Ustad Vilayat Khan is amongst India’s best-known sitar maestros. His career began with his first recording at the age of eight and lasted for more than six decades until his last concert in 2004 at the age of 75.
Born in Gauripur, British India, he hails from a family of musicians. His father, Enayat Khan and his grandfather Imdad Khan were both sitar maestros. Their family’s musical style, which Vilayat Khan also practised, is called Imdadkhani Gharana. In his long career, the Ustad popularized Hindustani music abroad and invented the “gayaki ang” in which the sitar play emulates the human voice.
Khan also ventured into cinema sparingly. In 1958, he composed music for Satyajit Ray’s Bengali movie “Jalsaghar” (English title: “The Music Room”). Eleven years later he scored music for Merchant-Ivory Productions’ English film “The Guru”.
He ruffled many feathers by refusing three of India’s top civilian honours - Padma Shri (1964), Padma Bhushan (1968) and Padma Vibhushan (2000). The awards he did accept were the “Bharat Sitar Samrat” from the Artistes Association of India and “Aftab-e-Sitar” from President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.