A young boy, at a very tender age, hears a very touching gramophone record being played in a music shop.He is so much fascinated by the voice, that he leaves the house, runs away without a single penny in his pocket to find a teacher who will teach him this divine art.This little boy was, todays most famous Indian classical vocalist,Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, and this divine record was sung by, Late Ustaad Abdul Karim Khan Sahib.
Very few musicians in India had the divine voice quality;among them, one was Abdul Karim Khan Sahib.Along with vocal music, he was a gifted Been ,Sarangi and Tabla player.He was born in 1872 at Kirana, a place in North India in a musical family.Initially he was a Sarangi plyayer but then changed his focus to the vocal music.If one is asked to list down the singers who had most soothiing voices, no one will challenge the position of Ustaad Abdul Karim Khan at the top of it.His voice was very much delicate and filled with the divine nectar.
He was the first north Indian musician who deeply studied the Karnatak style of Indian Classical Music.His style of singing Sargam was much in accordance with the Karnatak style.He had very minute knowledge about the various notes and his voice could put them in front of the people very clearly and with ease.He has also contributed much to Marathi Devotional music and Natya Sangeet(Music which was used in stage plays instead of dialogs.)
The significance of work of a musician can be mapped on three parameters-
1.The quality of music
2.Disciples produced by the musician
3.Contribution to the growth and awareness about the music.
Work of Abdul Karim Khan is literally immeasurable on all these three parameters.Quality of his music was so much divine that many respected scientists,philosophers,social activists in India were in love with him and did not miss his single concert.C.V. Raman,Lokmanya Tilak and many such eminent personalities were his fans.Devotional songs sung by him could bring tears in eyes of listeners.Bhimsen Joshi turned out to be a musician only after listening to his miraculous voice.
If we consider the list of disciples of Ustaad ji, we can find very respected and well known names in it.Savai Gandharva,Suresh Mane,Hirabai Badodekar are just few of these names.And this generation again produced an unending list of talented artists such as Pt. Bhimsen Joshi,Gangubai Hangal, Firoz Dastur, Manik Verma etc.Abduk karim Khan started Arya Sangeet Vidyalay at Pune where he himself taught music and free accommodation and food was provided to needy.He spent most of his concert earnings on parenting the needy students.He settled in Miraj afterwards, where he used to organize a grand music festival.A large number of saints were fed free of charge and also, many musicians were promoted through this platform.
He had a huge number of followers in South India where his lovers used to arrange a procession of him with garlands all over his body. Inspite of all this, he lived like a saint.After having a look at his mystic eyes, Annie Besant enquired a disciple if Khan Sahib was a drug addict.The disciple answered, he is addicted to only one thing-music.
In 1937, he was visiting pondicherry.He was feeling uncomfortable so left the train and started singing prayer in Raag Darbari Kanada and while singing the divine song, left his body.
We are really fortunate that his records are available and we can experience the divinity through his records.