Being the son of Ustad Imrat Khan and nephew of Ustad Vilayat Khan, there has always been a great responsibility on the young Ustad Irshad Khan to keep up the ‘sitar’ legacy spanning nearly 300 years. “I spent my childhood in Kolkata in a home located at ‘Ustad Enayat Khan Avenue (a road named after my grandfather). We always had visitors like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur and many doyens from the field of classical music. They all used to come and meet my father and uncle. Music used to happen all around us. Well! I learnt music just like my mother tongue,” the young maestro explains.
After his performance for Surmandal at Hyderabad, he is on his way to Pune to receive the Suryadutta National Award for Excellence in Indian Classical Music.
Irshad is a little perturbed about the changes that keep coming with modern times. “Today, I find that even the basic structure of the sitar is being changed at the drop of a hat. There is a science behind the making of every musical instrument. In the name of change and innovation, the aesthetic tonal quality of sound and majestic appearance of the sitar is getting lost. Many young performers are going into a path unknown. For me, the legacy of style and technique of the Imdadkhani Etawah gharana is of utmost importance. My great grandfather Ustad Sahabdad Khan invented the ‘Surbahar’ musical instrument nearly 200 years ago. This instrument is a bit difficult to play but appreciated all over the world. Apart from sitar, I continue to play surbahar and ensure that the best practises of our gharana are presented to the world audience.”
He recalls his first trip to the city. “I must have been about 14 years of age when I first performed at Hyderabad. It’s a wonderful place to perform and I always look forward to the Hyderabadi cuisine. I have established centres of music training in India and North America. Now I split my time between both countries. People from all over the world belonging to different cultures are attracted to Indian classical music. But the satisfaction of performing in India before my home audience is something that cannot be described in words. Classical music is one of the best ways to actually understand the fabric and culture of India. This music touches the heart of every human being. I feel that classical music is the best way to unite everyone all over the world,” concludes Irshad.