Family feud turns into cross-border musical war

Jan 10, 2012, 08:53 IST | Rocky Thongam

Ustad Vilayat Khan's daughter Begum Yaman Khan slams Pakistani cousin Ustad Rais Khan for allegedly stealing a sitar technique invented by her late father

Ustad Vilayat Khan's daughter Begum Yaman Khan slams Pakistani cousin Ustad Rais Khan for allegedly stealing a sitar technique invented by her late father

It's a battle between the Khans, and not the one you are thinking about. Sufi singer Begum Yaman Khan -- daughter of legendary sitar wizard (late) Ustad Vilayat Khan -- has accused her Pakistani cousin Ustad Rais Khan of being a fraud, who has stolen Gayaki Ang, a technique invented by her father. She has also demanded his Mumbai concert on January 20 be banned keeping in mind the alleged inflammatory remarks he made about India before leaving for Pakistan 20 years ago.

War of words: Begum Yaman Khan (below), daughter of legendary sitar
wizard late Ustad Vilayat Khan, has accused her Pakistani cousin Ustad
Rais Khan of being a fraud and a traitor. Pic/Rajeev Tyagi

"Everybody knows that Gayaki Ang or the vocal style in sitar was invented by my father. Ustad Rais Khan was my father's student and learnt it from him. But the man has gone senile and claims it to be his own. He should be sent to a mental asylum," said Begum Yaman Khan in an exclusive interview with MiD DAY. "The man (Ustad Rais Khan) left India for Pakistan 20 years ago because he claimed this country was only for Hindus. He said inflammatory statements like, 'I spit on India'. How is such a person allowed to enter India let alone perform here (on January 2 in Delhi)?" she demanded.

Strings attached
The family feud took a turn for the worse when Ustad Rais Khan, during the performance in Delhi, declared Gayaki Ang to be his own creation. Begum Yaman, who was present at the concert, contested the claim.
Begum Yaman is the granddaughter of Ustad Inayat Khan and daughter of Ustad Vilayat Khan of the Imdadkhani (named after her great-grandfather Imdad Khan) or Etawah Gharana. Ustad Rais Khan who belongs to the Mewati Gharana is her first cousin (his mother was Ustad Vilayat Khan's elder sister). He lives in Pakistan with his fourth wife.

Supporting his sister's claim renowned sitar player Shujaat Khan said, "It is a very well-known fact that Ustad Rais Khan made derogatory and inciting remarks about India before deciding to take up Pakistani citizenship.
Back then prominent Indian musicians like Amjad Ali Khan Sahab, Asad Ali Khan Sahab and others held a press conference at India International Centre in Delhi condemning his statements."

Out of tune
Dr Mairajuddin Ahmed, former cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh and present chairman of the Urdu Press Club International also supports the claim that Ustad Rais Khan indeed made such statements back then and shouldn't be allowed to perform in Mumbai on January 20. "What he said at the time was indeed inflammatory. Perhaps the external affairs ministry has records of the incident. And his claim about Gayaki Ang is just sad. He left for Pakistan seeking greener pastures. But we Indians have nurtured musicians better than Pakistan.  He always was under the shadow of his guru (Ustad Vilayat Khan) and that has left him frustrated." 

Begum Yaman Khan claimed that Ustad Rais Khan pleaded with her to help him get back his Indian citizenship a few days ago. "He once challenged my father on stage and was naturally defeated. Eminent dancers like Sitara Devi were witness to this. But he thinks he can play truant now that Ustad Vilayat Khan Sahab is no more. He is a desh drohi (traitor) and an opportunist. Now he wants to come back to India. But he is someone who insulted this country and left for Pakistan."

The other side
However, the man himself, when contacted by MiD DAY, denied all the accusations against him. "This is all rubbish. I learnt it from my father (Ustad Mohammed Khan)," replied Ustad Rais Khan, when questioned about the claim of Gayaki Ang. On being probed about the alleged derogatory statement he made 20 years ago he said, "It's untrue. I was angry with some politicians at that time because my juniors were getting awards and credit for their music while I was being neglected. I was misinterpreted and misquoted."

He claimed he left for Pakistan in pursuit of love and to be with his fourth wife. "Begum Yaman is a woman of poor character and she was never accepted by her father. She is making useless accusations against me," he added. Despite the allegations Ustad Rais Khan maintains he will perform in Mumbai on January 20. "I don't care what they say. I will play what my father taught me," he said.

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