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The Musical Journey of Ustad Rashid Khan who passed away at 55

Admirers pay last respect to Ustad Rashid Khan

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Ustad Rashid Khan
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Explore Ustad Rashid Khan’s remarkable journey, spanning over five decades, as this legendary artist’s legacy continues to inspire and captivate audiences even after his untimely passing at the age of 55.

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A Cherished Vocalist

On the cold winter morning, Kolkata’s upscale Nandan Complex was filled with people eagerly waiting for the last visit of their beloved vocalist at the flower-bedecked Rabindra Sadan. Ustad Rashid Khan, a cherished singer, bid adieu just ten months after the passing of his mentor, Pt. Vijay Kichlu, who was the founder-director of Sangeet Research Academy (SRA). At Vijay Kichlu’s memorial meeting in February 2023, Rashid poured his heart out, reminiscing about his arrival in Calcutta in the 1970s and how it changed his life. He credited his grandfather, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, and Vijay Kichlu for shaping him into the artist he is today.

A Loving SRA Family

Back in the day, the Sangeet Research Academy was located in a building in New Alipur. It was a small space that could barely accommodate the gurus, Ustad Latafat Hussain Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, and Girija Devi, along with their families. Young Rashid, who was immensely talented but also extremely mischievous, didn’t like being confined to such a small place. To encourage him, Vijay Kichlu and his friends would ask him to sing whatever he liked. Rashid, who loved film songs, would sing popular classical-based numbers by Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mehboob, and Manna Dey.

Discovering His Passion

Although Rashid had learned the basics of classical music, he didn’t seem to enjoy singing ragas and the strictness that came with it. However, he fell in love with Girija Devi’s thumris and enjoyed singing them along with his favorite Rafi songs. Surprisingly, his grandfather didn’t disapprove of this. Instead, he appreciated Rashid’s versatility.

Escaping the Taskmaster

To escape his strict grandfather’s teachings, Rashid would often spend nights chatting and laughing with friends at the SRA auditorium. He also spent time at the academy’s audio library, listening to recordings of legendary musicians. It was there that he discovered the beauty and depth of classical music and turned down lucrative offers from the film industry.

A Unique Artistry

Rashid’s classical recitals captivated even those who were unfamiliar with the genre. He had a unique way of interpreting ragas like Bageshri, Yaman, Multani, Bilaskhani Todi, Darbari, and Jogkauns, bringing out different aspects of their personalities each time. His performances left a lasting impact on the audience, as I once experienced after hearing his heart-wrenching Bilaskhani Todi. I was so moved that I unknowingly had a cab driver, who was also a fan of Rashid Khan, follow him wherever he performed in Kolkata.

A Household Name

Rashid’s close friend, the renowned sarod exponent, and composer Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, convinced him to sing a few Natiya Kalaam compositions titled ‘Naina Piya se.’ It was a great success, and soon after, film producers lined up with offers for Rashid to sing in movies. His song ‘Aoge jab tum o Saajana’ became a sensation and made him a household name in the music world.

A Unique Blend

Whether it was a solo recital, a duet with legends like Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, or a film song, thumri, ghazal, or bhajan, Rashid Khan sang from his heart. Like his idol Ustad Amir Khan, he merged the finer nuances of different gharanas to create his unique style. As an intuitive artist, he couldn’t explain what made him sing a particular phrase the way he did. He believed that it was a divine gift, saying, ‘Khuda gaata hai, ham gaate hain’ (God makes me sing).

Vinay Kumar is Marketing Professional turned Entrepreneur, believes in turning ideas into reality.

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