There are many who feel that Ameer Khan was a man ahead of his times, far more sophisticated in
thought and expression than musicians before and after him. In his
lifetime he became an icon for purists, and the large number of
vocalists who have tried to follow his vocalism, is testimony to his
genius. In the 30 odd years since his death, his music continues to
command a large following among khayaliyas.
Ustad Ameer Khan`s serene, tranquil and contemplative music rested
on an incredibly fertile intellect. Born in a family of musicians in Indore in 1912, he was brought up in the rich musical atmosphere of
Indore, where the Royal court had appreciable patronage for
Hindustani classical vocal music. Ameer Khan`s chief mentor was his
father, Ustad Shahmir Khan. However, his formative years saw the
young Ameer Khan experiencing a steadily growing interest in the
gayaki of Ustad Rajab Ali Khan, whose mehfils were frequent in town
and also that of the other Kirana giant, Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan. He
drew inspiration from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhendibazar too and in
course of time, through arduous riyaz, he developed a unique gayaki
bearing his own exclusive stamp. The sum-total of influences and
impressions filtered through his highly sensitized being, and in
perfect accord with the natural quality of his voice and his
aesthetic individuality, gave birth to a style that was a rare
combination of spirituality, technique, cerebration, serenity and
emotion. All this he presented with an understated elegance,
reverence, restrained passion and an utter lack of showmanship that
both moved and awed listeners.
dominant element in his music was the Merukhand system of Raga
progression, inspired and influenced by Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan when
he was around 25-30. Merukhand did not remain a mere technique but
became a vehicle of expression for him.
Ameer Khan`s singing struck a perfect balance between the easy paced
and highly evocative vistars on one hand and very difficult and
speedy taan-sargams on the other. He wrote and set to tune several
khayals and composed a number of taranas. In the emotional content
of his sargams, Ameer Khan leaned heavily towards Abdul Karim Khan
and shared with him a close relationship. In Khayal singing, Ameer
Khan drew voluminously from Aman Ali Khan`s sargams. His taranas
were deeply influenced by the spirituality of Hazrat Amir Khusrau.
Ustad Ameer Khan`s musical idiom and intention changed in the course
of his life. Unlike other gharanedar musicians he was open to new
ideas and re-invented his vocalism in the latter part of his musical
career. The influence of the Kirana maestro Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan
is predominant in his early recordings of Marwa, Malkauns, etc. In
the later phase of his career, the expansion of the Raga almost
always employed the lower octave phrases as complimentary to the
progression in the normal scale. This was a distinct departure from
all other Ustads and Pandits of the other gharanas including Kirana.
Ameer Khan was known as the emperor of Khayal and never sang Thumri
in his concerts. But his rendition of Khamaj Thumri in the famous
film `Khsudita Pashaan` mesmerized everyone at the intensity of
emotion he could create in this genre also.
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award
by the President of India. His disciples included the likes of
Pandit Amarnath, Prodyumna Mukherjee, Kankana Banerjee, Shrikant
Bakre, Shankar Mazumdar etc. and many more vocalists all over the
country who were deeply influenced by his style and were virtually
blind followers of his gayaki.
His sudden death in 1974 in a car accident created a permanent void
in the world of Hindustani music.