Ustad Rashid Khan no more, leaves behind a legacy in Hindustani classical music

Rashid Khan's debut concert took place when he was just 11, and by 1994, he had gained recognition as a musician.


Published Jan 09, 2024 | 6:30 PM Updated Jan 09, 2024 | 6:30 PM

Ustad Rashid Khan is no more

Ustad Rashid Khan left an enduring legacy with his soul-stirring notes and melodious voice echoing through time. He left an indelible imprint on the rich heritage of Hindustani music.

Rashid Khan, aged 55, passed away in a city hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday, 9 January, after valiantly battling cancer for over four years.

He is survived by his wife, a son, and two daughters.

Possibly the last living legend of Rampur-Sahaswan gayaki (style of singing), Rashid Khan was recognised as the 31st generation of Sangeet Samrat Mian Tansen, as detailed on his official website.

Known for his mastery at Vilambit Khayal gayaki, he captivated millions of Hindustani vocal classical music enthusiasts for more than three decades.

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Early life

Born in Badayun, Uttar Pradesh, Rashid Khan’s initial training was under his maternal grand-uncle, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan.

In April 1980, he relocated to Kolkata at the age of 10 when Nissar Hussain Khan moved there with his grandfather.

Rashid Khan’s debut concert took place when he was just 11. By 1994, he had gained recognition as a musician.

Deeply influenced by Hindustani classical music from an early age, Rashid Khan commenced his music lessons under the guidance of his grandparent, Inayat Hussain Khan.

In the realm of musical traditions, the Rampur-Sahaswan gayaki shares a close kinship with the Gwalior gharana. This particular style is defined by its medium-slow tempos, richly resonant voice, and intricate rhythmic play.

Rashid Khan weaves together a narrative deeply influenced by maestros such as Ustad Amir Khan and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Proficient in the art of the Tarana, much like his guru Nissar Hussain, he infused his renditions with a distinctive personal touch.

While demonstrating a shared mastery of instrumental stroke-based styles, reminiscent of Nissar Hussain’s renown, Ustad Rashid Khan gravitated towards the khayal style, presenting it in a manner uniquely his own.

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Proficiency in playback singing

While excelling in Hindustani vocals, Rashid Khan also showcased his proficiency in playback music, contributing to blockbusters such as My Name is Khan, Jab We Met, Isaaq, Manto, Mausam, Bapi Bari Ja, Kadambari,” and Mitin Masi.

Rashid Khan was recognised for his innovative approach, blending Hindustani vocals with genres like Sufi and collaborating with Western instrumentalist icon Louis Banks. He engaged in “jugalbandis” with sitar artist Shahid Parvez.

Khan’s Rabindra Sangeet (songs of Rabindranath Tagore) album, “Baithaki Rabi,” released in the mid-2000s, showcased his versatility.

Commenting on the album at the time of its launch, Khan stated, “I believe a musician cannot complete his circle or journey without having sung “Rabindra Sangeet.”

He said, “I am ready for criticism, but this is my way of imbibing Gurudev’s song, internalizing the meanings and ‘bhab‘ and interpreting in my way without deviating from the swaralipi.”

A familiar face at classical concert conferences like Dover Lane, Behala Classical Festival, and ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan, Rashid Khan remained active during the Covid-19 outbreak. He hosted classical music sessions at home with his son, also a skilled classical music artist, which were streamed online.

Apart from Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards, Rashid Khan was conferred with the West Bengal government’s state honour, Bangabhusan in 2012.

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