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by Jarkko Laiho

Ustad Nizamuddin Khan was born in the small town of Jaora (about 75 miles NW of Indore, Madhya Pradesh) in 1927, but at the age of four he moved with his family to Hyderabad.  Soon thereafter he began learning tabla from his father Ustad Azim Bakhsh Khan (d.1958) who had been a distinguished tabla player at the courts of Rampur, Rewa, and Jaora before entering the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad.  Other family members also taught the young Nizamuddin: his maternal grandfather Jeenu Khan of Muzaffar Nagar, and his father's sister's son Faraz Hussein of Nagpur.  So rapidly did he progress that he began performing in the palaces of the nobility of Hyderabad from the age of six onwards.  By the age of eight or nine Nizamuddin was a prodigy performing publicly all over India.

Ustad Azim Bakhsh Khan and his son Ustad Nizamuddin Khan belong to Laliyana gharana.  Laliyana gharana is not widely recognized in India, although some scholars say it should be.  Laliyana gharana players are not strictly part of Farukkhabad (late 19th century, an offshoot of Lucknow gharana), because they have followed their own stylistic paths.  For example Ustad Munir Khan is considered to be from Laliyana gharana.  It is difficult to say precisely who learned from whom and for how long, but it can be said that Laliyana and Farukkhabad have produced some of the greatest players of twentieth century (Ustad Amir Hussein Khan and Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa).  These masters share the same sociocultural heritage as Nizamuddin and fall within this same category.

Since Nizamuddin Khan's debut performance for All India Radio in 1953, he has performed at all the major music festivals in India, and has travelled widely in Europe and North America.  His many distinguished performances have included a series of concerts in London's Royal Albert Hall (1968).

Ustad Nizamuddin Khan is considered to be the Master of Laggi.  He was a very popular as an accompanist.  He has accompanied many instrumentalist (Ustad Vilayat Khan, Abdul Hafim Jaffer Khan), vocalists (Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Shobha Gurtu, Pt. Jasraj) and Kathak dancers (Sunayana Hazanual).  He was also a master soloist.  As a soloist, he presented compositions the way they traditionally would be played.  Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa gave him credit for this.  Ustad Nizamuddin Khan mastered material from all the different gharanas.

I see Ustad Nizamuddin Khan as an unbelievable talent.  His tabla solo is like a painting.  He used laya in surprising ways.  He had breathtaking tukras and mukras between rela variations.  He was spontanious and one could never know what He was about to do.  Every dynamical move He did was musically appropriate.  He was able to keep listener at his or her toes with his rhythmic phrasing.  After a lot of listening I got really in to his art.  his tabla solo is all this and even more.  He passed away 22nd of June 2000 in Bombay, but to me and all tabla players his legacy lives forever!


Author's note - I want to thank Jim Kippen for providing me historical facts about Ustad Nizamuddin Khan and David Courtney for asking me to write this biography.  I also thank David for helping me in my tabla studies via internet.




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