It is said of Moujuddin Khan that India has not produced another thumri singer like him. Nobody knew his gharana, people used to whisper he had no training…but when he would start a thumri, his superb rendering would sway the entire audience through his singing of a single line.
Moujuddin Khan was born in Nahan in the erstwhile princely state of Patiala. His father, Ghulam Hussain Khan, and paternal uncle, Rahmat Khan, were well-known singers and sitariyas. The latter lived in Gwalior, while Moujuddin`s maternal grandfather, Suleh Khan, achieved fame in Punjab as a fine vocalist. His mother, Begum Zebunnissa, was the daughter of a good musician and was herself a well-trained singer, as also his brother Rahimuddin Khan. Thus he was brought up in a home filled with music. They were "pure Punjabi Pathans" and belonged to the Dadhi strata of musicians.
It was Ustad Roshan Ali Khan, a court-musician of Maharaja Prabhu Narayan Singh of Banaras, who invited his friend Ustad Ghulam Hussain Sitariya to leave Lahore and shift to the musically vibrant Banaras. Like a good friend, Roshan Ali arranged for his friend`s sitar concert in the royal darbar. The Maharaja liked his art so much that he appointed Ghulam Hussain as a court-artiste. Along with his wife Zebunnissa and two sons Moujuddin and Rahimuddin, Ghulam Hussain happily settled down in his new home. Subsequently, two daughters also were born to the couple. The family soon became an integral part of the music-world of Banaras.
Banaras had plenty of music lovers, patrons and connoisseurs, and the entire atmosphere was congenial to music. Before long, the family of Ghulam Hussain Khan got so deeply attached to Banaras that they hardly ever remembered their birthplace, Patiala. They shifted into a house in Mohalla Chota Tala for good.
Moujuddin`s earliest teacher and inspirer was none other than his mother who had a good stock of khayals learnt from her father. Although she was deeply attached to her son, she was a very hard task-master as a guru. Moujuddin was a healthy, good-looking and playful little boy gifted with a very sweet voice, and a rare ability to learn effortlessly whichever song he heard and liked. And yet if he made the slightest mistake, she used to scold or even slap him. When she was pleased with his singing, she gave him some money for his favourite sweets from a special shop in the bazaar.
As he grew up, Moujuddin learnt from his father and uncle too. By the age of fifteen, he began to captivate larger audiences. After his father`s death, young Moujuddin went to Punjab and became a disciple of the famous "Alia-Fatu" pair. However, he made frequent trips to Banaras whenever he longed to meet his family. At that time, a famous dancer-cum-singer named Jagdip Misra used to stay in Banaras. On his advice, Moujuddin concentrated on thumri and dadra which had fewer exponents. Jagdip Misra`s style also made a great impression on his music.
Although Moujuddin`s singing attracted a large number of appreciative listeners, the two important persons who really gave a great fillip to his musical career were none other than the two wealthy and well-known music patrons, Lallanji and Chakkanji. These two connoisseurs often arranged private sittings of many artistes in their residence in Ganeshbagh and rewarded them lavishly. To be included in their mehfils was an honour that musicians looked forward to. The hosts invited only high class musicians, and the listeners were real rasikas . Moujuddin yearned to be included in these sessions but could find no way to get invited. Therefore, one day he and his friends concealed themselves in a thick bush near their Ganeshbagh residence, and he started singing. When his melodious voice reached the ears of Lallanji and Chakkanji, they sent a man to find the singer. Combing the area, they located the handsome young Punjabi and at once invited him to perform in the prestigious private session. The day following his performance Lallanji and Chakkanji appointed Moujuddin as their darbari singer, and they are said to have kept him in great honour and comfort for the rest of his life.
Seth Dulichand of Calcutta was another rich and well-known patron. Moujuddin charmed Bombay as well when Ustads Nazir Khan and Chajju Khan of Bhendi Bazar invited him to participate in one of their grand jalsas. Gaya, another noted centre of musical activity in those times, also succumbed to his charms. Moujuddin was in his early thirties and at the peak of his career.
An unparalleled performer of thumri and dadra, Moujuddin excelled at khayal too, with a virile style incorporating complicated ("cakkardar") tans which sounded like "volleys from a machine gun."
One of the last performances he gave in peak form was at the residence of a rich Nawab in Zila Dera Ismail Khan. This Nawab was so fascinated by Moujuddin`s music that he offered all sorts of bait in order to persuade him to stay. But Moujuddin was so deeply attached to his early benefactors in Banaras that he insisted on returning. To his utter distress, he discovered on his return that the irate Nawab had fed him with something in his food that had damaged his golden voice forever. Perhaps it was the shock of this tragedy that cut short his life. Just three months later, he died broken-hearted in Banaras in 1926. Not only Banaras, but the entire world of music was plunged in gloom.
Though little is known about Moujuddin`s family or his disciples, it is a well-known fact that Badi Moti Bai of Banaras was a prominent disciple.