Late Ustad Faiyaz Khan
The Greatest of His Time
Faiyaz Khan Became a living legend is his lifetime, yet remained a profoundly humble human being till the end. Batuk Dewanji remembers the great Ustad on the occasion of his 42nd death anniversary which fell on Thursday.
Late Ustad Faiyaz Khan breathed his last on November 5 1950, but his music will always live on in the memory of his numerous listeners.
It was Nietzsche who once said that the existence of the world can be justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon. Amidst the unrest and uncertainty in which we live, we have the arts, particularly music which can uplift and give solace to listeners.
Although the old masters have long departed, we have on tape their music which can transport us to a world of beauty and serenity. Ustad Faiyaz Khan was one such musician who enlarged the sum total of human happiness through his music.
Khan was the brightest luminary at a time when a galaxy of great musician brightened the sky. We are not destined to see the likes ofhim again. Ask any musician of musicologist about Faiyaz Khan and he will doubtlessly tell you that Khan was the greatest among his confreres. Pandit Ratanjankar was once sent by his Guru Pandit Bhatkhande to receive Talim from Ustad Faiyaz Khan. In Ratanjankar's opinion, Ustad Miya Jan Khan of Patiala Gharana was the only musician who could equal Ustad Faiyaz Khan. Thakur Jaidevsingh, a great connoisseur of music, once told me that in Dhrupad and Dhamar, Allabende and Zakuddin were supreme while in Light Classical Music Gauhar and Jankibai had no peer. But Faiyaz Khan was a Chaumukhi Gavaiy a - a vocalist of many parts. He was the only musician with great expertise in Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri, Dadra and Ghazal.
Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan, the doyen of the Agra Gharana, would say that in his younger days, he used to give vocal support to Ustad Faiyaz Khan; but the quality of the latter's music was so high that his (Vilayat Hussain Khan) had to rest content with singing only Sargams. Pandit Bhatkhande once told Professor Deodhar, "If you want to know what amounts to real Talim, go and hear Ustad Faiyaz Khan."
Ustad Faiyaz Khan was a posthumous child and was brought up by his maternal grandfather Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan, who gave him Talim in Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khayal. Ghulam Abbas Khan was a great musician and lived to the age of 125. In addition to an extremely rich repertoire of Agra Gharana Bandishes, Faiyaz Khan received numerous superb Bandishes by his father-in-law Mehboob Khan (Daras Piya) and his paternal ancestor Ramzan Khan (Rangile) by way of legacy. He himself was a composer of no mean calibre and has many delectable Bandishes to his credit which he often sang at his concerts. His nom de plume was Prem Piya. Most of his Bandishes are Baje Mori Payaliya in Raga Barwa, Chalo Hato Javo Javo Saiyan in Raga Sohini, Nainanso Dekhi in Raga Suha-Sughrai, and Sajan More Ghara Aye in Raga Jog.
Ustad Faiyaz Khan had a pliable and tuneful voice with a rich timbre which moved in the Mandra Saptak majestically in Ragas such as Darbari, Maluha Kedar, Megh Malhar, and Malkauns. He was adept at the depiction of Shringar and Karun Rasas. His rendition of Manmohan Brijko Rasiya in Raga Paraj was the epitome of Shringar Rasa, while in Ragas such like Todi and Lalat, he could conjure up an atmosphere of utter pathos.
In Badrava Barsan Ko Ahe in Raga Sur Malhar, his Taans emulated thundering clouds. His favourite song in Light Classic genre was Na Manungi Na Manungi, a Khamaj Thumri which was a riot colours. On the other hand, whenever he sang Wajid Ali Shah's immortal Bhairavi Thumri Babul Mora, tears well up in the eyes of his listeners. Saigal learnt this from him and later sang it in one of his films.
Many encomiums and titles like Sangeet Bhaskar, Sangeet Chudamani and Sangeet Saroj were showered on him, but the most noteworthy one, Afteab-E-Mauski (Sun of Music) was awarded to him along with a Kangan studded with diamonds and precious stones by Maharaja of Mysore. The Maharaja invited him every year for Dassera. Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar of Indore would invite him every year for Holi and once presented him with a diamond necklace and ring along with Rs10,000 in cash. Maharaja Sayajirao appointed Faiyaz Khan his court signer in Baroda. Faiyaz Khan also received numerous invitations from rulers of various native states and organizers of music conferences. He would always sing to a full house in concerts arranged by music circles.
Faiyaz Khan was a picture of humility. Unlike other musicians, he was always reticent about his own exploits in the field of music. If someone began to praise him, he would immediately change the subject.
Once, at a concert organized by the Suburban Music Circle in Santa Cruz, Faiyaz Khan sang so well that I could not help but congratulate him. He told me, "I am an nonentity. It is the grace o God that you people like my music.." He added, "It is only when forgets oneself can one can sing really well." On another occasion he told me, "you people study for four or five years, give an exam, and get a BA or MA degree. But for us every concert is tantamount to an examination."
Once I accompanied Ustad Allauddin Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar to a concert at Ahmedabad. Some time after the concert had commemced Faiyaz Khan entered the Hall. On seeing Allauddin Khan, who was senior in age, stopped playing, put down the Sarod, stood up and bowed to him. I was greatly surprised by the respect shown to Faiyaz Khan as also by the utter humility of Allauddin Khan.
Ustad Khadim Hussain once narrated to me an incident that took place during a music conference at Lucknow. The listeners were largely ignorant of classical music and many reputed artistes were being hooted out. When it was Faiyaz Khan's turn to sing, Ustad Khadim Hussain, who was to play the Tanpura, was very apprehensive about the behavior of the listeners. Faiyaz Khan asked him not to worry and commenced his programme with a Dadra in Bhairavi, Banavo Batiyan Chalo Kaheko Juthi. It had a magical effect on the listeners who gave him a thunderous applause.
Faiyaz Khan sang in Bombay for the last time about a year before his death. He had come here to inaugurate the Vallabh Ashram at Sion established by Swami Vallabhdas. He was in poor health and at first declined to sing, but later yielding to requests, sang two Thumries in Raga Khamaj and Raga Desh. It was an unforgettable experience for all those present.
It was Ustad Latafat Hussain who came to me with the news of his death, his eyes brimming with tears. It brought to my mind Shakespeare's lines in Hamlet:
Good night, sweet prince:
And flights of angles sing thee
to thy rest