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Ustad (Baba) Allauddin Khan – Biography

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Ustad Allauddin Khan (Baba Allauddin Khan)

Ustad Allauddin Khan, also known as Baba Allauddin Khan, occupies a very high place of pride in Indian Classical Music. In fact Ustad Allauddin Khan belonged to that rare and small group of artists who became a legend in their own life-time by the sheer weight of their learning, hard work and ceaseless propagation of music.

His was a life of total dedication to classical music and maintaining its pristine glory and grandeur. More important than all this, the late Ustad by his uncompromising devotion to classical tradition, succeeded during his life-time in building up certain norms in the teaching and presentation of music which, unfortunately, are once again in the melting pot.

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He was born in a musical family in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Ustad Allauddin Khan started off at a very tender age in quest of real music and the amount of hard work and personal privation which he had to go through are perhaps almost without parallel in contemporary musical history. He respected one and all and was always prepared to learn from any one whom he considered to be good enough to be a teacher. In this process of experimentation and learning he went through rigorous training in various Indian instruments, orchestration, English, notations and rare compositions.

Ustad Allauddin Khan learnt under many teachers. The journey of Allauddin Khan to Rampur and the trials he had to go through before he was accepted as a pupil by Ustad Wazir Khan of Rampur are well-known. Allauddin Khan was prepared to go to any length to learn music and ultimately after a fairly long period of denial he did get the blessings of Ustad Wazir Khan and became one of the finest Sarod players in the country in addition to being an adept in playing a wide variety of Indian and western instruments in a masterly fashion. He was himself a Court musician in Maihar State in Madhya Pradesh and spent most of his life in Maihar with occasional visits to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and other parts of India. One important fact of life was his close association with Uday Sankar with whom he went abroad and provided orchestration and musical support to Uday Sankar’s Dance Troupe.

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Ustad Allauddin Khan had fabulous knowledge of classical music. It is said that he had been able to collect nearly 3000 dhrupads and dha mars from his Ustads, out of which he could without any difficulty demonstrate nearly 1200 composi­tions. Apart from this he had vast treasures of musical knowledge. He had also numberless compositions in instru­mental music and had phenomenal knowledge of the Ragas and Raganis of the Indian classical system. He was also a great master of rhythm and had exceptionally good command not only over the Pakhawaj and tabla but also a wide variety of percussion instruments.

The practice of earlier Ustads was that they would give proper musical training only to their children or next of kin but would treat pupils in general in a very derogatory and step-fatherly fashion. Ustad Allauddin Khan was perhaps one of the very few masters who tore this custom and practice to pieces. He had almost taken a vow that he would teach all that he knew to anyone who came to him and had the eagerness and aptitude to learn music. It is on account of this charitable disposition of the Ustad that classical music has reached the homes of many and has crossed even international frontiers.

Ustad Allauddin Khan was  a very hard task-master but he had a heart of gold and he was ever willing to teach whatever he knew. He firmly believed that a great musical tradition could never be fostered by following secrecy but only by freely circulating it and sharing it in the widest possible manner with as many learners as possible.

Ustad Allauddin Khan was also highly receptive to new ideas and was keen to pick up all that he considered to be good in other musical systems. He was the pioneer in Orchestration in Indian music based on his experience in the West. He was a pioneer in developing a new style of rhythmic presentation of music and in also in portraying the grandeur and the immense beauty of nature in musical compositions and presentation. In so Far as his performance was concerned Ustad Allauddin Khan was a very great performer no doubt but his presentations used to give the impression of somebody who has gone through very rigorous and almost inhuman musical practice and this is to some extend marred the beauty of his performances. From the point of view, however, of tradition or classical quality, he was the master from beginning to finish. It is said that one of his Ustads once told him that the amount of hard work and patience he had shown would be rewarded in the future generation to be trained by him and this perhaps explains why Ustad Allauddin Khan has been able to produce some of the great musical maestros which this country can be proud of.

In 1971, he was honored with the ‘Padma Vibhusan award”. One can keep on writing endlessly on the great Ustad. Ustad Allauddin Khan occupies an important place in Indian classical music besides winning the hearts of millions of people with his music, his training and his fearless support of what he considered to be truly classical.

He left this world on 6th September, 1972.

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