Initial Period of Life


Ustad Amir Khan was born in Akola [Maharashtra] in the month of April 1912. He himself has said about his birth: “The birth is in Akola. It is in between 1912-13. Had come to Indore at the age of one and a half year.”[1] That his birth place is Akola is proved by his own interview and information provided by his brother Bashir Khan [Sarangi player]. According to Bashir Khan, “Amir Khan was born in Akola in 1912.”[2] There lived his maternal uncle, Moti Khan, [Tabla player]. In this context, Prof. Chandrakant Lal Das wrote in his article: “Ustad Amir Khan was born in Akola in 1912.”[3] Similarly Mr. Madanlal Vyas wrote about his birth in an article: “The great life which came to end in an accident, had begun in April 1912.”[4]


As it is published on LP records and in many books that the birth place of Ustad Amir Khan is Indore; for example it is written in the book ‘Hamare Sangeet Ratna’: “Amir Khan born in a prosperous family of musicians of Indore.”[5] But from the information obtained from various sources, it is established that he was born in Akola.


Amir Khan’s father, Ustad Shahmir Khan was well known for his hospitality. Every week a mehfil [sitting] was used to be held at his home. Almost all the vocalists and instrumentalists of Indore used to participate in it. In those days, Indore was a center of attraction for musicians. Artists like Babu Khan, Bundu Khan, Maglu Khan [Bin player], Wahid Khan, Jahangir Khan [Tabla player], Munnu Khan, Latif Khan etc used to gather there. Rajab Ali Khan used to come from Dewas. In such an environment of music, Amir Khan’s childhood passed. From the very childhood, he had started visiting Ustad Rajab Ali Khan. That is why he had become his favorite.


In addition to music, Amir Khan was also interested in sports and games. With Ramnath Shrivastav, who subsequently became a Sitar player and owner of India Tea Hotel, he used to play foot ball at Chhatri Bag and chess at home.




Among the ancestors of Ustad Amir Khan, there was one Chhange Khan, who was one of the musicians during the reign of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar [1849-1857]. Ustad Amir Khan himself says: “My ancestor, Miyan Chhange Khan was among the group of musicians during the reign of last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.”[6] Probably, Ustad Change Khan was the first to embrace Islam amongst his ancestors; as is mentioned in ‘Hamare Sangeet Ratna’: “During the time of last Mughal emperor, one of his musician ancestors had embraced Islam.”[7]



Shahmir Khan-Artist of a Royal Court: -

The name of Ustad Amir Khan’s father was Shahmir Khan. Shahmir Khan was son of Chhange Khan. Shahmir Khan was mainly a Sarangi player. He also played Bin. According to Mr. Madanlal Vyas: “Grandfather Ustad Chhange Khan was a vocalist and father Shahmir Khan was a Binkar and Sarangi player.”[8] Basically Shahmir Khan was a resident of Kalnour [Haryana]. He had obtained training of Sarangi playing from the elders of his family. After death of elders, as nobody was left to guide him, he went to Bombay. The singing style of musicians living in the area of Bhindi Bazar is well known as Bhindi Bazar gayaki. In those days, there lived three famous Sarangi players and vocalists-Nazir Khan, Chhajju Khan and Khadim Husain Khan. Nazir Khan was vocalist also. Shahmir Khan received training in singing and Sarangi playing from Nazir Khan and Chhajju Khan. His power of assimilation was good. Ustad Aman Ali Khan, the founder of Bhindi Bazar Gharana and by whom Amir Khan was influenced, was son of the same Chhajju Khan. The detail information about Aman Ali Khan is given in subsequent page. Shahmir Khan came to Indore after becoming expert in music. Thereafter he was married.


At Indore, he lived under patronage of Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar. There he gradually cultivated friendship with the main vocalists and instrumentalists of Indore and Dewas. The famous Sarangi player, Alladiya Khan, became his disciple, who was his brother-in-law by relation.


Shahmir Khan had a rich collection of bandishes too. Famous musicologist, Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande took help of Shahmir Khan, while collecting traditional bandishes of Hindustani Classical Music. The information about this fact is obtained from an article written by the musician, Joep Bor as under: -

“- - - the well known and highly knowledgeable Sarangi player Badal Khan of Calcutta, Nazir Khan of Bombay, Shahmir Khan of Indore and Bundu Khan of Delhi helped him [V.N. Bhatkhande] in his endeavor to collect traditional compositions and also supported his movement to revive Hindustani music.”[9]




In about 1914, at the age of one and a half year, Amir Khan was brought to Indore by his father, Shahmir Khan. The name of Amir Khan’s younger brother was Bashir Khan. Both the brothers were trained by their father in Sarangi playing after they grew up. Later Amir Khan entered in the field of singing and when he used to sing, Bashir Khan accompanied him with Sarangi. Then Bashir Khan became a famous Sarangi player and served Akashwani Indore as a staff artist for a long period.


