A legend, a composer, a performer, a musician and the torch bearer of ‘Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb’ has left us. Yesterday was the death anniversary of the legend Ustaad Abdul Rashid Khan, who left us two years back. Its once in centuries when one sees a 108 year old musician performing. But even at that age Ustaad Abdul Rashid Khan didn’t miss a note though before he started his performance he used to say “Main 107 saal ka hoon (I am 107 years old),” and then pausing for a minute and then adding, “Nahi, nahi, main 108 saal ka hoon... bhul gaya (no, no, I’m 108 years. I forgot).” After that he used to give a disclaimer that “Forgive me if I go wrong... I’m such an old man.”Though he used to never miss a note. Ustaad Jee, a descendant of Tansen was awarded by Padma Bhushan in 2013 and thus making him the oldest musician to receive this prestigious award. He was such a legend that he has composed around 2000 compositions in his life-time. In addition to khyaal he was also known for dhrupad, dhamar and thumri. These forms of Hindustani classical music are so old that they take us back to the time of Rg-Veda.
An incident shows his skills as a composer. He was in the famous town of Vrindavan, playground of Lord Krishna, and en route to the concert venue. The vehicle was caught in traffic and the driver said, "Radhe radhe". Ustaad Jee was then taken aback by the fact that he did not have an appropriate composition for Vrindavan. And thus in the car itself he composed the following verse, "Gaur varan chanchal nain sakhiyan sang mil, dhol karan nainan band Radhe" and performed it for the audience.
In 1991, he was specially invited by the ITC Sangeet Research Academy (ITC SRA) in Kolkata to take over as the senior guru. He has been giving talim there for almost last 25 years. His traditional compositions have been recorded by the BBC and Iraq Radio.
The UP Sangeet Natak Academi and the ITC Sangeet Research Academy have more than 1500 compositions of the ustad in their collection.
He saw no difference between worshipping Allah and worshipping Lord Ram. After his passing away last year India has perhaps lost the last living embodiment of its Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.
His musical journey was not without obstacles. Some even claimed that professional rivalry had once led to an attempt on his life. A jealous singer was reportedly so insecure after a jugalbandi with Khan that he bribed a waiter to mix mercury in Khan's food. The mercury ended affecting Khan's fingers. But it couldn't impact his voice.
I would like to conclude with my humble regards to the legendary Ustaad on his death anniversary!!