Encourage women in classical sufi music: Zila khan

New Delhi: She was chosen as the heir to carry forward her family`s rich legacy of sufi music, but eminent singer Zila Khan says it is still a herculean task for most women to break the glass ceiling in musical families and carve a niche for themselves.

"I was chosen by my father to carry on a tradition that was hundreds of years old. I was lucky I was blessed with the talent and a father who gave me the opportunity to explore, but the same can`t be said of all women born into musical families," says Khan, daughter of pre-eminent sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan.

Khan was addressing a lecture on the relevance of the girl child in musical families, attended by Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Farooq Abdullah and Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia Najeeb Jung here recently.

Born into a lineage comprising seven generations of sitar maestros, Khan earned the distinction of being the only woman so far from her family to have learnt music formally from her father and performed publicly.

The sufi singer, while attributing her success to her musician father, said he might have been a "purist" in his music but not orthodox in his thinking, which worked to her benefit.
"His music was a reflection of his lifestyle. He believed in equality and had faith in the fact that I could carry forward his bloodline and work for the over all benefit of music," she said.

Saying that women still had a long way to go before being treated on par with men in the classical music arena, she urged musicians to encourage their daughters to enter the tradition.

"For a woman, financial independence is really important and if she chooses to achieve this through music her family must support and encourage her. I was the first woman to learn and perform music in the tradition of Imdadkhani gharana. If I could break free of stereotypes and prove my mettle, I believe every woman can," she said.

Khan performs with her vast range of musical forms, like qaul, qalbana, gul, and others and her performances have the guiding presence of the gayaki tradition.

The musician set up a music school Ustadgah in state-of- the-art gurukul at Panchsheel which also has a digital archive, art gallery, library and a resource centre. The school also trains musically talented students from underprivileged background. In 2006, Khan made an award-winning documentary on the life and music of her father Ustad Vilayat Khan`s life, called "Spirit to Soul".

Zila was in the national capital to announce the launch of the Delhi chapter of Abbas Tayyab ji educational and charitable trust.

Meanwhile, santoor player Satish Vyas a Padma shree awardee, who was also in the capital recently says the basic requirement for any musician is talent and grooming.

"I find today the picture is more encouraging than it was in the olden times. More women are coming forward in this profession and in centres like Mumbai, Pune Kolkata, Chennnai etc there are quite a few women performers who have made their mark and are sought after," he said.