RMIM Archive Article "106".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM/C Archives..
# Subject: Great Master's series
# Great Masters #22: Aftab-e-Mousiqui Faiyaz
# Posted by: Rajan Parrikar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
# Sources: "Great Masters of Hindustani Music" by Susheela Misra.
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
Today's offering: Faiyaz Khansaheb, honcho of the (alas! now-
dilapidated) Agra Gharana. A singer who packed great precision
and power in his art.
Ustad Faiyaz Khan
From "Great Masters of Hindustani Music" by Smt. Susheela Misra.
The various gharanas in Hindustani music constitute a rich heri-
tage of artistic traditions, which has been transmitted to us
orally through generations of great musicians. The Gwalior, Agra,
Kirana, Delhi, Jaipur, Atrauli, Patiala and other gharanas have
produced some of our greatest maestros such as Haddu-Hassu Khans,
Tanras Khan, Ghagge Khuda Bux, Rahmat Khan, Alia-Fattu, Umrao
Khan, Ghulam Abbas Khan, Nathan Khan, and so many others. Ustad
Faiyaz Khan popularly called "Aftab-e-Mousiqui", was "the ulti-
mate flowering of the genius of the Agra or Rangila Gharana." He
summed up in himself the finest traditions of his gharana and was
its greatest exponent in recent times. He belonged passionately
to his age, "and yet, he belonged to an infinitely more glorious
past of our music and its traditions".
Faiyaz Khan's musical lineage goes back to Tansen himself. His
family is traced back to Alakhdas, Malukdas and then to Haji Su-
jan Khan (son of Alakhdas who became a Muslim.) Genius, musical
ancestary, and training combined to give us this wonderful
artist-one of the most reputed and respected exponents of Hindus-
tani classical music in recent tirnes. He had the exceptional
good fortune of receiving his talim in Dhrupad singing from his
grand father, Ghulam Abbas Khan; and in Dhamar from his grand un-
cle, Ustad Kallan Khan, both of whom were leading musicians of
the rangila gharana in the second half of the last century. Kal-
lan Khan was the younger brother of Ghulam Abbas Khan and, there-
fore, the grand-uncle of Faiyaz Khan Sahib. Ghulam Abbas Khan
was his maternal grandfather, and Rangeela Ramzan Khan his pater-
nal great grandfather. Faiyaz Khan's uncle, Fida Hussain was a
court musician in Tonk (Rajputana). Faiyaz was born at Sikandra
near Agra in 1880 and he died in Baroda on 5th November 1950. As
his father Safdar Hussain died very early, his grandfather adopt-
ed him and brought him up as his own son. Ghulam Abbas Khan, the
son of the great Ghagge Khuda Bux and an intimate friend of
Bairam Khan, not only imparted to the boy the authentic taleem of
his gharana, but also took the promising young Faiyaz on a "pil-
grimage of music", visiting all the important centres o f music,
listening to great contemporary musicians, and bringing him prac-
tical experience in concert singing. By the time he was 18,
Faiyaz Khan had become such a "polished" artist that he began to
give recitals in places like Bombay, Calcutta and Gwalior. Once
at Bombay, 24 year-old Faiyaz got a chance to hear the great Mi-
yanjan Khan, a pupil of the great Fateh Ali Khan of Patiala. Im-
mediately after him, Faiyaz was asked to sing. At first he copied
Miyanjan Khan's Multani in the latter's style and then he demon-
strated in his own style-both in such a masterly way that Miyan-
jan Khan embraced the young singer and exclaimed in genuine ap-
preciation: "Tum hi ustad ho" (you are a true descendant of the
masters of the art.) It was an age of gentlemen-musicians.
In addition to all the valuable training and experience given to
him by his loving grandfather-(Nana)-cum-Ustad, there was
Faiyaz's own native genius "an eternally intangible factor" that
shapes the destinies of great men. Ghulam Abbas Khan, who is said
to have lived to the incredible old age of 120, saw his favourite
grandson mature into a maestro with a grand future ahead of him.
Once when certain mischief mongers tried to arrange a competition
between the great Bhaskar Buwa Bhakle and the young Faiyaz Khan,
the former is reported to have been so impressed with Faiyaz's
performance that he refused to stand up as a rival, and to the
utter disappointment of the men behind the mischief, embraced him
"as a brother."
In 1908, a grand competition was arranged in Mysore between Ustad
Faiyaz Khan and Ustad Hafiz Khan of the Mysore Durbar. Both sang
for hours and sang so splendidly that it became difficult to de-
cide who should get the first prize Nevertheless, the Maharaja
who felt enraptured by Faiyaz Khan's music conferred on him the
title of `Aftab-o-Mausiqui' meaning "the sun of music." Soon
after this, the Lahore All India Music Conference gave him the.
title of `Sangeet Chudamani. "At another famous All India music
conference organised by Pdt. Bhatkhandeji, Faiyaz Khan was
selected as the top most khayal-singer of the day. It was no
wonder then that Pdt Bhatkhandeji chose him as the guru of his
favourite pupil, Sri Krishna Narayan Ratanjankar and took him to
Kashmir, from where his fame spread fan and wide.
