Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan

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Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan
Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan 01.jpg
Background information
Born(1927-02-18)18 February 1927
Jaora, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died (aged 89)
Mumbai, India
Genres Hindustani classical music
Occupation(s)Sitarist, Composer, Innovator, Author
Instruments sitar
Associated actsNikhil Banerjee, Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Julian Bream, Dave Brubeck, Zunain Khan

Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan (18 February 1927 – 4 January 2017) was an Indian sitar player. Khan received the national awards Padma Shri (1970) and Padma Bhushan (2006) and was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1987. [1] [2]


Early life

Abdul Halim was born in 1927 in Jaora (35 km away from Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh) as the son of Jaffer Khan, a versatile vocalist, sitarist and beenkar. He belonged to the Beenkar Gharana of Indore and was an All India Radio artiste since the early 1940s. [3] A few years before the Beatles met Ravi Shankar, in 1958, Khan collaborated with jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. Brubeck who was in Bombay through the U.S. State Department sponsored Jazz Ambassadors Program was impressed by the improvisation in Indian music and said that the experience accompanying Halim Jaffer Khan led him to play in a different way. Brubeck says of that meeting, "We understood each other." Khan also performed with the noted English classical guitarist Julian Bream in 1963.[ citation needed ]


Khan is known for his own style Jafferkhani Baaj. [4] He describes it as, "a synthesis of precision in technique, systematic thought" [5] with a vigorous playing style. Cultural anthropologist and reader at the University of Mumbai, Dr. Kamala Ganesh states: "His music making is full of eclectic yet deeply informed choices. He is a thinking musician but puts across his complex views with a simplicity and feeling which demarcate the articulate performer from the articulate theoretician.... In him, one gets an unmistakable sense... a syncretic tradition". [6] The Indian santoor player Shivkumar Sharma remembers of Khan's performance of the raga Chhayanat: "It was probably in 1955–56, I was relaxing in my terrace in Jammu. In the stillness of the night I heard the notes of Raga Chhayanat on the sitar emanate from my neighbor's radio. I immediately noticed that the tone of the sitar was completely different and the style of playing radically unique. I rushed to switch on my radio.... I was totally engrossed and was very curious to know who this maestro was." [7]

Khan has been credited with bringing Carnatic ragas Kirwani, Kanakangi, Latangi, Karaharapriya, Manavati, Ganamurti, and others into the sitar repertoire, rendering them through a Hindustani sensibility and in the Jafferkhani style. He was the first Hindustani musician to collaborate with Carnatic music in a performance with renowned Veena player Emani Sankara Sastry [ citation needed ].

Khan was also involved with Indian cinema. Music Director Khwaja Khurshid Anwar introduced him to the Hindi film industry in 1946 at the age of 17 when he played sitar in the songs of film Parwana . He also composed and played for films like Mughal-e-Azam , [8] [9] Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1971), Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959), Kohinoor (1960) and collaborated with noted music directors such as Vasant Desai, C. Ramachandra, Madan Mohan and Naushad who has said, "he not only enriched film music, but his participation lent prestige to my songs." [10]

In 1976, Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan created the Halim Academy of Sitar in Mumbai, India.[ citation needed ]

Sitarist Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan at the Halim Academy of Sitar with Chief guest, Sarodist Amjad Ali Khan, and philanthropist and Chair of Dr. Sushilarani-Baburao Patel Trust, Neela Shinde Halim Academy of Sitar.jpg
Sitarist Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan at the Halim Academy of Sitar with Chief guest, Sarodist Amjad Ali Khan, and philanthropist and Chair of Dr. Sushilarani-Baburao Patel Trust, Neela Shinde


Khan died on 4 January 2017, at his home in Mumbai, India, from cardiac arrest, aged 89. [11]

Works and awards

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Narrated by violinist Yehudi Menuhin, Deben Bhattacharya's film Raga features a young virtuosic Halim Jaffer Khan playing raga Sindh Bhairavi.

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  7. Khan, Abdul Halim Jaffer. Jafferkhani Baaj: Innovation in Sitar Music. Kohinoor Printers, 2000.
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Further reading