Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan descends from six generations of sitarists. He is one of the leading exponents of the Etawah Gharana, a musical tradition or "family" committed to this most famous of Indian instruments. He was trained by his father and guru, Ustad Aziz Khan.
There is an interesting story concerning Ustadji's relationship with his father, who never became a performing sitarist, opting instead to compose film music under the stage name Aziz Hindi. This abdication to popular culture greatly displeased Ustadji's grandfather, the surbahar maestro Ustad Waheed Khan. At the prospect of failing to find an heir to his music, the old patriarch let his displeasure be known and threatened to never forgive Ustadji's father unless his grandson, Shahid, were properly instructed in the classical tradition. Haunted by this threat, Ustadji's father abandoned popular music forever and dedicated the rest of his life to training his only son in the musical traditions of the family. Ustad Aziz Khan actually moved to a small village in order to avoid the many distractions of the city while teaching his gifted progeny.
At the age of three Ustadji began his apprenticeship in this musically cloistered environment. It would be some years before Ustadji was allowed to pick up a sitar however, being first trained in the classical vocal music that forms the foundation of the "gayaki ang" -- a style of sitar which transfers the emotional directness and tonal nuance of the human voice to the instrument.
Ustadji's grandfather was his first vocal teacher. He later worked with his uncle, Bollywood film composer Hafiz Khan (aka Khan Mustana). While still a young boy Ustadji also learned rhythm and tabla from Ustad Munne Khan. This early training has payed dividends for Ustadji, and he is now renowned both for his lyricism and compelling rhythms. When Ustadji finally began playing sitar, he learned exculsively with his father.
The traditions of the Etawah Gharana have remained vital and productive in Ustadji's hands. He has worked hard to emphasize the unique capabilities of the sitar itself, introducing highly energized and rhythmically innovative instrumental play (tantrakari) into a tradition heavily reliant on the models of classical vocal music (gayaki ang).
For example, the usual right-hand stroke on taans (runs) for the sitar is a straight forward:
When Ustadji plays he instead opts for the unique pattern:up/down/up/up/down/up/down.
This stroke, which adds a lilting movement to Ustadji's runs, was originally used by Ustadji's great grandfather, Ustad Imdaad Khan, but only intermittently. Grandfather Ustad Waheed Khan then used it near universally in his surbahar playing. Ustadji was the first to make wide application of this technique on the sitar.
Ustadji's music is novel and evolving, but his influences are numerous and easily recognizable to a knowing ear. The fine balance of traditionalism and innovation of an Ustad Vilayat Khan, the palatial structure and spiritual depth of an Ustad Amir Khan, and the dazzling brilliance and musical imperatives of an Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan are all marvelously present in Ustadji's performances. Ustadji also remains open to good music wherever he hears it.
Ustadji has now entered the peak of his formidable musical powers. He maintains a rigorous worldwide tour schedule and leaves audiences in awe after each performance. One can safely speculate that Ustadji's forefathers are extremely gratified that their tradition, developed over so many generations of hard-working musicians, is now not only heard but also learned by dozens of students around the world.
Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan is privileged with both belonging to an illustrious musical family, and for achieving success in not only preserving the tradition but in pushing its boundaries to even greater heights of aesthetic beauty. He is one of the most brilliant musical gems of the famous Etawah Gharana and belongs to the seventh generation of this musical lineage.
His family has produced the most revered and influential figures in Hindusthani Classical Music including the likes of Sahabdad Khansahab, Imdad Khansahab, Enayet Khansahab, Waheed Khansahab and Vilayat Khansahab.
A very young Shahid Parvez was initiated into the rich music of the Gharana by his illustrious father and Guru Ustad Aziz Khan, a famous musician and a noted composer and the son of the legendary Sitar and Surbahar virtuoso Ustad Waheed Khansahab.
As is the custom, Ustad Aziz Khan first initiated his son into vocal music and tabla, before training him on the Sitar over many years with all the intensity and rigor that had made this Gharana famous. The young Shahid Parvez was recognized as a child prodigy and had started performing in public by the time he was only eight years of age. Dogged perseverance and hard work over the years have been rewarded with an extra-ordinary technical prowess and a mastery over 'Layakari'. One of the numerous achievements of Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan is to have mastered both Vocal Music and the 'Tantrakari Baaj' and then fuse them in such a way as to bring this complex amalgam within the easy reach of all.
Few instrumentalists have enjoyed so much of love and admiration as Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan has, from the music loving fraternity worldwide. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Government of India's 'Padma Shri' and the 'Sangeet Natak Academy Award.' He has performed in all major musical festivals in India and abroad including the Festival of India held in the US, Europe, USSR, Canada, Middle East, Africa and Australia, enthralling the audience everywhere. With numerous audio and video recordings, a substantial global following online, and a distinguished performance career in India and around the world, he is widely recognized as one of the greatest sitar-players of the world.
For Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, the Sitar and Self are identical entities, and music is not just a discipline but life itself – vibrating and pulsating and full of colour. The power of his music is most immediately encountered in the highly charged sound quality he conjures from his Sitar and the sparkling intelligence that is the hallmark of his improvisatory music. By sheer precision and an astute artistic sense he has made for himself a place in the limitless, infinite universe of Indian Classical Music.