At an All India Music Conference held in Baroda, which was at-
tended by more than 400 singers, Faiyaz Khan captivated the audi-
ence so deeply that they showed their appreciation by handing
over to him a purse of 33,000 rupees.
Though Ustad Faiyaz Khan had settled down in Baroda as a court
musician, he was always travelling because no music conference
was deemed incomplete without his performance. Thanks to All In-
dia Radio, thousands of his admirers all over the country used to
be thrilled by his rich velvety voice whenever he broadcast from
Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta or Lucknow. To the last, he remained the
President of the All India Society for Contemporary Music.
As one of the privileged few in whose home, the Aftab-e-Mausiqui
gave several informal all-night music soirees, I feel at a loss
for words when I try to describe the spellbinding effect of his
voice, a rich, masculine, sonorous, trembling with emotion, a
voice capable of a thousand nuances and shades moods and fancies,
turns and twists, a voice that touched the very chords of the
listeners' hearts. His voice was at its grandest in the mandra
(lower) notes. Its range was not wide, in fact, it was quite lim-
ited in the taar saptak (higher octave), but in these 2 or 2 1/2
octaves he used to bring out "a living picture of the raga pul-
sating with life and personality."
Steeped in the Dhrupad Dhamar alap traditions of his gharana, he
was the only musician who could hold even a lay audience in a
spell while he sang his full-blooded alap in its purest tradi-
tional form. His music was a fine blending of intelligence, ima-
gination and emotion. With what effortless charm and creative en-
ergy, the Ustad used to evoke the ethos of the raga, build up the
theme of the bandish, and touch the emotions of the listeners.
There was intense mutual admiration between the Aftab-e-Mausiqui
and Thirakwa, the tabla-wizard. One can have an idea of his musi-
cal versatility, when one remembers how he could render anything,
from a Dhrupad to a Ghazal with equal ease and mastery, and how
he was always in his element whether in a crowded conference
hall, in a grand old darbar, or in a friend's informal drawing
room. Each raga was `a living personality' for him. Often he used
to say; " One must play with a Raga with a lover's passion. One
must learn to love it to pay court to it, like a cavalier, and
then alone can a musician tell the story of joy and grief; of
laughter and tears. Music must please and move."
He was aware of the appeal, of simplicity and spontaneity and
never resorted to any display of vocal acrobatics. It was his
genuine passion for ragas that enabled Faiyaz Khan to visualise
each raga as a sentient being through which he could unravel for
us a vast range of emotions. Those who have their favourites
among Ragas like Darbari, Jaijaiwanti, Des, Anandi, Nat Behag,
Todi,Ramkali,Jaunpuri, Jogiya,Bhairavi, Pilu, Kafi, Barwa,
Bageshwari, Sohini, etc, will always remember how he could evoke
varied emotions and how amazingly he could travel from the
colourful and the romantic to the sombre and the pathetic, then
from the realms of fancy, conceit to youthful gusto. "By turns,
they felt the glowing mind disturbed, delighted raised, refined -
- - rapt, inspired."
There was a grandeur in his sweeping alaps, dignity and vigour in
his boltans, and joy in his bolbant. The Aftab-e-Mausiqui has en-
riched the Agra school of music as no one else has done. His
style, though essentially of the rangila gharana, was a superb
blend of the characteristics of that plus traces of the Gwalior
style, enlivened by his own creative inspiration. Though his
music had its roots in time-honoured tradition he was no conser-
vative. "Of course", he said once, "one must realise that our
present-day music has fallen from the heights of its past glory.
Yet I am an inveterate optimist and believe that some good will
come out of the present revival."
Ustad Faiyaz Khan's music had certain distinguishing traits.
Blessed with a powerful voice capable of many minute modulations,
he could easily sway his audiences whether he sang dignified
Dhrupads, playful Horis or Dhamars, artistic Khayals, or tuneful
Dadras. The dignity of his khayal-singing was reminiscent of the
grand style of musicians like Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan. His
renderings of Thumri and Dadra are said to have been like those
of the great Moizzuddin. As a discerning music critic has said :
"He converted even Ghazals into very presentable things... From
alap to Thumri, his genius occupied a range which mediocre
talents cannot even survey." His deep knowledge of, and long
practice in, each raga, can be gauged when one hears how during
his stay in Kashmir with Pdt. Bhatkhandeji, he sang Rag Yaman for
hours daily, for one full month. His style of alap, bant barhat
and Tankartab was remarkable. He has composed many songs under
the pseudonym "Prem Piya" and contributed many old songs to
Bhatkhande's "Kramik Pustakmala." Though fully aware of the limi-
tations of the textbook teaching in music schools and colleges,
he was sensible enough to admit:
"I recommend textbooks for beginners only. But a textbook cannot
produce a musician. Music institutions should concentrate more on
Gayaki or style. How can the music of Tansen be turned into a
textbook? Music in this country was handed down orally from gen-
eration to generation with the help of memory and tradition and
has flourished up to this time." The Ustad's opinion on broad-
casting was characteristically humorous: "I like it immensely,
except for the red light which is the signal for a forced land-
ing. I enjoy being on the air."
