Sitar Star

One of the world's pre-eminent sitar players, Imrat Khan once taught the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Now he teaches at Washington University.

Khan's last public performance was more than two years ago, and so his appearance this week at the Ethical Society of St. Louis marks the rarest of chances to hear a true master, a true musical treasure. The event will feature his sons Nishat and Shafaatullah on sitar and tabla, respectively, as well as Shahbaz Hussain on tabla. The event is presented by Khan's own cultural organization, the Surbahar Foundation; proceeds will be given to the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, administered by the Red Cross. "I started the Surbahar Foundation five years back," Khan says, "but I never had the opportunity to develop it because I've been traveling and have so many other obligations. But finally we planned this concert, and then the terrible events of Sept. 11 happened. All of my friends said, 'Why don't we do it as a benefit?'

"I don't want to give concerts a lot," Khan continues. "I want to present my music as it needs to be presented. I have to give so much time to the sitar and surbahar, and to my students. Those who are called masters, the real ones, they never think of themselves as masters. I have given all my life to learning the tradition. But I am learning every day, even from my students who call me master."

As important as Imrat Khan is as a musician, his greatest achievement, perhaps, has been his teaching.
Jennifer Silverberg
As important as Imrat Khan is as a musician, his greatest achievement, perhaps, has been his teaching.

"Ustad doesn't just teach me how to play," says his student Anujah as she gently sets down her sitar, "he teaches me a whole way of life."

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