Vilayat Khan stands out as one of the greatest sitarists of our era. He was born into a musical family on Aug 28, 1928 in the village of Gauripur (present day Bangladesh). In his life, he emerged to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
He was born and raised into a family of musicians. His father was Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan Sahib, a famous sitarist, and his grandfather Ustad Imdad Hussain Khan Sahib was a famous rudra vina player.
Family responsibilities came to Vilayat Khan at an early age. He lost his father at the age of 13, and the job of looking after his family fell to him.
In the 1930's, he learned the art of sitar under his maternal uncle, Zinda Hussain Khan. It was during this period that he developed the "Gayaki Ang" which became his trademark. In this style, the sitar imitates the vocal forms such as kheyal.
Vilayat Khan's professional career was extensive. He made several international tours, he has numerous recordings, and has scored music for several films, including Satyajit Ray's "Jalsagar".
However, Vilayat Khan's professional career was not without controversy, much of which was a result of his steadfast adherence to his principles. He was a longtime critic of the political machinations that were behind the awarding of many of India's honors. He refused the Padmabhushan (one of India's top civilian honors), and was a longtime critic of the manner in which All India Radio was run. The only title that he ever embraced was the title Aftab-e-Sitar (Sun of Sitar).
Vilayat Khan taught or otherwise influenced many of of today's prominent musicians. These include Vilayat Khan's two sons Ustad Shujaat Khan, and Hidyat Khan, as well as Pdt. Arvind Parikh. Even Vilayat Khan's younger brother, Ustad Imrat Khan (sitar and surbahar) was taught by him in his younger days. It should also be noted that Vilayat Khan's nephew Rais Khan is also a famous sitarist.
Vilayat Khan died of lung cancer at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai on March 13th, 2004. He was 75 years of age.
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