Ustad Iqbal Khan, khalifa of the Dilli gharana, dies at 66

Ustad Iqbal Khan, khalifa of the Dilli gharana, dies at 66

Liquid Web WW

Written by Suanshu Khurana
| New Delhi |

December 18, 2020 2:54:33 am

Iqbal KhanUstad Iqbal Ahmed belonged to the Delhi Gharana of classical music. (Express photo by Vikram Sharma)On December 13, a concert went live on Facebook from ‘Mausiqi Manzil’, a crumbling building in the narrow lanes of Suiwalan in Darya Ganj which is home to the Dilli gharana.

Ut Iqbal Ahmed Khan, the khalifa of the gharana, sat in his nightgown along with sitar player Ut Saeed Zafar Khan and touched the notes of Bhairavi, the raga of separation, as a haziri on the death anniversary of veteran sarangi and sursagar player Ut Mamman Khan. In the middle of the concert, Khan welled up, and said, “Allah aap sabko salamat rakhe (May god bless you all).”

Khan (66) died Thursday after a massive cardiac arrest.

“His demise is shocking… He was so pleasant and so full of life. An erudite musician, one marvelled at how he knew so much,” said his friend and Mumbai-based santoor player Satish Vyas.

The history of the Dilli gharana can be traced back to the court of Iltutmish in the 13th century, whose court house was home to Mir Hasan Sawant and Mir Kalawant. Sawant left the court and became a follower of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, infusing sufi qalams in his music. His gharana came to be known as ‘Qawwal Bachhe’. Kalawant stayed a raj gayak, promoted dhrupad and dhamar. His gharana became Dilli gharana.

After the Britishers conquered Delhi in the 19th century, many significant musicians from the gharana, such as Ut Tanras Khan, moved to Pakistan, while Ut Chand Khan stayed back. An important musician from the Qawwal bachhe gharana, Ut Iqbal Ahmed was his grandson. Chand Khan’s house resonated with thumris and ghazals crooned by Siddheshwari Devi and Begum Akhtar — disciples of Chand Khan, while heavyweights like Ut Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and K L Saigal frequented the house.

“But when Iqbal saab was coming up, the whole family gharana system was sort of breaking down. Singers such as Pt Jasraj and Bhimsen ji (Joshi), not from a family that founded a gharana, were very good and came so strongly, the family ustads couldn’t really hold on to their bastion,” said Delhi-based sarod player Pt Biswajit Roy Chowdhury.

Ut Iqbal Ahmed was a regular at most concerts in the Capital, reeling “subhan allah” and “kya kehne” after a lighting speed taan or a great couplet. But he never made it to some of those festivals he attended.

“He didn’t fit the bill, he wouldn’t hobnob with the organisers,” reasoned Chowdhury. “He deserved much more. I think he passed away too early and didn’t get his due,” says Vyas.

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