Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan

Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan


Memories, Texts and Oral Recall:

This is in continuation to commemorate the birth centenary of USTAD AZMAT HUSSAIN KHAN DILRANG. It’s a tribute to the legendary Vocalist, Composer, Musicologist, Poet and Teacher, by Prominent Musicians, Music Directors, Experts, Disciples and the whole music fraternity.

2011 being the centenary year of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan, we planned to bring out a collection of his memoirs and autobiographical writings in English and Hindi in order to make it accessible to a wider readership in India and abroad. As a record of the musical environment of its times, posterity, as well as a collection of the splendors of the past, this massive book, documentary catalogue (souvenir) will be a collective item.

Gayan Samrat Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan Dilrang was a celebrated vocalist, musicologist, composer and a staunch patriot, besides being a legendary poet, Khansahab belonged to the very prestigious families of musicians of the Atrauli (Jaipur) Gharana, Khurja Gharana, Agra Gharana and Delhi Tanras Khan Gharana. He served the nation with his art till he breathed his last. He was born at Atrauli (Aligarh) on 5th March 1911. He adopted the State of Maharashtra as his home like his illustrious predecessors.

Shri P.L. Deshpande, Sir Wamanrao Deshpande, Mr. Mohan Nadkarni, Pt. Ramesh Nadkarni, Mr. T.M.M. Rao, Pt. V.R. Athavle, Pt. C.R. Vyas, Dr. Narayan Menon, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishori Amonkar, Hirabai Barodekar, Vasant Desai, Naushad Ali, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Khayyam, Jaidev, Mr. Soli Batliwala, Smt. M.S. Subhalaxmi, Begum Akhtar, Pt. Malikarjun Mansur, Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa, Ashok Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor, Anwar Hussain & Kanahiya Lal all were fans and close friends of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan.

Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan was one of the favorite artiste of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In the first anniversary of our Independence in 1948, Pandit Nehru then Prime Minister invited Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan to give a concert at the Lal Qila ground along with other musicians like Ust. Hafiz Ali Khan, Ust. Ahmedjan Thirakwa, Hirabai Barodekar and others.

In the Dilrang Music Festival dated 15-11-1996 at Nehru Centre, famous music director Naushad Ali was invited as a guest of honor. In his speech he said…“Ustad Azmat Hussain Khansahab was one of my most favorite vocalist musicians. His contribution to Indian Music is incalculable. His versatile singing compelled me to invite him for the duet song (Jugalbandi) of Movie ‘Baiju Bawra’ along with Pandit D.V. Paluskar. Unfortunately, it didn’t materialize. I still repent, but the fact is that Ustad Sahab was a top class vocalist and a man of great self respect as well.”

Music directors Khayyam Sahab was the chief guest at our Parampara Music Festival at Tejpal Auditorium on 14th & 15th January, 2000. Khayyam Sahab in his lecture revealed, “Ustad Azmat Hussain Khansahab was one of my closest associates and colleagues at All India Radio. It is very sad that his precious recordings could not be preserved. His valuable services as a musician are unforgettable.”

Jaidev (Music Director) “The real traditional music treasure lies with Khandani musicians like Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan.” I did not hesitate to ask him about ragas and acquired knowledge from him. He was too generous and very frankly shared his musical knowledge not only with me but Ust. Sultan Khan, Pandit Devendra Murdeshwar, Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni and Hafiz Ahmed. Once Mr. Ashok Kumar, famous film actor and a close friend of Khansahab as well asked Khansahab after one of his concerts (1940) “Film Industry ko na apna kar aap ne badi galti ki Khansahab, warna aap bhi aaj hamari tarah mashoor character artiste hote.”

Azmat Khansahab replied “Is ki Khaas Wajah hain, Mere Taya (Paternal Uncle), Ustad Allahdiya Khansahab, jinko shuru ke dino me he maine unke kehne par films me kaam na karne ka wachan de diya tha, yeh lamba qissa hain.”

The same question Mr. Prithviraj Kapoor also asked Khansahab several times. In the same period when in a programme Mohammad Rafi me Khansahab and said during conversation “Khansahab aap jaise hastiyan hi hamare sangeet ki buniyaad hain. Mere liye dua farmaiye.” Khansahab blessed him.

