Rais Khan

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ustad Rais Khan

Ustad Rais Khan.jpg
Khan performing in 2013
Background information
Native name
استاد رئیس خان
Born(1939-11-25)25 November 1939
Indore, Madhya Pradesh, British India
Died6 May 2017(2017-05-06) (aged 77)
Karachi, Pakistan
GenresHindustani classical music
Years active1948 – 2017
Pride of Performance Recipient
Ustad Rais Khan.jpg
Presented byPervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan

Ustad Rais Khan (Urdu: رئیس خان‎‎; 25 November 1939 – 6 May 2017) was a Pakistani sitarist. At his peak he was regarded as 'one of the greatest sitar players of all time'.[1][2] He continued to perform until the end of his life.[3] He moved from India to Pakistan in 1986. In 2017, Khan was awarded Pakistan's third highest civilian honour, the Sitara-i-Imtiaz.

Personal life[edit]

Rais Khan was born on 25 November 1939 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, British India.[4] He grew up in Bombay. His training began at a very young age, on a small coconut shell sitar.[5] In 1986 he moved to Pakistan, seven years after marrying his fourth wife - a Pakistani singer named Bilqees Khanum. In 1979, the two met for the first time in a programme by the Sabri Brothers in Karachi. They have two sons together.[6] Khan has four sons:[7] Sohail Khan, Cezanne Khan, Farhan Khan and Huzoor Hasnain Khan.[8]


Rais Khan belonged to the Mewati gharana (lineage), which is connected to Indore gharana[9] and the "beenkar baz gayaki ang" (singing style combined with rudra veena approaches) carried out by Rais Khan's father Mohammed Khan, a rudra veena player and a sitarist.[6] Despite his extensive meend work and the gandhar pancham sitar style he used, Rais Khan's alapi, gatkari and gamaki work was different in approach, pacing, and even technique, from the Etawah style. Amongst the khayal and dhrupad doyens, Rais Khan's gharana was a lineage containing the masters Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan, Nathan Khan,[6] Bande Ali Khan, Babu Khan, Wazir Khan, Waheed Khan, Murad Khan, Latif Khan, Majid Khan, Nazeer Khan, Amanat Khan and Rajab Ali Khan of Dewas.[10]

As Rais Khan's mother was a singer and his father was a beenkar (veena player), a unique combination of khyal (the most popular classical vocal style), dhrupad (the older and more orthodox classical form) and thumri (lyrical semi-classical form) – 'angs' (approaches) developed in his playing.[11][6]

He gave his first public concert at Sunderbai Hall in the presence of the then Governor of Bombay Sir Maharaja Singh.[12][8] In 1955, Khan was chosen to represent India in the International Youth Festival in Warsaw. He has also performed at the Kennedy Center. While in India, he played film music for Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle.[6] He had toured extensively throughout the world.[8]

He was also a vocalist and was the first sitar player to record the super-hit song 'Ghungroo toot gaye' for BBC London in 1978 as an instrumental song with the sitar.[6] This song was originally written by Qateel Shifai, music by Nisar Bazmi for a Pakistani film Naz (1969).[13] Like his uncle Vilayat Khan, he often sang and demonstrated compositions on the sitar. Rais and Bismillah Khan (shehnai player) used to collaborate and perform together in live concerts as a duo,[7] like the one at India Gate in New Delhi on 23 November 2001.[14]

For sometime, Khan stopped performing, but returned in the 1980s and was invited by Ali Akbar Khan to perform in California.

Khan sometimes performed with his son Farhan,[7] as he did in a 2009 performance for Pakistan Television (PTV) produced TV show 'Virsa- Heritage Revived', accompanied by Tari Khan on tabla. In 2012, he performed at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai.[15] In 2014, he performed Hans Dhuni in Coke Studio Pakistan (season 7).[16]


After a prolonged illness, Rais Khan died on 6 May 2017 in Karachi at the age of 77.[17][16] On his death, Urdu writer Anwar Maqsood remarked that “God had given him a rare gift. His fingers had that rare touch.”[7] In a tweet, Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar called Khan “sitar ke jaadugar” (lit. magician of sitar).[4]


In 2005, Rais Khan was awarded the Pride of Performance by the President of Pakistan.[8][18] In 2017, Khan was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) by the Government of Pakistan.[19]


  1. ^ Adnan, Ally (2 May 2014). "Indus Raag". The Friday Times. Retrieved 9 May 2017. One of the greatest sitar players of all times, Rais Khan is hands-down the most melodic sitar player in the world today.
  2. ^ Kumar, Kuldeep (January 13, 2012). "A tale of two recitals". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 May 2017. Rais Khan who in his heyday was considered among the most skilful sitar players in the country.
  3. ^ "Eid ul Fitr Schedule 2016" (PDF). Pakistan Television Corporation. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Sitar legend Ustad Raees Khan passes away". Samaa TV. 7 May 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  5. ^ "'Today, music is about cloning'". The Hindu. 29 October 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Profile: The string maestro". Dawn. November 18, 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Salman, Peerzada (7 May 2017). "OBITUARY: The sitar has fallen silent". Dawn. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Lodhi, Adnan (7 May 2017). "Renowned sitarist Ustad Raees Khan passes away". Express Tribune. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  9. ^ Hamilton, James Sadler (1994). Sitar Music in Calcutta: An Ethnomusicological Study. Motilal Banarsidass Publisher. pp. 26–28. ISBN 9788120812109. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  10. ^ Amit Adiecha – "History of Sitar," and the CD "Melodious Sitar of Rais Khan" – Chhanda Dhara 1993
  11. ^ Manuel, Peter Lamarche (1989). Ṭhumrī in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 9788120806733. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  12. ^ http://www.icmcdfw.org/bios/raisKhan.htm, Rais Khan profile, Retrieved 24 January 2016
  13. ^ "Pakistani film database 1969". cineplot.com. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  14. ^ "A superb recital by sitar maestro". The News International. March 30, 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  15. ^ S, Surekha (20 January 2012). "Strike a chord with 'chocolate' Ustad". mid-day.com. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Sitar maestro Ustad Raees Khan passes away". Geo News. May 7, 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  17. ^ "Pakistani sitar maestro Ustad Raees Khan dead at 77". Firstpost. Indo-Asian News Service. 7 May 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  18. ^ http://www.tehzeebfoundation.org/artist.html, Rais Khan awarded Pride of Performance award in 2005, Tehzeeb Foundation website, Retrieved 24 January 2016
  19. ^ "President confers 145 civil awards". Pakistan Observer. Associated Press of Pakistan. 24 March 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.