Even before Ustad* Haafiz Ali Khan gave his Sarod his magic touch at a public performance, the atmosphere used to become electric. He possessed a magnetic presence. Tall, massive fair with a neatly trimmed beard, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan was more than handsome. He was overwhelming with his charming manners and large eyes, as eloquent as his exquisite music which was not just an artistic performance but a form of prayer. No wonder, for every stroke of melody which he produced resulted from a superb combination of
nimble fingers, a clear intellect and a magnificent heart, that could be brought off only by a spiritual
compulsion. Of such stuff is a real musical phenomenon made . Greatness at this level is
essentially an autonomous happening but background help. Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan was born in an
ambience of old-world courtliness and music. His great grandfather came from Afganisthan with a
talent for the Rabab. His grandfather Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan carried on the good work; with his
modifications the Sarod as we know it today came into its own.
He was initiated in the tradition of the senia gharana by Ustad Pyar Khan and Ustad Jafar Khan, direct descendants of the line of Tansen. The influence of the school was passed on to his grandson. This was Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan's rich inheritance. To this was added his grounding in dhrupad and dhamar under the guidance of Shri Ganeshilalji of Mathura, descendant of Swami Haridas, Mian Tansen's guru. And to round it off, he sat at the feet of Ustad Wazir khan of Rampur. The patronage Ustad Haafiz Ali Kahan received from the court of Gwalior subsequently added polish and perfection. The rest was individual talent - the man himself symbolising creativity harnessed to purity. Accolades came in profusion throughout his life.
From audiences who drank in his music with ecstasy,and from public bodies. In The early 1940's he was honoured with the title of Aftab-e-Sarod by the All Bengal Music Conference in Calcutta and Sangeet Ratna Alankar by The Maharaja of Gwalior. In 1952 He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the next year was made a fellow of the Akademi. The Universities of Visva Bharti and Khairagharh conferred doctorates on him, To cap it all came the award of Padma Bhushan in 1960. Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan spanned four generations. Meanwhile, the milieu has changed, so have the tastes and habits of the music buffs. From the glittering courts to public performances in these hard times-its is a strange metamorphosis. the Ustad lived to
transcend it and even after his death in 1972 at the age of 95, his art lives on in the work of his sons- Mubarak Ali Khan, Remat Ali Khan and Amjad Ali Khan.