surguan - Promoting Indian Classical Music

Ustad Faiyaz Khan


Ustad Faiyaz Khan was an Indian classical vocalist, an exponent of the Agra Gharana.

Early life:

Born at Sikandara near Agra in 1886 (contested as 1888, 1889), he was the son of Shabr Hussain, who died three months before his birth. He was brought up by his maternal grandfather, Ghulam Abbas (1825?-1934), who taught him music up to the age of 25. He was also a student of Ustad Mehboob Khan "Daraspiya", his father-in-law.

Singing career:

Faiyaz Khan served for a long time as the court musician of Sir Sayaji Rao Gaekwad, the Maharaja of Baroda, where he was awarded the "Gyan Ratna" (Gem of Knowledge). The Maharaja of Mysore awarded him the title "Aftab-e-Mousiqui" (the Sun of Music). Faiyaz Khan's specialities were dhrupad and khyal, but he was also capable of singing thumri and ghazal. According to well known musicologist Dr. Ashok Ranade who was a former Director of Music Centre, University of Bombay, "There was no chink in his armour". He was a frequent performer in the musical conferences and circles of Lucknow, Allahabad, Calcutta, Gwalior, Bombay and Mysore and in concerts organised by provincial princes who vied with one another to have the Ustad perform in their respective courts. The rulers of Baroda held him in high esteem and he was offered the seat to the right of the Maharaja of Baroda during the official functions of the royal court.He also performed at Jorasanko Thakurbari, the residential abode of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), who was an admirer of the Ustad. It is known that he had held a musical session at Jorasanko a few years before the passing away of Tagore. Other well-known admirers include maestros such as Ahmad Jaan Thirakwa, Ustad Amir Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Vilayat Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar. Some of his best-known students are Dilip Chand Bedi, Sohan Singh, Asad Ali Khan and Shrikrishna Ratanjankar, apart from in-house disciples such as Khadim Hussain Khan, Vilayat Hussain Khan, Latafat Hussain Khan, Ata Hussain Khan and Sharafat Hussain Khan. Faiyaz Khan himself was an admirer of Abdul Karim Khan. S.N.Ratanjankar was perhaps the last of his pupils who excelled both as a teacher and as a performer.

Personal life:

Considered a Neo-classicist by some scholars of Indian classical music, Faiyaz Khan was known for his broadmindedness, kindness, humility and sudden fits of temper that cooled almost instantaneously. Simple at heart, he cared little for the gifts and rewards ("inam") that was showered upon him in almost every place he performed. His associate and relative and lifelong companion Ghulam Rasul accounts an incident in the 1930s when a thousand rupee currency note was found tucked in the pocket of his sherwani (a long, collared and buttoned outer outfit) when it came home after being washed, cleansed, dried and ironed by the washerman. When asked by Rasul, the Ustad retorted in utter innocence - "How do I know that who is giving me what and how am I to know that a single currency note can be worth more than a hundred rupees?" In another incident which took place at Unaon, near Kanpur, a few years later; when the Ustad came to know that his patron was expending beyond his means to host the concert of the Ustad to celebrate the sacred thread ceremony of his son, Faiyaz Khan accepted only the fare for his return journey and blessed the child with a gold ring purchased from the local goldsmith during his afternoon stroll the day before.

Failing health due to a bout of typhoid in 1945 followed by tuberculosis restricted him to lower his pitch to "B" and "B Flat" though in his prime, he always sang in "C Sharp" and "C". The available recordings of the Ustad are almost entirely from his later years. By the time he died (on 5 November 1950 at Baroda), he had earned the reputation of being one of the greatest and most influential vocalists of the century.