The History of the Sham Chaurasia Gharana | Blog | Sufiscore
Blog Feb 4, 2021

The History of the Sham Chaurasia Gharana

An exclusive glimpse into one of Pakistan's most legendary musical families
The History of the Sham Chaurasia Gharana

In an exclusive interview with Faizan Ali Khan of the Sham Chaurasia Gharana, the team at Sufiscore learnt about his family history, the evolution of their music and their mission for the future.

The family history dates back to the early 16th Century, the era of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The founders of the gharana were Mia Chand Khan and Mia Suraj Khan, who unbeknownst to them, began a legacy that would entertain and astound future generations of musicians around the world.

In those times, the style of singing was called Dhrupat and this style continued for approximately 400 years. In the 19th Century, the style developed into Khayal and this evolution was ushered by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. The Khayal style of singing is prevalent all over the Indian Sub-continent and partly owes credit to Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and his gharana.

The Sham Chaurasia Gharana is a large family of singers and musicians, with each member having their own unique style and instrumental expertise. Ustad Salamat Ali Khan had four brothers, Ustad Zakir Ali Khan, Ustad Akhtar Ali Khan, Ustad Tassaduq Ali Khan and Ustad Nazaqat Ali Khan, who all represented the 11th generation of the gharana.

The next generation was led by Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan whose brother Latafat Ali Khan also sang. The most recent generation of the gharana is led by Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan. Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan is the youngest of his brothers but was chosen to be the custodian of the gharana by his father  Ustad Salamat Ali Khan.

In recent collaborations with Sufiscore, the gharana has been able to put their mission on the mainstream stage. With a historic collaboration with esteemed singer Shafqat Amanat Ali in October last year, the gharana gained awareness around the world. In Pakistan however, Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan is a revered superstar, with fans of music packing into arenas, and sometimes even sitting beside him on stage, to catch a glimpse of his voice in action.

 

Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and his eldest son Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan
— Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and his eldest son Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan

The 13th generation is further bearing the torch for the gharana’s incredible tradition and culture. Four cousins, Shujat Ali Khan, Nadir Ali Khan, Bakht Ali Khan and Faizan Ali Khan all sing and bear the responsibility of the family on their shoulders.

When asked about his view on classical music, Faizan Ali Khan says his “ancestors have done so much for classical music and the culture associated with it. Their efforts cannot be neglected and it is (their) duty to carry on the tradition to the next generation”.

Classical singing is the predominant feature of their performances, to maintain the essence of music that embodies their family. This is highlighted in the recent performances on Sufiscore by Faizan Ali Khan and Shujat Ali Khan. By combining their classically trained voices with modern instrumentals, fascinating fusions are produced that appeal to both the old and new generations of music lovers.

The determination to focus on classical music ties in with the mindset to carry on the responsibility of the family. Faizan says, ‘It is the sacrifice to chose classical but it is also the foundation of music. It has to continue’.

This past year Faizan and his family have been fortunate and deserving of a huge increase in following. ‘Live and melodious music has captured everything’ as people turned to music during periods of lockdown. Faizan continues,’In this phase, people have learned to listen to good music, for the calmness of the mind. People are loving classical music so much more’.

The gharana begins 2021 with Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan’s captivating cover of Agar Mujhse Mohabbat Hai. With a generation of young, determined voices and an iconic custodian in Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan, the Sham Chaurasia Gharana is sure to do wonders for generations to come.