RECENT: Defining Our Field - what is 'classical music' to us, why are we involved and what can we learn from our differences? Read John Dante Prevedini's essay, watch the panel discussion and make your own comments.
Award-winning Indian sitar and surbahar player and composer Imrat Khan was born in Calcutta on 17 November 1935, into a family of musicians who played an important role in the history of North Indian classical music - the surbahar was developed by his great grandfather and his grandfather. His brother, father, uncle and grandfather were all leading sitar players, and Imdadkhani gharana, a school of sitar and surbahar performnance, was named after his grandfather, Imdad Khan. Imrat's father, Enayat Khan, died a few years after Imrat was born. When the family moved to Bombay, Imrat and his brother Vilayat Khan studied with their uncle, Wahid Khan.
The brothers performed together for many years as a sitar and surbahar duo, helping to develop a unique 'vocal' approach to Indian instrumental music.
From the 1960s onwards, Imrat Khan performed solo, recording extensively on both instruments. He toured Europe, the Americas, East and Southeast Asia. In 1961 he performed at the Edinburgh International Festival. In 1971 he played at the Cannes Festival in France and became the first Indian classical musician to perform in the Henry Wood (BBC) Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He appeared again at the Proms in 1978, and in 1979, in Berlin, and broadcast live by RIAS Radio, he gave the first ever all-night recital of Indian classical music in Europe, with his sons.
From 1968 until 1970 he taught at Dartington College of the Arts in England. He spent a portion of each year teaching Indian classical music and sitar to studuents in the USA, at Washington University in Saint Louis.
Imrat Khan died on 22 November 2018, aged eighty-three, but his family's performing tradition lives on in his four sons, sitar players Nishat Khan and Irshad Khan, sarod player Wajahat Khan and tabla, sitar and surbahar player Shafaatullah Khan.