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Saturday, November 24, 2012
Arts & Entertainment

Ustad Allauddin Khan: Pride of Bengal

The much-hyped Bengal-ITC SRA Classical Music Festival will kick off on November 29 at Army Stadium in Dhaka. The entire festival has been dedicated to Sangeet Samrat Ustad Allauddin Khan while opening, second, third and concluding day's programmes will be dedicated to musicologist Waheedul Haque, Ustad Vilayet Khan, Pandit Uday Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan respectively. On this occasion, let's take a glance at the life of Ustad Allauddin Khan, one of the most important North Indian classical musicians of the 20th century.

Allauddin Khan was a Bengali sarodiya, multi-instrumentalist, composer and one of the most renowned music teachers.

Khan was born in Shibpur village, under Brahmanbaria district. His father's name was Sabdar Hossain Khan. Allauddin Khan's elder brother, Fakir Aftabuddin, taught him the basics of music at home.

At the age of ten, Allauddin Khan ran away from home to join a jatra troupe. His stay with this group exposed him to a variety of folk genres: jari, sari, baul, bhatiyali and kirtan. Subsequently, he went to Kolkata, where he became a disciple of Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya, a reputed musician. Khan became his disciple with a commitment to practice sargam for twelve years.

However, after seven years, Gopal died of plague, and the young apprentice turned to instrumental music. He learned to play many indigenous and foreign musical instruments like sitar, flute, piccolo, mandolin, banjo etc, from Amritalal Dutt, the music director of the famed Star Theatre of Kolkata. At the same time, he learnt to play the violin in the western style from Lobo, a Goanese bandmaster, and in the Indian style from Amar Das, a prominent musician. He learnt to play shanai, naquara, tiquara and jagajhampa from Hazari Ustad and pakhwaj, mridanga and tabla from Nandababu.

Thus he became an expert in many instruments. He worked as a tabla player under an assumed name for some time in the Minerva Theatre. Then he was invited to perform at the court of Jagat Kishore Acharya, the zamindar of Muktagachha. There, Khan was attracted to the sarod after listening to Ustad Ahmed Ali Khan, from whom he subsequently took lessons for five years. Allauddin Khan then went to Rampur to take further lessons from Ustad Wazir Khan, a famous musician of the Tansen Gharana and the court musician of Hamed Ali Khan, Nawab of Rampur. Allauddin Khan mastered the difficult skill of the Sen Gharana. The Nawab sent him to the court of Maihar Estate in central India, where he became the court musician of Brijanath, the Maharaja of Maihar.

Khan visited different countries as a member of Uday Shankar's dance troupe in 1935. He was the first Indian musician to acquaint western audiences with the classical music of the subcontinent. He introduced a new gharana in the realm of Hindustani classical music, known as the Allauddin Sangeet Gharana or Maihar Sangeet Gharana. He aided the invention of some new musical instruments such as the chandrasarang and the sursringar. Khan created many ragas such as Hemanta, Durgeshwari, Meghbahar, Prabhatkeli, Hem-behag, Madan-manjari, Manjh Khambaj, Dhabalashri, Sarasvati, Dhankosh, Shobhavati etc.

He was the father of sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi, and the guru of Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee, Vasant Rai, Pannalal Ghosh, Bahadur Khan, Sharan Rani and other influential musicians.

He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honour in 1971, and prior to that in 1954, the Sangeet Natak Akademi awarded him with its highest honour, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime contribution to Indian music.

Compiled by Correspondent

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