The Musical Architect - Ustad Amir Khan

The founder of the Indore Gharana, Ustad Amir Khan, influenced a generation of musicians with his musical vision. He creates musical spaces that cannot be inhibited by thoughts. He creates a strong foundation on which the edifice of Ragas sits comfortably.

By Baithak Foundation

Films Division Documentary

Khansaheb's life was as human as it could be though his music was otherworldly. This documentary captures the man and his music as delicately as a leaf catches rain water. 

Voice of Tanseen

Based in Emperor Akbar's court the film Baiju Bawra was a completely musical production. Ustad Amir Khan was the voice of Tanseen and Pt. D.V.Paluskar sang all the classical compositions of Baiju. 

H.H. The Maharaja Holkar of Indore, G.C.S.I. (1877) by Bourne & ShepherdThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Amir Khan on the founding of Indore Gharana
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New Gharana

The music of Amir Khan was traditional and yet new and it became a new Gharana. In this interview at the Sangeet Research Academy at Kolkata he explains his thought process. He says I have only worked further on the Khayal form. I have tried removing the inconsistencies. 

New Gharana

He says I have tried making it more beautiful. I have tried keeping the Ragas pure and unadulterated. I believe that beauty can be achieved by keeping the purity of the form and structure. Unnecessary breaking of rules is not required. 

Megha Mallar Raga, Folio from a Ragamala (Garland of Melodies) (circa 1725-1750) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Amir Khan describes the specialities of Indore Gharana
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The specialities

Amir Khan explains how the Indore Gharana attempts to remove the unnecessary and acrobatic elements from Indian Classical Music to make it a soothing and surreal. He specifically mentions that he has moved away from display of mastery over skills and wishes to touch heart. 

Painting Painting (1850)The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Kausi Kanada by Ustad Amir Khan
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The Indore Gharana

After listening to Khansaheb one surely observes the distinctive characteristic features of his music. The slow paced aalap, the unhurried nature of compositions and apt use of musical skills come together to create a magnificence never heard before. 

Sorathi Ragini, Wife of Megha Mallar Raga, Folio from a Ragamala (Garland of Melodies) (circa 1750) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Raga Nand by Ustad Amir Khan
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Experience of Space

Khansaheb creates these beautiful spaces by cascading notes like the gentle morning light. Observe how he moves from note-to-note and word-to-word. His diction is clear and the elaboration of the Raga is unhurried as if he is playing in the space between notes. 

Malkos Raga, Folio from a Ragamala (Garland of Melodies) (circa 1675) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Raga Malkauns by Ustad Amir Khan
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Virtuosity and Magnificence

Ustad Amir Khan was definitely gifted by celestial musical sensibilities. However it was not an easy feat for him as he also suffered from laryngitis, a terrible condition that damages voice and breathing mechanism. Despite this he mastered an art form of voice. 

Folio from a manuscript of the Raga Darshan of Anup Folio from a manuscript of the Raga Darshan of Anup (dated A.H. 1214/ A.D. 1799–1800)The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Amir Khan speakes about the concept of Tarana
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Thinking Musician

Khansaheb was a scholar not only of music but also of poetry and spiritual traditions. Hear him describe how the composition type Tarana is derived from Persian and Urdu languages. They are not meaningless compositions but rather a spiritual tool of Sufis. 

Darbar of Jahangir (ca. 1615) by Artist: Abu'l-HasanSmithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art

Ustad Amir Khan sings Darbari Kanada Tarana
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Raga Darbari Tarana

A magestic Raga Darbari  composition that calls out for the lover. An earnest request for audience as the beloved knows all and understands the search of the lover. In Sufi traditions the beloved is the lord and the seeker is the love lorn.  

Lovers Watched by Women, Drawing for a Ragamala (Garland of Melodies) (circa 1770) by UnknownLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Raga Suha Sughrai by Amir Khan
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Unheard Tarana

Another tarana in a raga rarely heard these days. Watch out of the change in the laya (speed) of the composition and notice the beauty of this progression. 

Music is that which emanates from the soul and is received by the soul. - Ustad Amir Khan

FD with Pets (2019) by Illustrated by: Rukmini ChakravartyBaithak Foundation

Know Another Musician

Musicians and Gharanas inspire each other and they are not static. Did you know that Ustad Amir Khan was greatly inspired by the artists of the Kirana Gharana. Interestingly, Pt. Firoz Dastur, a Kirana musician was deeply inspired Amir Khan. Find more about Pt. Firoz Dastur here.

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