While people used to admire his flawless diction in Urdu, Hindi,
etc, they used to be amazed at his graceful and fine pronuncia-
tion of Braj-Bhasha in which a large number of Khayals, Dhamars,
etc, are couched. This was because Faiyaz Khan spent his early
years in the Braj-Bhasha areas like Mathura, Agra, Atrauli, etc.
His father-in-law, Mahboob Khan of Atrauli, was none other than
the reputed composer Daras Piya whose khayals in ragas like. Jog,
Anandi, etc, are still so popular. Another relation--Suras Piya-
was a wellknown composer who lived a recluse's life in Mathura.
The song Man Mohan Brij ko Rasiya (in Paraj) which Faiyaz Khan
has made famous, is a sample of Saras Piya's compositions. Faiyaz
Khan himself composed many songs under the penname Prem Piya.
In his youthful "halcyon days" Faiyaz Khan sat in the company of
great artists like Moizzuddin, Bhaiya Ganapatrao and Malkajan.
That was how he had imbibed the romantic Thumri style and could
render Dadras and Ghazals so imaginatively. Many a time I have
witnessed Faiyaz Khan rendering the Bhairavi Thumri "Babul Mora"
and drawing tears out of the listeners' eyes. Faiyaz Khan used to
say that Malkajan's Bhairavi-Thumris were peerless. And Malka
even in her obscure later years never missed the Ustad's concerts
in Calcutta. Unlike some highbrow musicians, Faiyaz Khan never
looked down on light classical types of songs. He used to say:-
"It is not a child's play to sing a Thumri or a Ghazal. The
essence is the bol-but one has to be very imaginative and origi-
nal." Even into a simple Dadra he could pour a lot of genuine
In spite of his short stature, Ustad Faiyaz Khan had a dignified
personality. It is said that in his younger days he used to look
so courtly in his gold embroidered black achkan, black cap, and
imposing moustache, that once he was mistaken for the ruler him-
self in a certain darbar. Though he had no school education he
had an innate sense of culture which enabled him to appreciate
the good things of life. A thorough gentleman, he was generous,
tender hearted and full of warmth with a capacity for lasting
friendships. Modest and unassuming, courteous and polite, he com-
bined greatness with childlike simplicity. The Ustad never hurt
others' feelings, could never tolerate slander or gossip. People
from all walks of life were drawn to him by his suavity, natural
culture, humility and kind heartedness. As an artist he was sur-
rounded by admirers wherever he went.
It was in small and exclusive, informal private soirees that the
true qualities of the man and his music were fully revealed. No
amateur's music was too insignificant for this great Ustad. He
had a word of encouragement for every young aspirant in the art.
Even in his late sixtes, he carried with him the exotic atmo-
sphere of the Moghul court.
Among the well-known pupils that the Ustad left behind may be
mentioned Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan (the Central Akademy Award
Winner of 1978), Latafat Hussain (now teaching in the ITC
Research Akademy Calcutta), the late Dr. S. N. Ratanjankar, Pt.
Dilip Chandra Vedi, Ata Hussain Khan, and the youngest of them
all- Sharafat Hussain Khan. In the words of his great admirer
late Dr S. K. Chaubey:
"He was the last of the race of giants. The like of him will not
be born again. He was a gift-a national asset. As time widens the
gulf between the noble dead and the hopeful living, he stands out
as a beacon-light, a bulwark of genius and tradition, whose in-
spiration will not be wasted even on the most cynical among us. "
A widower for years, Faiyaz Khan left behind no child when he
died in 1950, but he was mourned by thousands of admirers all
over the country. The passing of Faiyaz Khan Saheb marked the end
of a great era in music. Though, he was 70, his music had re-
tained a youthful vigour, and a variety that age could not with-
er. He was a maestro and a phenomenon in the world of Hindustani
music, and "his art symbolised the grand evolution of Hindustani
music from the ancient Dhrupad - Dhamar to the more modern Khayal
- Thumri." His music was characterised by dignity, grandeur and
It is indeed a pity that gramophone records do him no justice.
Even his long tapes and LP Discs hardly give gilmpses into his
grand world of music. But those of us who have been lucky to hear
him in person will never cease mourning: "Daiya Kahan gaye we
log" (Where have those great ones gone"?)