His mellifluous voice was appropriate for performing light and light classical music, a talent well used to ride the tide of fame in the 1960’s music scene, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan was among the stars of Patiala Gharana. He was awarded the Pride of Performance honour by the government of Pakistan in 2009.
Prized for his vilambit (introductory slow music in the classical music of India and Pakistan) and characteristic singing with Akar (sustained singing with the vowel ‘A’), Amanat performed all classical genres with ease. He however, never performed Taans (singing rapid melodic passages using vowels).
Amanat Ali Khan was a part of significant lineage. Born in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, he was the son of Akhtar Hussein Khan and grandson of Ali Bakhsh Jarnail (General) , both of whom served at the Princely State of Patiala as cherished vocalists. Khan was the great grandson of Ustad Bade Mian Kālu. He was the older one of male siblings Fateh Ali Khan and Hamid Ali Khan.
Amanat Ali Khan and Fateh Ali Khan were trained by their father and received accolades from Patiala’s Princely Court. Since their first appearance on the classical music scene, in India during their childhood years, they became known as the talented duo and performed together throughout Amanat Ali’s life. Fateh Ali Khan reminisced their glorious debut in 1945 in Lahore sponsored by influential connoisseur Pundit Jeevan Lal Matto. Another significant breakthrough came at the All-Bengal Music Conference in Calcutta in 1949, when Amanat Ali was 17 and Fateh Ali was 14, after which they was no looking back.
Patiala Gharana is purely a Khayal gharana from Punjab. They were the disciples of five different gharanas including Tanras Khan of the Delhi Gharana. Ali Bakhsh Jarnail and Fateh Ali Karnail (though not brothers) were the founders of the Patiala Gharana and were fondly known in Punjab as AliaFattu. It is a common practice in gharana gayeki to keep their unique musical style within the family. But AliaFattu were not among such. It was perhaps their homage to their own ustads (masters) that they decided to teach music to artists from across India.
Most of the disciples of Patiala Gharana came under the tutelage of Fateh Ali Karnail. And he trained hundreds. Among his disciples were Kasur Gharana’s prominent, names Ali Bakhsh Khan and his younger brother Kalay Khan. Also Ali Bakhsh Khan’s two extremely talented sons, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and his son, Barkat Ali Khan. In late 20th century, the Patiala style of Khayal vocalism was thus represented by two streams of the gharana. One stream gave the music world the Amanat Ali and Fateh Ali duo and the other, through its training of Kasur Gharana vocalists, produced Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, his brother Barkat Ali and the former’s son Munawar Ali Khan.
Ustad Amanat Ali Khan was quick-witted and a charmer. He was also a very handsome vocalist of his time, that coupled with his charisma and unique renditions made him a centre of attention. Exuding an aristocratic appeal, he made a niche among the classical virtuosos of his time. Always prime in his crisply embellished Kutras, with side-slid necklines, made him stand out from among his peers.
Ustad Ghulam Haider Khan remembers that upon arriving to Pakistan and settling down in Lahore Ustad Amanat Ali Khan was conflicted. They had sacrificed so much and life in Pakistan could not afford him the luxurious lifestyle that he was accustomed to. His father had to teach in Lahore’s red-light area. This in turn made Amanat haughty and outspoken. Haider Khan further states that the prodigy’s family had paid special attention to his upbringing. His mother reared him as a prince and he was aware of his good looks.
His maternal uncle, the great Ustad Umeed Ali Khan of Gawalior coached him in the arts of donning clothes, speaking and behaving like a classical singer. Ustad Ghulam Haider views that all these things gave young Amanat Ali Khan an often-empowering feeling of entitlement.
He wanted more from life, or was eager to prove that he was capable of more. He was a dynamic artist in his time and would hang out with writers, journalists and intellectuals at the famous Pak Tea House on Mall Road Lahore and play billiards at Laxmi Chowk.
Ustad Amanat Ali Khan’s wish to become a Film star wasn’t fulfilled but his friend Saifuddin Saif, gave made him record a hit song, Piya nahi aaye, composed in the Raag Kalavati, with Noor Jehan in the film Darwaza.
Forty-three years after his demise, the magic of his brand of Khayal and ghazal gayeki is unfailing and continues to mesmerize us. Some of his haunting scores are Dil me meethe meethe phool khile, Khamaj thumri, Milan rut aai, Kab Aoge, and the national song Ae watan pak watan.
At age 45, Insha ji Utho ab kooch karo was the last ghazal Ustad Amanat Ali Khan recorded before his untimely demise in 1974, only a couple of months after his father’s death, due to appendicitis which he didn’t want surgically removed. Amanat Ali Khan left three sons Amjad Amanat Ali Khan, Asad Amanat Ali Khan and Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan.