Ahmed Jan Thirakwa biography

Ahmed Jan Thirakwa

Hindustani classical music, Musical Artist

1892 – 1976


Who was Ahmed Jan Thirakwa?

Ahmed Jan Thirakwa Khan was an Indian tabla player, commonly considered the preeminent soloist among tabla players of the 20th century, and among the most influential percussionists in the history of Indian classical music. He was known for his mastery of the fingering techniques and aesthetic values of various tabla styles, technical virtuosity, formidable stage presence, and soulful musicality. While he had command over the traditional tabla repertoire of various gharanas, he was also distinguished by the way in which he brought together these diverse compositions, his reinterpretation of traditional methods of improvisation, and his own compositions. His solo recitals were of the first to elevate the art of playing tabla solo to an art in its own right in the popular mind. His style of playing influenced many generations of tabla players.

Thirakwa Khan-sahib was born to a family of musicians in 1874 [this year of birth is contested by a number of scholars and students of Hindustani classical music; e.g., Kumarprasad Mukhopadhyay in his "Kudrat Rangibirangi"] in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India. Although his early musical training was in Hindustani vocals and the sarangi, his interest in tabla was aroused when he heard Munir Khan. He became Munir Khan's disciple at the age of 12. For a long time, he played in the court of the Nawabs of Rampur and during this time, came in close contact with the maestroes of Agra, Jaipur, Gwalior and Patiala gharana - both vocalists and instrumentalists. On very few occasions, he rendered Bandishes in his own voice but this was only in the company of extremely close compatriots and admirers.As an accompanist, he was equally loved respected and admired by his peers, elders and juniors all of whom were not from the schools of classical music. One noteworthy artiste in this category of admirers was the great Rabindrasangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra.


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Jan 13, 1976

on July 23, 2013