AMN / WEB DESK
Classical music stalwart Ustad Imrat Khan, who dedicated his life to propagating the Sitar and the surbahar worldwide, has died Thursday in St Louis, United State after a brief illness. He was 83.
His son Nishat Khan said Imrat Khan breathed his last Thursday in a hospital in St Louis, his home for over two decades, after a stroke. He said the funeral will take place tomorrow.
Imrat Khan famously turned down the Padma Shri last year saying the recognition had come too late and diminished his achievements.
Imrat Khan toured the world with his music and performed at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970 for a Merchant-Ivory partnership. He was also a regular at various music festivals in India.
Khan was born in Calcutta into a family of musicians tracing its pedigree back for several generations, to the court musicians of the Mughal rulers. His father was Enayat Khan (1895–1938), recognised as a leading sitar and surbahar player of his time, as had been his grandfather, Imdad Khan (1848–1920), before him.
His father died when Imrat was a child, so he was raised by his mother, Bashiran Begum and her father, singer Bande Hassan Khan. In 1944, the family moved with Vilayat Khan, Imrat’s elder brother, to Bombay where both the brothers learned extensively from uncle Wahid Khan. In 1952 Vilayat and Imrat moved in together in Calcutta. They performed together for many years. From the 1960s onwards, Khan has performed and recorded solo, playing both sitar and surbahar.
For long, Khan recorded extensively on both his instruments. His full performance practice starts with a surbahar alap in dhrupad ang (embellished with more romantic touches), followed by a shorter alap on the sitar leading into gat in traditional Imdadkhani style. (Sitar players such as Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee added bass strings to their sitars to achieve at least some of the surbahar’s lower range on a single instrument).