Zila Khan

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Zila Khan
Genres Sufi music
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Vocalist
Website Official site

Zila Hussain Khan is an Indian Sufi singer.[1] She sings classical and semi-classical musical forms[2] and performs in the tradition of Imdadkhani gharana.

Early life[edit]

Zila Khan was born in Calcutta. She is the daughter of legendary sitar Maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan, who is acclaimed world over. Zila Khan is the first empowered female performer and also a successor of Ustad Vilayat Khan and Begum Monisha. She was named by her father on the raag Zila Kaafi of Amir Khusrau.

Having grown up on Western and Indian, Pop and Rock, Folk and Eclectic music, has helped Zila Khan from an early age to teach music and hold music workshops for children from both rural and urban parts of different states in India and other countries. She is frequently invited to various schools and colleges where she conducts such workshops in the form of interactive lecture-demonstrations. Her mission through these workshops is to pique the interest of children in Indian Classical & Sufi music and thereby secure the future of the art form through children and music lovers.

Her early awareness of Gender Equality which was part of her growing with her father. She handled his business side of his musical career, toured with him, managed his dates, archived his music and life. Her music training and Equal Rights have been a big part of her spreading Women Empowerment & Education Rights. She is regularly invited to talk and address audiences on this and has done so at the Allen Room, Lincoln Center, at the International forum on Gender Equality & Education. She has also spoken on Ted Talks TedxWalledCity.


Zila Khan was empowered by her father from a young age. He taught her for fourteen to sixteen hours a day in different time periods and for decades. She has mastered all his compositions. Zila Khan's musical heritage spans seven generations of Indian classical musicians and five generations of recorded music. She is the daughter of legendary sitar Maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan, who is acclaimed world over. Zila Khan is the first empowered female performer from the Imdad Khani Gharana. She also has the distinction of being the only woman so far from this family to have learnt music formally from her father and perform publicly.[3] <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHEMQOB7_PM>

She has performed in every major Indian and International Music Festival and venues such as: • Lincoln Center • Kennedy Center • Symphony Space, Broadway • MTV Coke Studio • MTV IGGY • Trafalgar Square

She has great command over various music styles such as Indian Classical, Semi-Classical, Sufi, Folk & Bhakti Sangeet. She sings in 8 different languages and has also sung 'Western Concertos' in English, Latin, Persian & Arabic. She has also performed at several Jazz Festivals with leading artists from an array of genres and cultures. In Sufi Music style, she performs with her vast range of qaul, qalbana, gul, and now is dedicating time for the revival of traditional Ghazal singing. Her performances have the guiding presence of the gayaki tradition.

Music Therapy through UstadGah Foundation Centre and Fortis Hospital, Zila Khan is a Music Therapist and Consultant. She started the first Music Therapy wing in India. The department is dedicated towards collecting and analysing research data which will be used to treat certain ailments in patients and people all over the world who need supportive treatment or even for regular good health like Yoga.

Acting in a lead role in a Musical Play – Gods, Graves & Grandmothers, Zila role was that of the Grandmother on which the play was based on. She sang 14 songs in various genres of Indian Semi Classical, Bollywood, Classical, Folk and Sufi music.<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuyQ7kO64tU>

In 2004 the Ministry of External Affairs had asked Zila Khan to make a documentary on the life of her father, the legendary Sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan. It is called Spirit to Soul.<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnqeXNrc6j0/> The documentary also shows a clipping of Ustad Vilayat Khan making Zila Khan his student/shagird and successor in a formal ceremony.

Zila Khan is regularly invited to perform at President and Prime Ministerial level receptions on multiple occasions by the Indian Government. She has performed for former President APJ Kalam, President Pratibha Patil and also for former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who presented her with the 'Roll of Honor'. She was awarded the Ghalib Award and many others.

Being a representative of Indian Heritage and Culture, Zila is one of the select artists who has featured in the Incredible India advertisement campaign for the Tourism Ministry of India. She regularly invited to go on delegations abroad with the Indian Government; and is also an official member of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games.

Zila Khan is a dedicated composer and has selected many songs from Sufi and contemporary poets. She was featured in the multi-producers episode of Coke Studio @ MTV Season 2.

Music school[edit]

UstadGah Foundation was established in 2008 by Zila Khan, its aim is to teach and groom under privileged children who are musically talented. The foundation provides students with scholarships and helps build a musical base, vision and capability to earn their livelihood through music, and showcase India's Culture and Heritage nationally and internationally.

Personal life[edit]

Zila Khan was married at the age of 24 years and has a son Faizan Shaikh Khan. With Faizan's background and training first from his grandfather Ustad Vilayah Khan and then his mother Zila Khan, they have together created a music production called The Fez Project The project showcases Classical and Sufi music which is merged with more popular genres like Electronic, Acoustic, Flamenco etc. to promote, attract/involve and form a connect with the youth. They also tour through various Universities to speak to young students about the project through lecture-demonstrations and concerts. It has currently been established as a digital property which aims to attract more of the youth to start listening to classical music. Faizan is the only grandchild of Ustad Vilayat Khan who has learnt sitar and vocal music from him and has been under his guidance and lived with him for 12 years until Ustad Vilayat Khan passed away in 2004.


  • Roll of Honour received from the Prime Minister of India


  • Ishq Ki Nayee Bahar
  • Zila – Classical and Semi-Classical renditions.
  • 99.9FM – Bollywood Film
  • Secrets of the Divine- in which Zila Khan has composed all the songs.
  • The Realm of the Heart
  • Sar Masti – A tribute to Amir Khusrau
  • Zila The girl child – Hazrat Rabia Basri's Sufi'ism historical recording in musical form for the first time in music.
  • Sing with Sufis
  • Vasl (title song of drama ost)
  • Tere Ishq mein (title song of Man o Salwa ost)
  • Braveheart – A Tribute to Women


  1. ^ "The Hindu : Entertainment Chennai / Music : Moment of musical humanism". Hinduonnet.com. 21 October 2005. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Music in the genes". The Hindu. 19 December 2002. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "No Page Found". Khaleejtimes.com. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 

External links[edit]