Ahmed Jan Thirakwa
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|Ahmed Jan Thirakwa|
Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh
|Died||1976 (aged 84–85)
Lakhnau, Uttar Pradesh
|Genres||Hindustani classical music|
|Years active||1910 -1976|
Ahmed Jan Thirakwa Khan was an Indian tabla player, commonly considered the preeminent soloist among tabla players of the 20th century, and among the most influential percussionists in the history of Indian classical music. He was known for his mastery of the fingering techniques and aesthetic values of various tabla styles, technical virtuosity, formidable stage presence, and soulful musicality. While he had command over the traditional tabla repertoire of various gharanas, he was also distinguished by the way in which he brought together these diverse compositions, his reinterpretation of traditional methods of improvisation, and his own compositions. His solo recitals were of the first to elevate the art of playing tabla solo to an art in its own right in the popular mind. His style of playing influenced many generations of tabla players.
Thirakwa Khan-sahib was born to a family of musicians in 1876 [this year of birth is contested by a number of scholars and students of Hindustani classical music; e.g., Kumarprasad Mukhopadhyay in his "Kudrat Rangibirangi"] in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India. Although his early musical training was in Hindustani vocals and the sarangi, his interest in tabla was aroused when he heard Munir Khan. He became Munir Khan's disciple at the age of 12. For a long time, he played in the court of the Nawabs of Rampur and during this time, came in close contact with the maestroes of Agra, Jaipur, Gwalior and Patiala gharana — both vocalists and instrumentalists. On very few occasions, he rendered Bandishes in his own voice but this was only in the company of extremely close compatriots and admirers. As an accompanist, he was equally loved respected and admired by his peers, elders and juniors all of whom were not from the schools of classical music. One noteworthy artist in this category of admirers was the great Rabindrasangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra (1924–2011).
The name Thirakwa is not actually his original name, but was an epithet he earned from his guru's father. One day, while watching him practise, his guru's father remarked that he played so well his fingers seemed to be "shimmering" on the tabla. This earned him the nickname thirakwa (shimmering). It is also rumored that his tone was similar to the thunderous cracking sound of lightning. A great lightning is sometimes described as "thirakwa". In popular jargon, Ahmad Jaan Thirakwa is termed as the "Mount Everest of Tablas". He performed at regular intervals in almost all the music conferences in various parts of the country and gained popularity as well as admiration. A connoisseur of biryani and kababs, Ahmad Jaan was famous for his interpretation of the wide-ranging patterns of the beat-cycles which he liberally taught to his disciples. A few number of his live recordings are now available in audio-visual form that include excerpts from his different programmes over the years and which also provide glimpses of his mastery over percussion.
Ust Ahmedjan Thirakwa, during his long career as a musician, trained many disciples all across India. Pt Lalji Gokhale, Nikhil Ghosh, tabla player and  famous vocalist of Agra gharana Pt Jagannath buwa Purohit, Pt Narayanrao Joshi, Pt Bhai Gaitonde, Pt Bapu Patwardhan, Shri Anand Shidhaye and Rashid Mustafa are some of his well-known shagirds. Ust Ahmedjan's unique style continues to attract many tabla players of present generation including Zakir Hussain, Chandra Nath Shastri and Anindo Chatterjee.
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- "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Archived from the original on 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
- "Founder". Sangit Mahabharati. 2016. Retrieved May 18, 2016.