitar and drums. The handful who learnt the art did not continue in the long run," he explained.

Khurshid Khan has performed in China, North Korea and Canada as a government delegate. Moreover, he has performed in UK, USA and Germany. To quote him, "Of these foreign tours, I consider my German trip as the most prestigious one. German government invited me to play solo in five cities. And the recitals at these concerts were later released in USA."

A recipient of the Independence Day Award, in 2002, Ustad Khurshid Khan has two albums to his credit.

Ustad Khurshid Khan. PHOTO: STAR