Dilli Gharana defines music as the highest form of meditation

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Sumana | Date 24-02-2024
Ustad Tanveer Ahmed Khan
Ustad Tanveer Ahmed Khan


Sumana Mukherjee / New Delhi

Blessed were the childhood days when a toddler used to wake up to the melodies of Sufi songs created by mythical lyricist Amir khusrau hundreds of years ago. Ustad Tanveer Ahmed Khan was recalling his childhood days in his joint family full of brilliant classical maestros who were dedicated to keep their century old music legacy alive.

Being obsessed with nostalgia, Ustad Tanveer Ahmed khan, the Classical genius said that his family passionately carried the age-old legacy of Dilli Gharana which was created by the legendary singer, musician, poet and scholar Amir Khusrau some 850 years ago. Dilli Gharana is considered to be the oldest ever Gharana of classical music.

Talking with Awaz Ustad Khan said that his formal education in music widely known as Taaleem started at the age of 5 and his father Ustad Naseer Ahmed Khan was his first teacher. He added “Life could not be more rewarding for me when my father, a talented classical singer became my Guru but destiny had decided something else.”

Ustad Tanveer Ahmed as a judge in a musical show in Delhi

Happy days could not last long for Ustad Tanveer Ahmed as he lost his father due to some severe illness in the year 1986. After this heartbreaking incident, his grandfather Ustad Usmaan Khan Sahab played a crucial role to motivate him. He said “after father’s demise, my grandfather took the whole and sole responsibility of teaching me music. He was my second music Guru who inspired me to face the challenges of life.”

Ustad Usmaan Khan Sahab continued to teach him till he breathed his last in 1988. Hardships and real-life challenges could have stopped him from learning music but he was destined to be winner and music was in his blood. After his grandfather’s death he was given the ‘Pagri’ or the whole and sole responsibility to continue with the inheritance.

Talking to Awaz, Ustad Tanveer Ahmed said, “it became my responsibility to carry on with the family legacy of keeping the Dilli Gharana music alive. Being a teenager, I could only understand that I need to dedicate my whole life to glorify the oldest Gharana in coming days.”

His uncle Ustad Zafar Ahmed Khan Sahab appeared as the redeemer for him at the crucial period when he had to struggle very hard.

Tanveer Ahmed Khan with Kathak Guru Pandit Bijru Maharaj

“My uncle Ustad Zafar Ahmed Khan Sahab started teaching me music and I continued my studies and fulfilled my family responsibilities as well. My mother Mushtari Begum and my two younger siblings were dependent on me and it was my responsibility to make them feel secured.”

For this music maestro responsibilities since a tender age did not make him weaker but he rather emerged as a stronger personality in life. He expressed his gratitude to the lord saying “I was strong enough to carry on with my music, studies and duties.” He could continue his studies till the 10th standard in order to get completely absorbed in music. Along with music he continued to work as a helper in shops to support the family.

Along with uncle Ustad Zafar Ahmed Khan Sahab he was also trained by Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan. After a prolonged struggle, the year 1991 came as a turning point in his life. He secured first position in classical music competition arranged by the Sahitya Kala Parishad and being the winner, he was entitled to receive a scholarship amount of Rs 1000 per month for the next three years. That was the first time ever he achieved success in life and then another turning point came when he was selected by the HRD for his excellent performance and he received another scholarship in 1994.

Tanveer Ahmed Khan with Sitar Maestro Padma Bhushan Pt. Debu Chaudhary 

HRD scholarship of Rs 3000 pm paved the way for success for him and he could overcome the financial constraints that he had to face over the years.

Life started paying him back after so many years and Ustad Tanveer Ahmed Khan achieved the greater heights of fame what his family had always dreamt about.

While talking to Awaz he could not restrain his emotions recalling his mother's happiness after seeing her son making his marks in the world of classical music. He said “Ammi feels so happy and proud after seeing my achievements”.

Tanveer Ahmed Khan during a stage show in Delhi

He added “by God’s grace both my brothers have now established themselves in the world of classical music.  I feel so contented when I see them earning respects in the world of classical music. My younger siblings are twins and one of them, Imran Khan is a renowned classical singer and the other one Kamran Khan is a respected Tabla Maestro.”

Being asked about the speciality of Dilli Gharna, Ustad Khan said “Dilli Gharana emphasizes on Khayal Gayaki which is imagination based. The mystic poet Amir Khusrau was a spiritual disciple of Sufi Saint Nizamuddin Auliya and that inspired him to create melodious Khayal Gayaki that could help the devotees to connect to the divine. It is basically a form of prayer that comes from the soul.”

Ustad Tanveer Ahmed continued “the most amazing is, he had the excellent capacity to create such tunes that could easily hypnotize the listeners and it still has the same impact on the audiences. Khayal Gayaki and other forms of music like Tarana, Qawwali, Qualbana, Naqsh all are taan based and possess sweet notes. The legendary maestro of Mughal court Miyan Tansen founded the Gwalior Gharana which is 500 years old and 850 years old Dilli Gharna, being the oldest among all is the most treasured one.”

Tanveer Ahmed Khan singing Thumri with Ustaad Iqbal Ahmed Khan

While talking to Awaz, Khan Saheb expressed his pleasure that the younger generation is taking much interest in classical music.  Ha said “I feel so glad when I see young students are coming in maximum number to take admission in the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts

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When he was asked whether music may go beyond the barriers of religions, languages and social customs, Ustad Tanveer Ahmed Khan smiled and answered “we say that music is the easiest way to connect the divine because it comes from within. When you have a pure soul then your prayers reach its destination and gets answered. My father told me once that music is the highest form of meditation in which you need to be absorbed to get connected with the almighty.”