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