Vilayat Husain Khan (1895-1962) was one of the greatest figures of
the Agra Gharana, who excelled both as singer and teacher. He was
the fourth son of the legendary singer, Natthan Khan. After he lost
his father at the age of six, he was looked after by his relatives,
Kallan Khan and Mohammad Baksh, durbar musicians in Jaipur and
received his initial training from them. In 1914, he moved to Mumbai
to live with and learn from his older brother, Mohammad Khan. Here
his gurus also included Ghulam Abbas and Tasadduk Khan.
Vilayat Husain Khan had documented the names and materials of 42
gurus, including Ustad Faiyaz Khan, from whom he took taleem in the
course of his distinguished life. He inherited, imbibed and
developed a style which was both individualistic and representative
of the Agra Gharana. Khan Sahab, was a bridge between the last phase
of the Durbar music and the modern period. His music was steeped in
Sangeet Vidya (the science of music) and authentic `gayaki`.
Khan Sahab had a large repertoire of compositions in dhrupad, dhamar,
khayal etc and his renditions were marked by distinctive extempore
bol-bant and fine layakari. He composed bandishes in many ragas
including some very rare ones under the nom-de-plume `Pran Piya`. He
also composed rubaiyat, nazm, marsiya and soz under the pen name, `Shafaq`.
He also authored “Sangeetagyon ke Samsmaran”, a collection of
biographical sketches of a large number of musicians. His
significant contribution has been in the Drut-Chhota Khayal in some
uncommon ragas, in which till then, only Vilambit Khayals were
available. His command over difficult and complicated ragas made
them seem deceptively easy.
Khan Sahab had several disciples in Maharashtra, and the region owes
its eminence in Hindustani music to the work of generous teachers
like him. Some of his well known students were Mogubai Kurdikar,
Jagannathbuwa Purohit (Gunidas), Menaka Shirodkar (mother of Shobha
Gurtu), Ram Marathe, Gajananrao Joshi, Sumati Mutatkar, as well as
his sons in law, Sharafat Hussain Khan and Latafat Hussain Khan and
his son, Yunus Hussain Khan. His most famous guru-shishya
relationship was with Jagannathbuwa Purohit and each of them
composed several bandishes dedicated to the other.
He was a court musician of Mysore for sometime and also lived in
Kashmir for a while, as tutor to the young prince Karan Singh. After
independence, he was appointed as a Sangeet Salhakar (Advisor) to
All India Radio, Delhi. Ustad Vilayat Husain Khan was conferred the
title of `Sangeetacharya` from Mysore Darbar and received the `Sangeet
Ratnakar` from Allahabad Sangeet Parishad.