It Was A Challenge For Any Singer To Follow Guruji’s Performance, Says Rashid Khan’s Former Disciple Sucheta Bhattacharya As Maestro Passes Away In Kolkata

It Was A Challenge For Any Singer To Follow Guruji’s Performance, Says Rashid Khan’s Former Disciple Sucheta Bhattacharya As Maestro Passes Away In Kolkata

The Indian music industry lost another star as vocalist par excellence Ustad Rashid Khan lost a prolonged battle with prostate cancer and breathed his last on Tuesday (January 9, 2024). The maestro died at a hospital in Kolkata. He was 55 years old.

www.connectedtoindia.comUpdated: Wednesday, January 10, 2024, 03:48 PM IST
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Blessed with a baritone voice, Khan was the 10th generation face of the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana, who had enthralled music lovers across the globe with his singing style and renditions.

Connected to India reached out to Sucheta Bhattacharya, a former disciple of Ustad Rashid Khan and a renowned music teacher based in Singapore.

Bhattacharya first met Khan in 1991 and started her musical journey under his tutelage. The guru was only 22 years old, but even then he was a force to be reckoned with. As a young student herself, Bhattacharya found her guru to be a humble, down-to-earth man, who, despite his growing reputation, kept things simple. Excerpts from her account of Rashid Khan:

Sucheta Bhattacharya, a former disciple of Ustad Rashid Khan and a renowned music teacher based in Singapore. Photo credit: Sucheta Bhattacharya

Sucheta Bhattacharya, a former disciple of Ustad Rashid Khan and a renowned music teacher based in Singapore. Photo credit: Sucheta Bhattacharya |

My elder brothers have sacrificed a lot for my music training and wherever I am today is because of them. It was boro dada’s (eldest brother) idea to train with Rashid Khan. One day he said, “How about getting her trained by Rashid Khan?” Mejda (middle brother) agreed and said, “Okay, let me get in touch.” Then my Mejda met Rashid Khan and Ustadji agreed to teach me. The year was 1991.

He was very young at that time and was an upcoming singer, and he was performing in a lot of shows and was well regarded for his singing style.

I met him for the first time inside the ITC Sangeet Research Academy. He was wearing a pair of trousers and a kurta. I went and touched his feet. He said that his tuition centre was far away from there. It was far into the interiors of Tollygunge, where he conducted his classes. It was his friend’s house as he didn’t have a place of his own.

The first day, he asked me to sing and I sang a classical song. He then asked about my previous training. I told him about the gurus and he said “thik ache” (okay), then he taught me Raag Yaman that day.

He was also busy at that time. He was constantly travelling to Bombay (Mumbai) and Bangalore (Bengaluru) and seldom had the time. But he used to teach us during whatever spare time he had.

A lot of students from in and around Barrackpore (her father’s place), Ichapur and Shyamnagar, would also travel to take training from him. He always had a lot of affection for me, and understood my style and talent. However, our training was affected due to lack of continuity.

He was travelling constantly and didn’t have a fixed place for these classes. It would always be someone’s home where these classes would take place and it was difficult to contact him at times, as there was no mobile phone back then.

We even dialled the residence of Ustad Nisar Hussain Khan, his grandfather, who lived in the Sangeet Academy quarters and Rashid ji would stay there mostly. But we wouldn’t get a proper response. Still, the training was going on and I learnt slowly.

He was such a humble, down-to-earth man. He would constantly hum a composition. Even while travelling in a taxi, say while we’re travelling with him, he would keep on humming the composition.

Then he got married. I think it was 1992. So I went to meet him one day with my brother and he said, “Janis toh, amar biye hoye geche.” (You know, I got married) He had also bought an apartment then and wanted to start his musical classes.

He used to call me Mamoni, which is my pet name. He was going to Bombay for a show and had a request for my brother. He asked him to let me stay at his residence in his absence to give company to his newly married wife. I didn’t carry any dress with me. My brother said I would come back the next day with my mother.

It was a Sunday when I met Guru Maa for the first time. The next day my mother took me to Guruji’s flat and I stayed with Guru Maa for a fortnight. She loved me a lot. She asked me to call her ‘Maa’.

Guruji’s apartment didn’t have a telephone then. An adjacent apartment had one and the call would be made there, and they would inform Guru Maa about it and she would go and talk to him on the telephone.

Guruji asked Guru Maa to tell me to stay with her for a few more days, but I couldn’t as I had to attend a rehearsal for an upcoming show.

I had visited their residence several times after that but couldn’t continue my lessons. He was busy and slowly I was getting busy as well. Amid all these, I lost my father. I got married after that and moved to Delhi.

I met ustadji again in 2004 at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi. I got a ticket and went to listen to his performance. One thing about ustadji, it was a challenge for any artiste to follow his performance.

I once listened to him sing Raag Bageshri at Shrirampur Sangeet Samaj, it was unparalleled. The atmosphere he created with his rendition is still etched in my memory. He could connect with the gods while singing.

He was truly blessed. He was so talented and had boons from the gods themselves. So young and talented and received so many awards at such a young age.

Coming back to the Habibat Centre, I met him in the green room and he was surprised. He said, “Tor biye hoye geche?” (You got married?). He was taken aback as we didn’t have any connection for so long. We spoke about Guru Maa and he said she remembered me and would be able to recognise me. That was also our last meeting.

I have been living in Singapore for a very long time and haven’t been able to catch up with him since.

I love Aaoge Jab Tum from the film Jab We Met, which was sung by him. More than that, I love his classical and semi classical compositions like Tu Jag Me Sharam Rak (in Raag Yaman), his rendition of Yaad Piya Ki Aaye, Tore Bina Mohe Chain Nahi (Raag Kirwani). All his songs are phenomenal.

Bhattacharya is associated with the Global Indian International School, Singapore, as a music teacher and also teaches music at the Singapore Bangladesh Society.

She and her husband also run Indian Music and Arts- a music school based in Singapore.

The account was narrated to CtoI Senior Correspondent Sudipto Maity in Bengali and has been translated into English.

(The article is published under a mutual content partnership arrangement between The Free Press Journal and Connected To India)

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