Late Ustad Sharafat Hussain Khan – Gone But Not Forgotten
Batuk Dewanji pays tribute to the Agra Gharana Vocalist, Ustad Sharafat Hussain Khan, who died in 1984, having received much less than he deserved.
I had my first glimpse of Ustad Faiyaz Khan about 61 years ago at peoples’ Jinna Hall in Bombay, the doyen of the Agra Gharana and the most popular and perhaps the greatest vocalist of his time, a young lad of about 13 years was on the Tanpura, giving vocal support to the Ustad.
Suddenly the Ustad stopped singing and told the youngster to come forward and continue. The young lad picked up the strains of Raga Purvi where the Ustad had left off and sang beautifully like an ustad in the true idiom of the Agra Gharana. He won the hearts of his listeners who vied with each other in extolling the virtues of the young singer and the Ustad patted his back. The boy’s name was Sharafat Hussain.
I was fortunate enough to attend many concerts of Sharafat Hussain after that and was greatly impressed by his music, his personality and humility. During one concert in Bombay, he told his listeners, “I am a non entity. You like my music because you have often heard Ustad Faiyaz Khan, but I am not fit even to polish his shoes.”
Sharafat Hussain was born in a small village called Atrauli in Uttar Pradesh. Many maestros from Atrauli have made their mark in the world of music. To name a few, Ustad Mehboob Khan of the Atrauli Gharana who have composed numarous Bandishes under the name ‘Daras Piya’, Ustad Alladiya Khan of Jaipur Gharana and Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan of Agra Gharana who has also composed music under the name ‘Pran Piya’. These and many other notable musicians had settled down in a locality in Atrauli called Mousiki Mohalla (Music Street).
Ustad Faiyaz Khan who happened to be the maternal grand-uncle of Sharafat Hussain, took him under his wings and taught him the intricacies of classical music. As a result of incessant Riyaz, Sharafat Hussain gained a deep insight into music and his voice gained a rich timber. During thistime he used to accompany Ustad Faiyaz Khan on the Tanpura in many concerts and gained valuable experience in gauging the pulse of the listeners and creating the right atmosphere towards the commencement of a Mehfil.
In due course, Sharafat Hussain gained the stature of an independent vocalist and gave numerous delightful concerts, some of which were memorable. He had a vast repertoire of compositions and used to sing many rare Ragas of the Agra Gharana in an authoritative manner. I still remember his rendering of Raga Malati Basant at the Suburban Music Circle in Santa Cruz. That was the only time I heard this melody at a concert. The Khem Kalyan and Ramdasi Malhar he sang on the radio many years ago are fresh in my memory. He recorded 2 LPs and in one of them he sang Raga Hussaini Kanada with pristine purity.He was proficient in Thumris and Dadras as well. In a concert at Akash Ganga in Bombay, he first elaborated the Darbari Raga, bringing out the majesty of the melody with consummate skill and then immediately switched over to a Jaipuri Mand which was a riot of colors.
His favourite Thumri was Babul Mora Naihar Chhuto Jaye composed by Wajid Ali Shah at the time of his banishment by Company Sarkar. The poignancy and pathos in Sharafat Hussain’s rendition of this Bhairavi song was heart-rending.
Sharafat Hussain had Taleem from Ustad Vilayat Hussain and Ustad Ata Hussain Khan. The latter was the brother-in-law of Ustad Faiyaz Khan. He was a singer of no mean caliber and used to give vocal support the maestro in concerts. Due to certain reasons, Ata Hussain parted company with Faiyaz Khan and settled down in Culcutta along with Sharafat Hussain.
During latter years of his life, Sharafat Hussain settled down in Atrauli. He preferred its quiet atmosphere and the surrounding countryside to the glamour of the big cities. He was also extremelyfond of Shikar (hunting) and fishing.
There are some artists who receive much more then their due by way of appreciation or
monetary gains and there are others whose merits are never fully recognized. Sharafat Hussain belonged to the latter category.
In 1984, Sharafat Hussain was stricken with lung cancer and he died on July 7. Who knows, had he lived longer he might have received the acknowledgment he so rightly deserved.
– Batuk Dewanji.
Links to some references
1. Discography of Ustad Sharafat Hussain Khan
2. Archival Audio