A two day Music Feast in 1974 was held in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It was a state felicitation of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan, presided by Nawab Ali Yavar Jung, the Governor of Maharashtra then. Tejpal Auditorium was full of fans and followers. The other VIP guests were Mr. C.P. Godsey, Dr. Narayan Menon, Shri Wamanrao Deshpande, Mr. H. Nanjundiah, Mr. Soli Batliwala, Mr. T.V. Ramanujam and others. Musicians who performed to felicitate Khansahab were Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, Pandit Samta Prasad, Ustad Sharafat Hussain Khan, Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Arvind Parikh, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Jeetendra Abhishekhi, Ustad Aslam Khan, Sultan Khan and Nizamuddin Khan. This was a Grand Success.

In the mid fifties Azmat Khansahab was honored with several honors and rewards in Mumbai and Maharashtra. One of these honors was Doctor of Literature presented to him by an important music organization in Mumbai then. (Details in Biography)

Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan was the life and soul of a number of music conferences held all over India and specially in the State of Maharashtra. In a concert in the Darbar of Kumar Shamanand Singh he conferred on him with the title “Tankaptan”(1928), Maharaja Sayaji Gaikwad Darbar Concert and a title of “Gayan Samrat”(1932), First Radio Sangeet Sammelan Concert (1943), Concerts at Darbar of Maharaja of Nepal (1928 & 1940), Deval Club Music Conference at Kolhapur (1944), Madras Kala Academy Concert on Invitation of Smt. M.S. Subhalaxmi and Dr. Srinivas Iyer (1946), Concert and Seminar on North and South Indian Music at Mrs. Subhalaxmi (Amma) bungalow (1944), Concert at 1st Indian Independence anniversary at Lal Qila Ground on a personal invitation of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (PM of India) then (1948), Tansen Music Festival at Gwalior (1950 & 1952), Invited by King Zaheer Shah of Afghanistan to give concerts in the Afghanistan’s independence day, Kabul, celebrations. Also awarded with the title “Tankaptan” and a National Honor by the King (1954), During 1960’s Khansahab was specially invited to participate in a Music Conference and a Mushaira at Vigyan Bhavan, on the invitation of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Certificate of Honor awarded by Mr. B.V. Keskar, the I&B Minister for participating in a major 1st Radio Sangeet (1954) Sammelan, which was inaugurated by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the President of India then.

Some of the prominent disciples of Khansahab:

1) Smt. Manik Verma, 2) Ustad Aslam Khan, 3) Smt. Hansa Wadkar, 4) Ustad Yunus Hussain Khan, 5) Pt. Jeetendra Abhishekhi, 6) Mrs. Durgabai Shirodkar, 7) Mrs. Leela and Kunda Shirgaonkar, 8) Mrs. Kamla Jhangiani, 9) Pt. T.L. Raju, 10) Mr. Namdeo Mistry Panchal, 11) Ustad Shafi Ahmed Khan, 12) Mrs. Mani Phaterphekar, 13) Shri Bachchubhai Shamji Seth (Main Disciple), 14) Mr. Kabbu Bhai & Mahendra, 15) Shri Datta Kerkar, 16) Mr. Mohammad Ahmed Banne, 17) Mr. T.M.M. Rao, 18) Mrs. Sunanda Apte, 19) Mrs. Sushila Najundiah, 20) Rindani Sisters, 21) Ustad Gore Khan, 22) Ustad Yaqub Hussain Khan, 23) Ustad Vajahat Hussain Khan & Rafat Hussain Khan (His Sons).

Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan was a rarity among his contemporaries. Blessed with a deep resonant voice, he was a perfectionist. The purity of the note or swar stood out so prominently that every individual note could be singled out in his longest and most complicated ‘taan’. He had an amazing range and versatility which bordered on the unique. He rendered Khayaal, Dhurpad – Dhammar, Tappa, Tirwat, Tarana, Thumri with equal ease and at times took his listeners surprised by his exquisite presentation of “Marathi Padaas”, “Rajasthani Maands” and “Persian Sufi Music.” The influence that shaped his life and career from the very outset and heritage that enabled him to master both music and poetry were inherited naturally by Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan and legacy which he left behind to the world of Indian Music is invaluable. It consists of his disciples, his poetic work, research work on music, classical compositions, patriotic songs and poetic dramas. He also devotedly served All India Radio New Delhi and Mumbai as a producer and advisor. Thus he developed a style which combined the best elements of the different Gharanas in his gayaki. He groomed an entire generation of musicians and propogated the cause of music for several decades. His Gayaki was at once experimental and a delightful experience to the listeners. In his peak period he was unparalleled. Nobody dared to compete with him in the unique singing pattern which was his own and of course individualistic. In the era a trail of musicians including his own disciples intensely followed his style which later on came to be known as “Azmat Hussain Gharana.” Each of his performance was just like a purest ray serene.

