Amir Ali's mother died when he was nine years old. He had a younger brother, Bashir, who became a sarangi player at the Indore station of All India Radio. He was initially trained in the sarangi by his father. However, seeing his interest in vocal music, his father gradually devoted more time to vocal training, focusing on the Merukhand technique. Amir Ali was exposed at an early age to many different styles, since just about every musician who visited Indore would come to their house, and there would be mehfils at their place on a regular basis.
Also, he learnt the basics of tabla playing from one of his maternal uncles, who was a tabla player. Amir Khan developed his own singing style, influenced by the styles of Abdul Waheed Khan (vilambit tempo), Rajab Ali Khan (taans) and Aman Ali Khan (merukhand). This unique style, known as the Indore Gharana, blends the spiritual flavor and grandeur of dhrupad with the ornate vividness of khyal. He presented an aesthetically detailed 'badhat' (progression) in 'ati-vilambit laya' (very slow tempo) using bol-alap, followed by gradually speeding up sargams with various ornamentations, taans and bol-taans, including Merukhandi patterns, and finally a 'madhyalaya' or 'drut laya' (medium or fast tempo) chhota khyal or a ruba'idar tarana. He also introduced an uninterrupted concert style where one raga would flow into the next.
He had a rich baritone voice with a three-octave range. His performances had an understated elegance, reverence, restrained passion and an utter lack of showmanship that both moved and awed listeners. According to Mohan Nadkarni's book "Great Masters: Profiles in Hindustani Classical Vocal Music", while Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's music was extroverted and exuberant, Amir Khan's was an introverted, dignified 'darbar' style. Amir Khansahib believed that poetry was important in khyal compositions, and with his pen name, Sur Rang ("colored in swara"), he has left several compositions. Amir Khan helped popularize the tarana, as well as khyalnuma compositions in Persian.
He often used the taals Jhoomra and Ektaal, and generally preferred a simple 'theka' (basic tabla strokes that define the taal) from the tabla accompanist. As in the case of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan's initial sarangi training was important in establishing him as a great singer. Even though he had been trained in the sarangi, he generally performed khyals and taranas with only a tanpura and tabla for accompaniment. Sometimes he had a subdued harmonium accompaniment, but he almost never used the sarangi. Characteristics of his style include: * slow-tempo raga development * improvisation mostly in lower and middle octaves * tendency towards serious and expansive ragas * emphasis on melody * judicious use of pause between improvisations * bol alap and sargam using merukhand patterns * sparing application of murki * use of kan swaras in all parts of performance * controlled use of embellishments to preserve introspective quality * rare use of tihai * careful enunciation of text of bandish * actual bandish as sung may or may not include antara * multiple laya jatis in a single taan * mixture of taan types in a single taan * use of ruba'idar tarana (considered similar to chhota khyal) Besides singing in concerts, Amir Khan also sang film songs in ragas, in a purely classical style, most notably for the films Baiju Bawra, Kshudhita Pashan, Shabaab, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, and Goonj Uthi Shehnai.
He also sang a ghazal 'Rahiye Ab Aisi Jagah' for a documentary on Ghalib. Khansahib's disciples include Pandit Amarnath, A. Kanan, Shankar Mazumdar, Srikant Bakre, Singh Brothers, Mukund Goswami, Gajendra Bakshi, Kankana Banerjee, Pradyumna Kumud Mukherjee and Poorabi Mukherjee, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Akhtar Sadmani, Amarjeet Kaur, Ajit Singh Paintal, Bhimsen Sharma, Munir Khan, and Kamal Bose. His style has also influenced many other singers and instrumentalists, including Prabha Atre, Bhimsen Joshi, Rashid Khan, Mahendra Toke, Shanti Sharma, Rasiklal Andharia, Gokulotsavji Maharaj, Nikhil Banerjee and the Imdadkhani gharana. Although he referred to his style as the Indore Gharana, he was a firm believer of absorbing elements from various gharanas. Amir Khan was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1967 and the Padma Bhushan in 1971. Khansahib died a premature death in a car accident in Calcutta, and was buried at Calcutta's Gobra cemetery. References: Wikipedia contributors, "Amir Khan," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amir_Khan_(singer)&oldid=482288055 (accessed March 24, 2012).
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