Ustad Vilayat Khan: Nobody Played The Sitar Like Him

by Swarajya Staff - Aug 26, 2016 03:08 PM +05:30 IST
Ustad Vilayat Khan: Nobody Played The Sitar Like HimUstad Vilayat Khan 

On his birth anniversary, Swarajya celebrates the life and music of sitar legend, the late Ustad Vilayat Khan.

Today is the eighty-seventh birth anniversary of that giant of Hindustani music, Ustad Vilayat Khan (August 28, 1928 – March 13, 2004). Also known as aftaab-e-sitar, Vilayat Khan was, for many, the greatest artist of the sitar amongst all his contemporaries.

Born in Gauripur on Janamashtami (1928), Ustad Vilayat Khan was only about 9 years old, when his father, who was also his guru, passed away. From that, to being called the greatest sitar player of his times, was a journey which perhaps only he could make. And what he accumulated, and created, on that journey was for the world to see, listen and marvel at.

Few artists make you truly feel grateful for the fact that the technology to record sound and light existed in their time. Ustad Vilayat Khan was one of those. It is completely to our pleasure that we have videos and recordings of that master who could, it seems, breathe life into a sitar and make it sing all by itself.

Today, on his birthday, we bring you five of the many gems of Ustad Vilayat Khan available on the web.

Find a quiet corner, and play.

1. Shankara

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPPsdhN5khs

From the very first note that he plucks on this piece, something bright shines through, and it only grows brigther as the piece progresses. This Shankara, seems to describe the joy of Shankara himself.

2. Des

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxIAy_v-f-8

A raga of shringara rasa, like Des, must convey a sense of beauty. You didn’t need to tell him that.

3. Yaman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8-nKlJzw_Q

Ustad Vilayat Khan belonged to the Imdadkhani gharana, named after his grandfather, Ustad Imdad Khan. Imdad Khan, it is said, had a unique mastery over Yaman. This piece, plays like Ustad Vilayat Khan’s tribute to his lineage.

4. Miyan Ki Malhar (with Imrat Khan)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDlxE6nmlrA

Ustad Vilayat Khan played many concerts with his brother, Imrat Khan who accompanied on the Surbahar (bass sitar). This one is here for the reader to have a glimpse of the alliance. Also, play this one to know just how regal the surbahar of Ustad Imrat Khan sounds.

5. Bhairavi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzifzIQNyus

It would be criminal on our part to write a post on Vilayat Khan saab, on his birthday on top of that, and not mention Bhairavi. For, Bhairavi was amongst his favourite ragas.

Most artists, by tradition, play the Bhairavi at the end of their recital. Ustad Vilayat Khan, too, did the same. But perhaps, he did so not out of adherence to tradition but because he had such a mastery over the raga, that with it, he could lead the unsuspecting listener to a point of catharsis. An emotional release possible with Bhairavi only.

One of his Bhairavis has been featured in a previous edition of Shruti. That one though, was with Ustad Bismillah Khan. This here, is a Bhairavi rendered solo by the master. Accompanying him on the tabla is Pt.Kishan Maharaj of Banaras.

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