1935 to 1955 was the most memorable period for Ustad Azmat Hussain, as he was at the peak of his performance. “Art” is a lifelong ‘Sadhana’, the process of learning does not end and even at the end of his life the genuine artiste feels that he has much to acquire. He never misses the opportunity to learn. By his criterion Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan was the epitome of all that is fine and admirable in the personality of an artiste. Every time it was a fresh interlude, a fresh journey on trackless field. His Bandishes (melodies) touched deep like a lyrical note of a breeze passing through a wild reed. Each of his notes he sang was given a meaning of its own. In the period of his peak performance he appeared like an emperor ruling the tides of time. Exposition of his musical tradition or the gharanas was like the flow of a river. It never halted and expressed the dynamism of his music. An instinctive accuracy and rhythm were the prominent features of his ‘gayaki’ and ‘taan’ patterns and it happened in the fraction of a second. He was an unparalleled performer and a consummate artiste with great discipline and a matchless range to keep his audience spellbound. He was a real immaculate soul dedicated to music which is exemplary for posterity. His simplicity was almost ascetic and he was endowed with an indominatible spirit which enabled him to face vicissitudes of life in the manner of stoic. His faith in God (ALLAH the Almighty) was proverbial and in any situation his stock response was “ALLAH joh kuch bhi karega accha he karega.” Humility and willing submission to the divine characterized his attitude towards life.

Azmat Khansahab regardless of his popularity and versatile talent he was God fearing person who attributed all his success to his “Peer” (Saint), Syed Ashfaque Ali Shah Ashrafi (R.A.) of Bhopal.

Besides his “Peer”, other Sufi saints in whom he had implicit faith were Hazrat Aziz Miyan ‘Raaz’ Niazi, Hazrat Syed Badshah Miyan Qadri Naqshbandi (R.A.), Hazrat Syed Azmat Ali Shah (R.A.), Hazrat Syed Shah Fayyaz (R.A.), Hazrat Sayyed Bahauddin Shah Baba (R.A.) and Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri (Paidro Shah Baba R.A.)

As a poet, “Maykash Atraulvi” had started writing verses and ghazals since 1940. Such was his talent and genius that within no time veteran poet Allama “Seemab Akbarabadi” agreed to become his Guru. Seemab Akbarabadi was very fond of Khansahab’s talent and poetic inclinations. Soon Azmat sahib became one of ‘Seemabs’ favorite pupils. Both as ‘Maykash’ and ‘Dilrang’ he has left behind a great Volume of Ghazals, Poems, Patriotic songs, Poetic dramas and Classical Bandishes (Compositions).  A child prodigy, Azmat Hussain gave his first performance at the age of 11 and same age he started writing poetry. Khansahab in his lifetime refused the patronage of many Maharajas and Nawabs, due to his strong wish to travel and perform all over India and abroad, though he was engaged with many courts (Darbars) for a small period, each time.

The great heritage of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan’s Gharana traces its origin to a great Dhurpad scholar and singer call Nath Vishwambhar and in later years, Ustad Bade Karim Bakhsh Khan from where actually the Atrauli (Jaipur) Gharana of Daguri Bani, originates. Most of his forefathers and ancestors were court musicians, all of them being immensely talented with creative genius. Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan, left his mark as a great vocalist in his own Gharana, besides some other great stalwarts like Miyan Hande Imam Bakhsh, Ustad Shahjahan (Chhajjoo) Khan, Ustad Dilawar (Dalloo) Khan, Ustad Khwaja Ahmed Khan, Ustad Hyder Khan, Ustad Hussain Khan, Ustad Allahdiya Khan (Ghulam Ahmed), Ustad Bhurji Khan (Nasiruddin Bade) and Ustad Manji Khan (Badruddin).

