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Sitar maestro Ustad Raees Khan passes away in Karachi

KARACHI: The nation was deprived of another classical music legend on Saturday as one of the most outstanding sitar players Ustad Raees Khan passed away in Karachi after protracted illness.

He was 77 at time of demise and left behind a wife – famed singer Bilqees Khanum – and four sons.

Khan was born in Indian city of Indore on Nov 25, 1939 in a family of musicians. He belonged to Mewati Gharana of Indian classical music and started learning music from his elders at a very young age.

His maternal grandfather Inayat Ali Khan was also considered one of the finest sitar players in the subcontinent. He received teachings from his uncle Ustad Vilayat Khan, who was also a great Sitar player.

Started playing sitar at a very young age, one account suggested that he was barely three-year-old when his father gifted him a sitar.

Besides being a brilliant sitar player, the deceased was also a vocalist of high merit. He would often sing a composition to illustrate the raga he was playing. One of his early major performances was at the Sunderbai Hall.

After marrying Bilqees Khanum (his second wife) in the 1980s, Ustad Raees migrated to Pakistan and  received a warm welcome here. He gave one great performance after another and regularly attended and participated in classical music concerts in Pakistan.

Khan had also been awarded Pride of Performance by the government. His son Farhan Raees is also a revered musician and excelled in his ancestors’ tradition of sitar playing.

On many occasions, Khan was seen playing sitar with his son Farhan. He encouraged young artists with all his heart and always lent them a helping hand.

Apart from performing at a number of concerts as a solo artist, Ustad Raees collaborated with legendary shehnai player Ustad Bismillah Khan on stage.

Famed writer Anwar Maqsood appeared unhappy over lack of coverage by media on passing of the legendary sitar maestro. “God had given him a rare gift. His fingers had that rare touch. I have a number of recordings of his performances. He may be physically no more, but he is with us”, said Maqsood.

The All Pakistan Music Conference’s Ayla Reza was also distraught. “There are a handful of artists who achieve such greatness in their lifetime. He was known not just in the subcontinent, but was famous across the world”, said Ms Reza.

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