Gwalior: The Musical Capital of India - March 2008
The City of Gwalior is famous as an ancient seat of culture with a colourful history going back to the sixth century. Due to its location in the heart of India, it has been a melting pot of cultures and civilizations. This synthesis has manifested itself in a highly developed musical tradition. I feel highly spiritually uplifted to realize that I was born in the same town where the saint musician like Tansen was born and even his Samadhi is also in Gwalior. His spiritual guru, Mohammed Ghaus’s tomb is also in the same premise which is a yet another beautiful testimony of the workmanship of the mogul era, although it needs a lot of maintenance even today. In fact, all my fore fathers who had came to India from central Asia in the mid-1700s eventually settled down in Gwalior. The ancestral house in Gwalior where I was born is now known as Sarod Ghar- Museum of Musical Heritage. In this Museum, wherever you look, there is Rhythm and Sound…" The museum houses a collection of old and contemporary instruments, belonging to great and illustrious musicians of the past, on which they pursued their practice. It also has my first sarod on which I began my musical lessons from my father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan saheb. Their immortality is thus enshrined in this institution. Sarod Ghar also houses an impressive collection of photographs and documents. Work on compiling a database on classical music in the form of books, articles, audio and audio-visual recording is in progress. The road on which the museum stands has been named Haafiz Ali Khan Marg by the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.

As a humble representative of the legacy of Tansen and his guru Swami Haridas of Vrindavan, I feel sad that the govt. of India has not given a proper tribute or respect to this great musician whose singing and music had a magical effect that would lit up lamps and sometimes make rainfall happen. Today we are celebrating sixty years of India’s independence, so many political parties in Madhya Pradesh ruled the state but no one thought of building an academy or institution in the name of great Tansen.

For the present generation, I must introduce Tansen, who was among the nine jewels of emperor Akbar in the 15th century, born in Gwalior in 1606, reaching the pinnacle of fame in the court of Akbar. Gwalior produced maximum number of musicians in India, one could always compare Austria, Germany or Russia with Gwalior because maximum number of composers and conductors like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky belonged to these countries.The city of Gwalior has been historically fortunate to have great rulers who have always been encouraging creavtive artists. But due to some political reasons the destiny of this cultural humble town changed and Bhopal was declared as the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Other great masters who belonged to Madhya Pradesh are Pyaar Khan Saheb, Jafar Khan Saheb, Haddu Hassu Khan saheb, Nathu Khan Saheb, my older brothers Rehmat Ali Khan Saheb and Mubarak Ali Khan Saheb, Shanker Rao Pandit, Rajab Ali Khan Saheb, Krishanrao Shanker Pandit, Parvat Singh, Madhav Singh, Raja Bhaiyya Poonchwale, Amir Khan Saheb, Abdul Haleem Jafar Khan, Kumar Gandharva, Kishore Kumar and our very own nightingale Lata Mangeshkar.

I was very happy when Bharat Bhawan, a cultural institution (I wish this could be called Tansen Bhawan) was inaugurated by shrimati Indira Gandhi ji. The credit goes to Shri Arjun Singh who was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh at that time. It is my sincere feeling that for the growth of art and culture of Madhya Pradesh, the trustees of Bharat Bhawan should only be people from the creative field of India.