15-Important Reactions about the Style of Ustad Amir Khan

The reactions expressed by different artists and critics on the qualities of Ustad Amir Khan’s gayaki, in midst of prevalent contemporary vocal styles, are given below: -


“A lively debate has been taking place in the world of music about Ustad Amir Khan, when he first got fame during the sixties. In view of the diehard traditionalists, the art of Amir Khan as an effort to return to ancient music in order to explore again the basic purity of aesthetics. For others his art was a search for new directions of expression and forms. Still others thought that the vision of Amir Khan was not suitable to the commotion and the spirit of twentieth century; and that there were no qualities of exciting expressions. - - - It is not correct to think that the music of Amir Khan is simply an admixture of sanskars’ [ordinations] and influences. These sanskars helped him to imbibe the worth mentioning qualities of contemporary gayaki; because these qualities were in conformity with his musical genius. His style was clearly his own. It is futile to circumscribe it to any one gharana. His style was ‘Amirkhani style’ of singing” – Mohan Nadkarni[1]


“Khan Saheb’s singing is like singing after waking from sleep. It does not proceed ahead; There is excess of sargam. It has no relation with tal. He does not sing raga, he sings swara – etc; such accusations have been leveled repeatedly against the vocalism of Khan Saheb by critics and those who pretend to have knowledge of music. I would like to say only that there is much exaggeration in it. To understand vocalism is also an art, a sadhana [practice]. - - - Khan Saheb’s vocalism was not of glittering type. Its intoxication was gradual. A reason for it is that there was no aggressiveness and showmanship. There was a kind of dedication, a meditation [samadhi]. Khan Saheb’s name can be counted with those who do not run for crowd and fame.” – Dr. Prabha Atre[2]


In emotional words Pt. Ravi Shankar writes [translated from original Bangla]: -

“I would say repeatedly that Amir Khan was the vocalist who was dear to me. In case of vocalism, his gayaki was ideal for me. Its entirety makes the music grand. Not only ‘tayyari’ [sustained speed], not only vilambit laya, not only the theoretical aspect of a raga; but combining all these and even rising above them, to imbibe music in its entirety should be the goal of every artist. The result of it is that a common listener too can enjoy it. Such is the attraction of good music. One, who understands, will surely enjoy it more; but the one who does not understand its classical and theoretical aspect, will also be satisfied with this entirety of music.”[3]


Adjustment of classicism, art and sentiment can be observed In Khan Saheb’s gayaki. “Yet it would be true to say that Amir Khan was virtually a self-taught vocalist who blended talent with imagination, intellect with emotion and technique with temperament, as few masters could.” – Printed on the cover of ECLP-2765.


[1] Nai Duniya-29 March, 1987 ‘Unhone Lokranjan Ki Sharton Se Samjhota Nahin Kiya’ [He did not compromise with conditions for public entertainment], Writer: Mohan Nadkarni.

[2] ‘Swarrmayee’-P.30, ‘Amir Khan Saheb’, Author: Dr. Prabha Atre.

[3] ‘Rag-Anurag’-P.88-89, Author: Pt. Ravi Shankar.