Padma Vibhushan awardee Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan says as a young boy he used to practice in a graveyard so that he could sing without any inhibition or distraction and also without disturbing anyone. Eighty-seven-year-old Khan recalls he uttered his first words as a child quite late and his parents had to try out various methods to make him speak.
The legendary Hindustani classical vocalist has come out with his memoir “A Dream I Lived Alone”, co-written with daughter-in-law Namrata Gupta Khan. In an interview, Khan told PTI about several interesting facts about his life which he also mentions in his book, published by Penguin Random House.
On his practising music in the graveyard, he says his sole motive was to do his riyaz and there was no sense of fear or hesitation. Khan was around 12 years old then. His guru used to take his daily nap after lunch and would ask Khan to go home and practice. But home was not the right place as he got distracted. “The graveyard was desolate and a perfect place for me to do my riyaz. I did not have to worry about anybody and sing my heart out,” he says, adding he kept it as a secret. Khan was born on March 3, 1931, in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh.
He was the eldest son in a family of four brothers and three sisters. His father, Ustad Waris Hussain Khan, was the son of Ustad Murred Baksh, who was a great musician, and his mother, Sabri Begum, was the daughter of the founder of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana of music, Ustad Inayat Husain Khan.
He got his basic classical music training from his father and later studied music under his cousin, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, who is known for his Kangan Mudaria in Raag Multani. Khan says it was upon the advice of Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan that he learnt light and semi-classical forms such as thumri, dadra, kajri, the poetic forms of the geet and the ghazal and spiritual forms including bhajans, besides the classical forms of composition, dhrupad and khayal.
He also says that he began to speak quite late and had not said a word till the age of two. His parents were quite worried but did not give up hope. “My father used to make me lie on his chest, face downwards, and try to say something as he sang in front of me,” he says. Khan’s mother later told him that the young boy could utter some ‘ya ya ya’ sounds imitating his father.
“My father continued to work on me in a similar fashion as he believed that if I exerted myself to bring out sounds, lying on my stomach, it would strengthen my vocal cords as well as ‘open up’ my lungs,” he says. This remedy worked because soon afterwards, Khan uttered his first words and gradually started speaking like other children of his age. Khan performed at a concert for the first time at the age of eight.
“The then municipality chairperson Ali Maqsood used to organise a Janmashtami function in Badaun every year. In 1939, I got the opportunity to perform. It was at the Victoria Garden (now Gandhi Maidan) in Badaun,” he recalls. Namrata, the wife of Khan’s son Rabbani, says as the co-writer of the autobiography, she plays the part of a ‘sutradhar’. She mooted the idea in 2012 and completed the draft in 2016. “Over many conversations, I listened to his stories and recollections and made notes,” she says.