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Ustad Vilayat Khan, 76; Leading Indian Sitar Player, Composer

March 16, 2004|From Associated Press

Ustad Vilayat Khan, one of India's leading sitar players, died Saturday at Bombay's Jaslok Hospital. He was 76.

Khan had lung cancer, diabetes and hypertension, the Press Trust of India reported.

He was born in Gouripur, a village that is now part of Bangladesh, into a family of musicians that traced its lineage six or seven generations back to the Moghul courts and ultimately to Miyan Tansen, the court musician of the Emperor Akbar of the late 16th century.

Since his first major public appearance in Bombay in 1943, Khan recorded extensively and toured South Asia, China, Africa, Europe and the Soviet Union.

He made the United States his second home, and was a frequent guest lecturer at Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, Calif. He also composed music for Satyajit Ray's classic film "Jalsaghar" and for Ismail Merchant and James Ivory's English film "Guru."

Khan was credited with creating his own style of playing sitar, a traditional Indian string instrument popularized worldwide by Ravi Shankar. He was credited with introducing a vocal style in sitar playing, which gave the audience a sense that the instrument was singing.

Khan complained that his contribution to music wasn't given due recognition by the government. He turned down national awards in 1964 and 1968, saying that members of the award committees were not competent to judge his music.

He is survived by two wives, two sons and two daughters.

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