Mumbai, India – The Indian press announced today that sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan died
Saturday night, March 13, of a prolonged illness at a hospital in Mumbai
(Bombay). He was 76.
Khan died at Jaslok Hospital of lung cancer. He was admitted to the hospital
on February 26 for treatment of diabetes, hypertension and lung cancer. He died
at 11:25 pm. Khan’s body was flown to Kolkata (Calcutta) where his last rites
were performed earlier today.His brother Imrat Khan was by his bedside and added some details: “At 11pm on Saturday evening in Mumbai, the great & legendary sitar
player, my brother Ustad Vilayat Khan passed away and went to his
heavenly abode, leaving his family, friends, and many admirers with
great great sadness, after his struggle of nearly a week with cancer
which had spread unexpectedly thru his system. During his illness I
was very fortunate to be present at his bed-side and got the
opportunity of knowing many of his last wishes and desires. Also, his
sons Shujaat and Hidayat, along with my sons Nishat and Irshad Khan,
were all present there to look after him. Finally, after his passing
away decisions were made to bring him from Mumbai to Kolkata to be
buried by the side of our father Ustad Inayat Khan-saheb.”
Ustad Vilayat Khan
occupied an unsurpassed place in the world of Indian classical instrumental music. Recognized internationally as one of India’s greatest musicians, there were few to equal him in his mastery over the sitar.
Given the title “radiant star of the sitar” by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the late
president of India, Khan was widely regarded as the greatest living sitar player. He revolutionized sitar performance through his introduction of the gayaki ang, or vocal style. His distinctive vocal approach is the most imitated
in the world.
Born in Gauripur, now in Bangladesh, in 1928, Vilayat Khan had begun to emerge as one of the most important sitar players in the 1940s. Khan traced his musical heritage back seven generations. His grandfather Imdad Khan
(1848-1920) and his father Inayat Khan (1894-1938) were important role models
for him. Vilayat Khan revolutionized contemporary sitar performance by furthering sitar techniques pioneered by his grandfather. In addition to performing internationally and recording extensively, Khan wrote film music for
Satyajit Ray and Merchant and Ivory productions.