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Article Hindi Pakistan

Renowned sitar maestro Ustad Rais Khan passes away at 77

The legendary sitar maestro had been bedridden for sometime owing to age related illnesses.

Shriram Iyengar

Renowned sitar maestro Ustad Rais Khan passed away on Saturday in Karachi. He was 77.

Khan had been diagnosed with age related illnesses, and had been bedridden for the last couple of years. He is survived by wife Bilquees Khanum, and four sons.

Born in Indore, 1939, Khan belonged to one of the oldest and renowned musical families in Karachi. The maestro traced his genealogy to the Mughal emperors in the 15th century.

His initial training in the sitar began under his father, Mohammed Khan, while his vocal trainings began under his maternal grandfather, Ustad Inayat Ali Khan. Picking up the sitar at a very young age of two years, he gave his first public performance in then Bombay at the age of five. In 1955, he was selected to represent India at the International Youth Festival in Warsaw. Khan would win the gold medal from among 111 competitors at the festival. The Ustad's popularity increased as he began to perform regularly on stage alongside giants of Hindustani music like Ustad Bismillah Khan and uncle, Ustad Vilayat Khan.

An accomplished vocalist, he would often sing and demonstrate the ragas on his sitar, to the surprise of his audience. A descendant of the 'Mewat Gharana' referred to as the Mewat Gharana baaj, his unique and inimitable playing style earned him a number of admirers in the field of Western and Indian music. The sitar maestro was also a longtime member of the Indian film industry, having lent his skills to several films over 30 years. He played, most notably, as part of the memorable soundtrack composed by Madan Mohan for Mera Saaya (1966). His sitar strain for 'Naino Mein Badra Chaaye' sung by Lata Mangeshkar remains a memorable touch.

The singer paid tribute to the Ustad on hearing the news of his demise. She wrote 'Sitar ke jaadugar Ustad Rais Khan sahab aaj hamare bich nahi rahe ye khabar sunke mujhe bahut dukh hua.Meri unko bhavpurna shraddhanjali.'

Pakistani singer Ali Zafar, too, tweeted his condolences on the news.

The maestro had recently performed alongside Abida Parveen on Pakistan's Coke Studio.

It was after his marriage to Bilquees Khanum in 1980 he moved to Pakistan. In 2005, he was awarded the Pride of Performance by then President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. He was also presented with the Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) by the Government of Pakistan earlier this year.