Last year, when I was putting together the series on roads and other public spaces named after Hindustani musicians, I had not come across any public sites named after the Agra gharana luminary Vilayat Hussain Khan, a key figure in the propagation of Hindustani music in Mumbai. But a few days ago, I learnt that a junction in the northern suburb of Andheri (East) in Mumbai had been named after him in 2011.

This is as a welcome gesture, even though it would perhaps have been more appropriate to have chosen a road in the southern part of the city, closer to Khan’s home, for this purpose.

Earlier, this column has briefly included information about the life and contribution of Vilayat Hussain Khan and his music. Not only had Vilayat Hussain Khan inherited a wealth of traditional repertoire from 42 musicians, he was also a prolific composer and used the pseudonym Pran piya in the song-text of his compositions.

As a guru, Vilayat Hussain Khan had trained several disciples, many of whom went on to become celebrated performers and composers. The name Pranpiya Gayanacharya Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan Chowk given to the junction is indicative of both these roles.

But it is equally important to note Vilayat Hussein Khan’s involvement in two other matters. The first was a rare initiative of bringing together hereditary musicians in order to form an organisation that would popularise musical performance and music education in Bombay. In 1936, he along with other reputed musicians started the Sangeet Pracharak Mandal. Alladiya Khan was nominated as the president; Azmat Hussein Khan, disciple of Altaf Hussein Khan, Alladiya Khan and Vilayat Hussein Khan, was the secretary; Shantaram Telang and Anwar Hussein Khan were the deputy secretaries, and a disciple of Vilayat Hussein Khan was appointed as treasurer of the Mandal.

The Mandal held monthly programmes and members were confident with the progress they had made. They were certain of future success. But problems arose within the organisation due to differences with the treasurer. Eventually, a new music circle called Gayan Vardhak Sanstha was established to carry forward the task that the Mandal had embarked upon, but apparently this did not meet with any success either.

The second significant issue that Vilayat Hussain Khan aligned himself with was a musicians’ protest launched against the procedure followed by a specially appointed panel for auditioning performers for broadcasts on the All India Radio. Regarded as arbitrary and disrespectful, the procedure adopted by this panel headed by noted scholar-musician SN Ratanjankar was opposed by musicians through a musicians’ organisation called Sangeet Kalakar Mandal that was set up in 1953.

Vilayat Hussain Khan was president of the Mandal and a joint decision was taken to stop broadcasting and to picket outside the Mumbai radio station until the policy was replaced with one that treated musicians with respect. The agitation ended in 1955 and a settlement was reached. The audition policy was altered to incorporate a screening process which was not demeaning to performers.

The fact that such an organisation had been set up and that a countrywide agitation took place to register musicians’ protest would seem alien to those musicians today who often go public with their opinions about national and state politics but do not take a stand on issues that directly impact their lives.

Before we end this episode, here are a few tracks featuring his vocal recitals. Vocal accompaniment on all tracks is provided by his son Yunus Hussain Khan.

The first is a recording of his performance for the Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan held in 1961. He sings Komal Rishabh Asavari, a raag prescribed for the morning. Beginning with an extended aalaap or introductory section to the raag, he continues with a composition set to the seven-matra Roopak taal.


The next two tracks include raags that are rarely heard in performance today. The first of three these is Lankadahan Sarang from the Sarang family of raags prescribed for the afternoon. Vilayat Hussain Khan begins with an aalaap followed by a vilambit or slow composition set to the 16-matra Tilwada and a fast or drut composition set to the 16-matra Teentaal.


In the raag Hem Kalyan, Vilayat Hussain Khan sings a vilambit composition composed by Niamat Khan “Sadarang” set to the 12-matra Ektaal followed by a self-composed drut composition in Teentaal.


One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.