Ustad Shujaat Khan hails from the illustrious Etawah (‘Imdadkhani’) gharana alongside greats such as Ustad Imdad Khan, Ustad Imrat Khan, and Ustad Shahid Parvez. His famous father Vilayat was a highly demanding teacher: “after strumming the strings of the sitar for several exhausting hours, overnight practice that would make my fingers bleed, he felt that I wasn’t good enough. When I performed, there was always the burden of matching the sky-high expectations”.
Despite learning his father’s musical style in impressive depth, their personal bond became strained: “At the age of 17 I left home to carve my own life...rebellion is not easy to stomach. Sleeping exposed in public parks, washing utensils to fund your food, no certainty of your present or future and devoid of familial support, it is a very tough call.”
But he eventually forged his own successful career, taking his family’s innovations in gayaki ang (singing style) even further by singing in unison with his instrument. He has worked in fusion settings, soloing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and forming the Grammy-nominated band Ghazal with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri on tabla and Kayhan Kalhor on Persian kamancheh.
"I can’t say I am against tradition; on the other hand I am considered an open modern man – I have never forced lifestyle choices on either of my children; my music reflects my nature and has a lot of new with the old."
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