Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, the youngest of the “sitar trinity” of Hindustani classical music, after the legends Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan, recently celebrated his 85th birthday.
Son of the late Ustad Jaffer Khan, a popular beenkar, singer and sitarist of the Indore Beenkar gharana—the style of performance made famous by Ustad Bande Ali Khan and Murad Khan—Abdul Halim has earned national and international acclaim with his musical accomplishment. Since the 1940s he has been a distinguished performer on All India Radio; he daringly and innovatively pioneered the Jafferkhani Baaj in Sitar playing and made famous his perceptions on innovation in music through his unique style. The evolving of this playing style that brings simultaneous use of two strings leading to the production of harmonic notes and a range of echoes, brought him many accolades. He has been in the forefront of adapting ragas from Carnatic music to Hindustani music, introducing popular ragas like Kharahapriya, Keeravani, Latangi, and Shanmukhapriya. while reviving obsolete ones such as Champakali and Rajeshwari. His repertoire and rendering of these ragas on the sitar through a Hindustani sensibility brought him in contact with the veena maestro Dr. Emani Sankara Sastry and thus set the stage for a Hindustani-Carnatic music collaboration.
His musical innovations and experimentations paved the way for musical collaborations with the Dave Brubeck Quintet, the international Jazz ensemble. Abdul Halim’s collaboration with the famous English guitarist Julian Bream in the early 1960s was also well received. On a national level, he has worked with some of India’s famous film music composers like Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Naushad and C Ramchandra, creating some memorable melodies.
A recipient of the title ‘Tagore Ratna’ from the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India, Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan continues to tutor students from all over the world, along with his son Zunain Khan, at his Halim Academy of Sitar which he founded in 1976.