Ustad Sultan Khan (15 April 1940 – 27 November 2011) was an Indian sarangi player and Classical vocalist belonging to Sikar Gharana. He was one of the members of the Indian fusion group Tabla Beat Science, with Zakir Hussain and Bill Laswell. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honor, in 2010.
He started his career at the radio station Rajkot in Gujarat as a 20-year-old boy. After having spent eight years in Rajkot very happily, he got a chance to play with Lata Mangeshkar during her visit to Rajkot. This proved a turning point for him. Thereafter he was transferred to the Mumbai radio station. Having joined the Mumbai radio he was not only deeply involved with the Mumbai classical music circuit but also with film industry music.
He has won numerous musical awards including, twice, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, also known as the President's Award, as well as the Gold Medalist Award of Maharashtra and the American Academy of Artists Award in 1998. In 1997 he was requested to perform at Prince Charles' 50th birthday celebrations.
He has had the good fortune of accompanying all the great Maestros like Ustad Amir Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pt.Omkarnath Thakur, Ustad Nazakat ali-Salamat ali khan, Kishori Amonkar are the name to few. He is acknowledged both as a Sarangi player and a vocalist & has several albums to his credit.
He has taught music producers such as Sukshinder Shinda and Ram Gopal Varma (who provided the music for his film, Deyyam) to play the sarangi. He had many students, but few gandhabandh disciples are Bollywood music composer & Director Vishal Bhardwaj, Sandesh Shandaliya, composer Ilaiyaraaja, Gurdas Maan, Falu, Anand Vyas, Ikram Khan, Vinod Pawar, Sabir khan, Dilshad Khan, and Deeyah, a Norwegian-born singer, and he performed on her debut album I Alt Slags Lys in 1992. He contributed vocals and sarangi to Dizrhythmia's first LP and Gavin Harrison's 1998 solo album Sanity & Gravity. He sang "Albela Sajan Aayo Re..."along with Kavita Krishnamurthy and Shankar Mahadevan in the Hindi film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 1999. He has also given his voice in films like Maqbool, Kachche Dhaage, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Parzania, Jab We Met, Agni Varsha, Superstar, Rahul and Paanch.
In 1984 the Oscar-winning film “Gandhi” also featured his music and thereafter he recorded for other Hollywood films such as “Heat and Dust” (Merchant Ivory productions). In 1993 he performed along with Ustad Allah Rakha Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain in one of the rooms at the House of Commons where eminent persons were in attendance to witness a rare musical performance at the seat of Government. It was this time whenhe became a regular artist for BBC Radio London. He was also interviewed for the BBC world service and also composed the musical track for the BBC 2 documentary “London Calling”(1997).
The association with Late Ismail Merchant further when Ustad Sultan Khan together with Ustad Zakir Hussain composed the soundtrack for the film “In Custody” and where the musical score adapted to suite a particular genre of the Urdu language. Thereafter Ustan Sultan Khan also composed musical score for another Merchant Ivory production, this time for Channel 4 in Britain, called “The Street Musician of Bombay”.
He has several albums to his credits and he has been applauded by for his performances by Madonna (1997). He also performed in a Sufi Music Festival at the White house in Washington, United States of America (1998).
Ustad Sultan Khan's album Piya Basanti was released in 2000 and it was the number one album of the year. Some of his other famous albums are Ustad & the Divas T-Series, Ustad Sultan Khan & his friends- Times Music, Shoonya - BMG, Bhoomi - Virgin and Pukaar- Sony Music with Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan etc..
British writer Geoff Dyer has said that he is an admirer of Sultan Khan's work, especially his rendition of a Rajastani folk song at the end of a 1991 recording of Rag Bhupali with Zakir Hussain on tabla. He has written of Khan's performance, "It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know - an audible vision of how the world might appear if you were able to purge yourself of all baseness and ugliness."
He is survived by his Wife Bano, son Sabir Khan, who is his disciple and a Sarangi player, two daughters Reshma and Shera. His brother Late Nasir Khan was a Sitar Player and younger brother Niyaz Ahmed Khan is also Sitar player. His nephews are Salamat Ali Khan (Sitar Player), Imran Khan (Sitar player and music composer), Dilshad Khan (Sarangi player), and Irfan Khan (Sitar player). and Grand Nephew Salman Khan (Sitar Player), and Shahrukh Khan (Sarangi Player).
Outside the family he had many students including Ikram khan Vinod Pawar & Dr. Kashyap Dave.
He was undergoing dialysis for the last four years and lost his speech in his last few days. He died on his way to the hospital. The funeral was held in his hometown of Jodhpur, Rajasthan on 28 November 2011. by Hamid Amir.