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Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan
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Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, affectionately called "Ustadji" by his students, descends from six generations of sitarists. He is one of the leading exponents of the Etawah Gharana, a musical tradition or "family" committed to this most famous of Indian instruments. He was trained by his father and guru, Ustad Aziz Khan.

There is an interesting story concerning Ustadji's relationship with his father, who never became a performing sitarist, opting instead to compose film music under the stage name Aziz Hindi. This abdication to popular culture greatly displeased Ustadji's grandfather, the surbahar maestro Ustad Waheed Khan. At the prospect of failing to find an heir to his music, the old patriarch let his displeasure be known and threatened to never forgive Ustadji's father unless his grandson, Shahid, were properly instructed in the classical tradition. Haunted by this threat, Ustadji's father abandoned popular music forever and dedicated the rest of his life to training his only son in the musical traditions of the family. Ustad Aziz Khan actually moved to a small village in order to avoid the many distractions of the city while teaching his gifted progeny.

At the age of three Ustadji began his apprenticeship in this musically cloistered environment. It would be some years before Ustadji was allowed to pick up a sitar however, being first trained in the classical vocal music that forms the foundation of the "gayaki ang" -- a style of sitar which transfers the emotional directness and tonal nuance of the human voice to the instrument.

Ustadji's grandfather was his first vocal teacher. He later worked with his uncle, Bollywood film composer Hafiz Khan (aka Khan Mustana). While still a young boy Ustadji also learned rhythm and tabla from Ustad Munne Khan. This early training has payed dividends for Ustadji, and he is now renowned both for his lyricism and compelling rhythms. When Ustadji finally began playing sitar, he learned exculsively with his father.

The traditions of the Etawah Gharana have remained vital and productive in Ustadji's hands. He has worked hard to emphasize the unique capabilities of the sitar itself, introducing highly energized and rhythmically innovative instrumental play (tantrakari) into a tradition heavily reliant on the models of classical vocal music (gayaki ang). For example, the usual right-hand stroke on taans (runs) for the sitar is a straight forward:

up/down/up/down/up/down etc...

When Ustadji plays he instead opts for the unique pattern:


This stroke, which adds a lilting movement to Ustadji's runs, was originally used by Ustadji's great grandfather, Ustad Imdaad Khan, but only intermittently. Grandfather Ustad Waheed Khan then used it near universally in his surbahar playing. Ustadji was the first to make wide application of this technique on the sitar.

Ustadji's music is novel and evolving, but his influences are numerous and easily recognizable to a knowing ear. The fine balance of traditionalism and innovation of an Ustad Vilayat Khan, the palatial structure and spiritual depth of an Ustad Amir Khan, and the dazzling brilliance and musical imperatives of an Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan are all marvelously present in Ustadji's performances. Ustadji also remains open to good music wherever he hears it.

Ustadji has now entered the peak of his formidable musical powers. He maintains a rigorous worldwide tour schedule and leaves audiences in awe after each performance. One can safely speculate that Ustadji's forefathers are extremely gratified that their tradition, developed over so many generations of hard-working musicians, is now not only heard but also learned by dozens of students around the world.

Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan
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