Etawah Gharana (Sitar)
One of the most illustrious and luminous Sitar gharanas has been the Etawah Gharana better known as the Imdad Khani Gharana. Son of Sahadad Khan (who was a vocalist and a pupil of the celebrated Khayalias, Haddu and Hassu Khan of Gwalior gharana) Imdad Khan had his training in vocal music from his father. But his heart lay in Sitar and so at the age of just twenty one years, he left home with his Sitar. So passionate was his love for music and Sitar in particular that he scorned all comforts and led a very hard life of distress but toiling his way to learn the art. In his search for music he went by turns to Amrit Sen of Jaipur and Bande Ali Khan Binkar. Legend has it that these Ustads were reluctant to teach any outsider but Imdad Khan was not a person to relent. He kept on listening to these maestros and imbibed their music and compositions as best as he could. He went to other music centers also but finally went to Varanasi where he went into “akhand riyaz.” He would miss nothing not even the folk songs in Melas, the snakes charmers swaying music, the rhythm and Banis of great Kathak dancers and finally sitting under the railway bridge over the Ganges Bridge would carefully listen to the rhythmic effects produced by the mail trains, express trains, and goods trains passing over the bridge at various speeds. It is a real fantasy that the great Imdad Khan built up gats, tanas and upaj from these rhythms and finally gave the country a totally new, a revolutionary baaz of Sitar.
Imdad Khali did not stop here. In Calcutta, he closely followed the great Surbahar player Sajjad Muhmad (who- had then turned blind) and developed his own style of playing the Surbahar where he combined the styles of Bin (Bande Ali Khan) and Surbahar (Sajjad Muhmad). Imdad was followed a brilliant set of descendents each rising to newer heights of glory and musical excellence—Enayat Khan of revered memory, Wahid Khan Surbahari, Vilayat Khan Sitaria a legend in his lifetime who is often described as the “Badshah” of Sitar, Imrat Khan the famous Sitaria and Surbahari and the younger Sitar player of this generarion, Shujaat Khan, Nishat Khan, Irshad Khan. This gharana has shown great resilience and powers of adaptability besides their strong classical base and have trained many good disciples.