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Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan is a contemporary of Great Masters like Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan, Ustad Rahimuddin Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakawa , Ustad Amir Khan and Prof. D.T. Joshi, who were greatly devoted to the traditional classical art forms with much dedication and helped its survival , evolved and prospered even during the darkest periods of Indian history.
Based on the Guru-shishya parampara, ensuring loyalty and intensity of training, Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan's professional lineage evolves directly, in an unbroken line, from Maseet Sen, the innovator of Masit Khani Baaj and the descendant of Mian Tansen, a name which needs no introduction.
The descendent tree includes Maseet Sen, the originator of Maseet Khani Baaj( the slow tempo of instrumental composition ). Mushtaq Ali Khan had his initial training in sitar from his illustrious father from the age of six. His father Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan was the disciple of Barkat-ullah Khan, Aftab-e-Sitar. Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan joined as a core musician in Jaunpur state in U.P. but quit early , to continue his mission in life. His first major performance was at Allahabad in 1931 , after which invitations to perform multipled and he became famous overnight. Ustadji had a very wide repertoire of professional activities interview, lectures, demonstrations, seminars, performances, examination evaluations of various organisations and institutions like AIR, Doordarshan, Newspapers, various Universities in India , Academies, Archives and Societies.
He organised conferences where old masters and new artists were introduced to the cognoscenti and the novice. Among the well known names, Pandit Ravi Shankar was first presented by him to the public in Calcutta . Ustad had his undisputed popularity and demand during the early thirties to late forties
There were many disctinctions conferred on him , to mention a few , Sitar Sudhakar – 1932, National Academy Award – 1968, Tantri Vilas – 1973, Sangeet Ratnakar – 1974, Hony D,litt – 1974 Rabindra Bharati , State Academy Award – 1974, Senior fellowship and Emeritus – 1986, Bhuwalka Award – 1987, Tansen Award – 1987, Special Honour University of Delhi – 1987. He was a musicians Musician and that is why he always shied away from the commercial attention .
Very few of the present generation know that he was the only SUR BAHAR player of India who used to play in BEEN-ANG with 3 MEZRABS ( plectrum) and that too , with Pakhawaj as an accompanying instrument only in pure DHRUPAD STYLE . In a rare exclusive interview in the DAILY TELEGRAPH on the 13 July 1985 , Khan Sahab narrated the history of this instrument with historical references in which has cleared the myth of this instrument . Khan Sahab had his lineage with fifth vani, called DHANDVANI named after one of the fore fathers. The famous dhrupadiya of Shah Jahans Court , Nayak Dhundhu . It is also called RASAL VANI for its beauty . …." two of my ancestors , Jaggu Khan and Makku Khan. Since Makku Khan was childless , he adopted Waras AliKhan a great name who learnt the art of playing Been from Ustad Bade Mohammed Khan. When my father Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan was six years old , my grand father Ustad Sadaq Ali Khan, son of Jaggu Khan died so his uncle Waras Ali Khan taught him all inticacies of BEENA on the SURBAHAR . That is why we play Sur Bahar with three Mezrabs. The Sur Bahar was originally designed to felicitate the playing of Alap . Those days Alap was the exclusive prerogative of the Beenkar. Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Khan and his son Ustad Sajjad Mohammed Khan the great SurBahar players used to stay at Calcutta in the earliest part of the 20th Century and taught many renowned players including Ustad Imdad Khan and Jnanoda Mukherjee. In this instrument two angas played are ALAP & TALPARAN and that is why the knowledge of Pakhawaj is essential to play the Talparan ….".
He also had to learn the art of Pakhawaj playing in order to achieve perfection in the art of playing the SURBAHAR with Pakhawaj A follower of RASAL VANI , Khan Sahab was the only SURBAHA player who not only maintained the purity of the Rasdal Vani but also kept its purity alive till his last days and never diluted to please the masses and that is why his music was not understood by the masses but respected by the contemporary Great Masters . His memorable Subahar recital in Raga Purya , in the First National Programme of the All India Radio New Delhi , in the year 1953 , is srtill remembered by the connoisseurs and lovers of Indian Music . It may be recalled that in the year 1953 Pandit Ravishankar was instrumental of instituting this National Programme of All India Radio and was present on this memorable occasion ( live Concert ) and praised Kahn Sahab profusely for his superb exposition of Raga Purya in a pure Dhrupad style with three Mezrabs . His foremost disciple Dr. Debu Chaudhuri is now carrying on his tradition and music to keep his name alive in the field of Indian Classical Music . A cultural Centre in New Delhi in being run under the name of "UMAK( acronym of Ustad Mushtaq Ali Kahn ) CENTRE FOR CULTURE" by Dr. Debu Chaudhuri and his students , with a view to have his music and his belief and faith in music alive , for the future generation those who will have regards for purity and tradition . Such great Masters are not understood well during their own time which is a sad story and reflection on our knowledge and understanding .
Even in the evening of his illustrious career, he and his loving wife Begum Kaneez Khatoon were actively involved in variety of projects for promotion of art and culture in our country. His departure for his heavenly abode on 21st July, 1989 left a huge void in rapidly shrinking world of pure traditionalism in our music world.