In 1921, Amir Khan’s mother expired and in 1937, his father, Shahmir Khan also passed away. Amir Khan lived in his ancestral house at Bombay Bazar, till his father’s death. Since childhood, both brothers had love for each other and it lasted through out their life. Ustad Amir Khan didn’t consider the family of Bashir Khan apart from his own family; therefore no partition of their ancestral property took place. Bashir Khan’s wife, Munavvar Bi [known as ‘Manno Apa’ among the circle of musicians] has written an article- ‘Amir Khan was not my brother-in-law but was my father’. He wrote in that article: “Amir Khan had no family of his own. His family life remained broken and scattered. He considered Bashir Khan, his wife and their four children as his own real relations. Amir Khan was not my brother-in-law, he was my father. He didn’t maintain separately his own house hold, due to which the progress of lives of his brother’s children would be impeded. Disputes regarding property would arise.”[10]


Munavvar Apa said with great pride: “During the time of brother-in-law, great artists had been guest of this house. After staying for many days, they had learnt and understood some thing. Among some guests were Shamta Prasad [Tabla player], Leela Chitnis [film actress], Gohar Bai, Begum Akhtar, Allarakha Khan, Thirakva Khan, Amjad Ali etc whose names I remember.”[11]


The tension and disorientation in the family life of Ustad Amir Khan had affected his performance also. Acharya Brihaspati has written: “The vocalism of late Ustad Amir Khan had some what declined in his last few years due to many worldly reasons.”[12]


Ustad Amir Khan had married four times. His first marriage took place at Indore when his father was alive, but after some time his wife died. He married again but the marriage was not successful. After four or five years divorce took place. His divorced wife was Sharifan, who was sister of famous Sitar player, Vilayat Khan. Third time he married Munni Bai of Delhi. She was disciple of Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan of Kirana Gharana. Through this Munni Bai, he had an opportunity to study from close quarters the gayaki of Abdul Wahid Khan. He had a son from Munni Bai whose name was Akram. Instead of adopting family profession of music, he studied engineering and settled in Canada. Once, Ustad Amir Khan had visited Canada on his invitation.


His fourth wife is Raisa Begum, from whom his second son, Haider [nickname: Babloo] was born at Indore on 10th March 1966. During life time of Ustad Amir Khan, Haider had been living in a hostel at Nagpur and was studying in a Convent School. He studied up to B.Com. at Nagpur. At present, he is a film actor at Bombay. He didn’t adopt ancestral art of classical music.


“In the TV serial, ‘Tipu Sultan’ the role of Hider Ali was played by the actor, whose real name too is Haider Ali. He is son of Ustad Amir Khan of Indore. In the serial, his name has been changed to Shahbaz Khan. The audience will be surprised to know that Shahbaz Khan is a good player of cricket also. After matriculation from St. Joseph Convent, Nagpur and during his graduation at Hislop College, Nagpur, Shahbaz Khan acted on the stage also. - - - His impressive voice is an important part of his acting. Born at Indore, Shahbaz Khan is also working in film being produced under Indo-Russian collaboration.”[13]


Thus in the family of the great musician, Ustad Amir Khan, there was not a single member who could carry forward his tradition of music.


[1] ‘Sangeet’-Nov. 1971, P.24, ‘Interview-Ustad Amir Khan’, Writer: Shambhunath Mishra.

[2] Maharashtra Times-5 Sept. 1976, ‘Amir Khan’, Writer: Vasant Potdar.

[3] ‘Sangeet’-May 1973, ‘Ustad Amir Khan Aur Unki Kala’ [Ustad Amir Khan and his Art], Writer: Prof. Chandrakant Lal Das.

[4] ‘Sangeet’-Dec. 1976, ‘Sangeet Jagat Ke Amir Ustad Amir Khan’, Writer: Madanlal Vyas.

[5] ‘Hamare Sangeet Ratna’-P.89, ‘Amir Khan’, Author: Lakshminarayan Garg.

[6] ‘Sangeet’-November 1971, P.24, ‘Interview with Musicians-Ustad Amir Khan’, Interviewer: Shambhunath Mishra.

[7] Book ‘Hamare Sangeet Ratna’-P.89, ‘Amir Khan’, Author: Lakshmi Narayan Garg.

[8] ‘Sangeet’-Dec 1976, P.24, ‘Sangeet Ke Amir: Ustad Amir Khan’, Writer: Madanlal Vyas.

[9] ‘The India Magazine’-Sept. 1990, P.59-60, ‘The Sarangi’, Writer: Joep Bor.

[10] ‘Kalavarta’-February/March, 1989, P.35, an article centered on the founder of Indore Gharana.

[11] Same as X.

[12] ‘Sangeet’-March, 1974, P.35, ‘Do Shraddhanjaliyan’ Writer: Acharya Brihaspati.

[13] ‘Nai Duniya’-10th October, 1990, ‘Ustad Amir Khan Ka Beta-Haider Ali’ [Ustad Amir Khan’s son-Haider Ali], Writer: Sanjay Patel.