This was from his father’s side. His father Ustad Khairat Ali Khan was an ascetic and expert Sitar Player as well. Elder sister of Ustad Haji Altaf Hussain Khan (Khurja Gharana) got married to Ustad Khairat Ali Khan. The famous Khurja Gharana of Nauharbani, was also loaded with top class musicians and composers, like Ustad Zahur Bakhsh Khan “Ramdas”, Ustad Ghulam Hussain Khan “Allahdas”, Haji Ustad Altaf Hussain Khan and Ustad Wahid Hussain Khan “Prabhudas” & “Wahidrang”. Azmat Hussain Khan exclusive talent, was initially nourished by his maternal uncle Haji Ustad Altaf Hussain Khan of his Khurja Gharana. From Khurja to Delhi and from Delhi he came to Mumbai in 1927, at the age of 18 years. From the very start of his concert career he became extremely popular among music lovers and in music circles. In that very period he recorded more than 12, 78 RPM records. He was just 18 years old, then. In Mumbai he got the full benefit of learning Ragas and Bandishes from his paternal uncle Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan “Pranpiya”, of Agra Gharana. Born in a family of court musicians, his own career as a performer was fashioned around princely and aristocratic patrons. He had seen a fundamental change in the structure of patronage. As a performer Azmat Khansahab won phenomenal acclaim. It was because of his inborn genius where he imbibed styles of three major gharanas and projected them in a unique individual gayaki or singing pattern. This became extremely popular. His own career as a singer and a teacher spanned several decades. His music was specially prized because of the great learning it manifested as well as for its traditional value and authenticity.

Unfortunately after 1960 his performing career as a concert artiste virtually stopped due to his professional duties as a producer and advisor at All India Radio. This became a very unpleasant experience for him and his followers as well.

Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan, was one of the pioneers who spread popularized and propogated Indian classical music through teaching a number of disciples irrespective of cast, creed or religion. Most of his students took lessons from him without any remuneration. He always said “Music has no religion and the one who practices music, only can become a musician.” This great musician worked his whole life like a galley slave to keep alive the tradition of Indian Classical Music.

The popularity of Indian music today is the result of adventurous contributions of great musicians like Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan. Not only vocalists but instrumentalists, too have learned and followed the classical compositions of such great masters. “Age cannot wither her of forget its infinite variety.”

An unparalleled musician, a brilliant composer, great poet and a generous teacher, we offer the four concerts organized by Dilrang Academy of Music and Fine Arts, in 2011 and this documentary catalogue as a humble homage to Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan’s memory. This documentary catalogue – cum – souvenir does try to present a short biography of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan, significant writings on Azmat Sahab by his disciples, fans and friends, at different points in his life, memorable rare photographs, few “Dilrang” compositions with notations, important anecdotes along with his last interview published at the time of his State felicitation function in April, 1974.

Note: (Important)

After the demise of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan on 26th July 1975, Prof. T.V. Ramanujam (Sheriff of Mumbai) then called a public condolence meeting to mourn his death. This meeting was held on 18th August, 1975 at Sydenham College Hall Churchgate, Mumbai.

In this condolence meeting Minister of State Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde presided. The other VIP’s who attended this meeting were Shri C.P. Godsay (Retd. Charity Commissioner), Prof. T.V. Ramanujam (Sheriff of Mumbai), Dr. Zoe Ansari, Prof. A.A. Syed, Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni, Aijaz Siddiqui, Pandit Brijnarayan (Sur-Singer-Samsad), Ustad Aslam Khan, Soli Batliwala, Yahyabhoy Jasdanwala,  Ustad Khadim Hussain, Mr. A.K. Chinnappa and Ustad Yaqub Hussain Khan.

In this meeting many important resolutions were passed. They were as follows: 1) Memorial trust to be formed in the name of Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan Dilrang to preserve his achievements, help his family and an important road in Mumbai be renamed after him. With the result, Shri Murli Deora (MP), Shri Vilasrao Sawant (State Minister Culture), Shri Harishchandra Pote (BMC) and Shri Kantilal Dhulla (Councilor ‘A’ Ward) proposed and got passed the resolution and an important road in South Mumbai was renamed as “GAYAN SAMRAT USTAD AZMAT HUSSAIN KHAN DILRANG MARG”, A Grand function of road renaming ceremony was held on Sunday 25th January, 1987 at New Marine Lines, Mumbai.



Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan (1911 – 1975) the Gayan Samrat was one of the greatest Singers of Hindustani Classical Khayal in the 20th Century. Trained in both Khurja and the Atrauli (Jaipur) styles, he had the privilege of imbibing the Gayaki and Bandishes of Agra Gharana. This year marks the 109thBirth Anniversary (5th March, 1911 to 26th July, 1975) a dedicated classical musician, excellent teacher, innovator, extraordinary composer and an accomplished poet. He was born in the village of Atrauli (Dist. Aligarh, U.P) a region to which several legendary Sangeet Gharanas are linked.

Khansahab was acknowledged as one of the top most and leading exponents of Atrauli (Jaipur) Khurja and Agra Gharanas. A child prodigy, he began his training with his maternal uncle Haji Ustad Altaf Hussain Khan of the famous Khurja Gharana (Nauhar Bani) and had his performance at the age of eleven. He migrated to Maharashtra in 1927 and made Mumbai his home. Here he had the privilege of learning the classical music from his paternal uncle SS Ustad Allahdiya Khansahab of Atrauli – Jaipur Gharana (Gobarhar Daguri Bani) and brother in law, Gayanacharya Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan of Agra Gharana (Nauhar Bani).

It has been 45 years since this great man and an extraordinary musician left the mortal world.

But his music, his compositions, his values and exemplary memorable achievements enrich his fans, followers and music lovers, each day. His name will always be synonymous with the legendary Gharanas, which he represented viz. Atrauli (Jaipur), Khurja and Agra Gharanas.

As a great vocalist, composer, creator and guiding light for his disciples and followers which is now addressed as “Azmat Hussain Gharana”.

We pray that his life, work and contributions will continue to inspire generations to come.

The influences of his singing style were three major Sangeet Gharanas, inspired him to create an individual Gayaki (Singing Style) which proved to be an amalgamation and fusion which bordered on the unique, It was at once extraordinary, outstanding and traditionally authentic.

There was always a special intensity to his singing, a special urgency and earnestness in his treatment of melody. He sang with a new creative impulse, and each rendering there were several surprises.

In 1948, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India invited him to perform at the first anniversary of Indian Independence. Similarly he was invited for a Darbar Concert, and honored with a highest reward by Maharaja Shri Sayajirao Gaikwad (Baroda) in 1935. Simultaneously he gave several concerts in the courts of Nawab Tonk Maharaja Mysore and Maharaja Shamanand Singh of Champanagar.

In 1946, Smt. M.S. Subhalaxmi and Pt. Shriniwas Iyer Specially invited him to Chennai for a concert. Concert at the Trivandrum Academy, after his first AIR National Program, Later in the same tour Subhalaxmi ji (Amma) organized his mehfil at her residence. After this concert Subhalaxmi ji and Khansahab had a long discussion on the features of the North Indian and South Indian Ragas. This proved to be a historic meet. The Maharaja of Nepal invited him for concerts with State honors in 1948. King Zaheer Shah of Afghanistan specially organized his concert at the official celebration ceremony of the independence of Afghanistan (1954). In the year 1973, he was felicitated with full honors by Nawab Ali Yavar Jung the Governor of Maharashtra, then. Nawab sahab personally recommended his name for a lifelong Pension, SNA Award and the Padmabhushan (Coveted National Awards). The Municipal Corporation of Brihanmumbai paid tributes to his dedicated services to Indian Music, by renaming a road in his name in South Mumbai (25th January, 1987). As a generous and committed guru Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan’s, most fruitful contribution to music are his disciples who include Ustad Aslam Khan, Ustad Yunus Hussain Khan, Pandit Jeetendra Abhishekhi, Smt. Durgabai Shirodkar, Smt. Hansa Wadkar, Shirgaonkar Sisters, Smt. Manik Verma, Pandit T.L. Raju, Pandit Namdeo Panchal, Ustad Shafi Ahmed Khan, Ustad Yaqub Hussain Khan, Shri. T.M.M. Rao, Smt. Jyoti Kirit Parikh, Mrs. Kamla Jhangiani, Shri Madhu Haldankar, Shri Datta Kerkar, Ustad Vajahat Hussain Khan and Ustad Rafat Hussain Khan (His Sons).

As a man of letters, he penned more than 500 Ghazals, Poems, Poetic plays and Patriotic Songs under the nom de plume “Maykash Atraulvi”. As “Dilrang” he composed more than 100 Classical bandishes in different ragas and also created new ragas namely, “Devta Bhairon”, “Chandrajog” and “Girdhar Kalyan”. An Inspired musician, a brilliant composer – poet and a generous teacher.



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