Ustad Vilayat Husain Khan (1895-1962) was one of the greatest figures of the Agra Gharana, who excelled both as singer and teacher. He was the fourth son of the legendary singer, Natthan Khan. After he lost his father at the age of six, he was looked after by his relatives, Kallan Khan and Mohammad Baksh, durbar musicians in Jaipur and received his initial training from them. In 1914, he moved to Mumbai to live with and learn from his older brother, Mohammad Khan. Here his gurus also included Ghulam Abbas and Tasadduk Khan.
Vilayat Husain Khan had documented the names and materials of 42 gurus, including Ustad Faiyaz Khan, from whom he took taleem in the course of his distinguished life. He inherited, imbibed and developed a style which was both individualistic and representative of the Agra Gharana. Khan Sahab, was a bridge between the last phase of the Durbar music and the modern period. His music was steeped in Sangeet Vidya (the science of music) and authentic `gayaki`.
Khan Sahab had a large repertoire of compositions in dhrupad, dhamar, khayal etc and his renditions were marked by distinctive extempore bol-bant and fine layakari. He composed bandishes in many ragas including some very rare ones under the nom-de-plume `Pran Piya`. He also composed rubaiyat, nazm, marsiya and soz under the pen name, `Shafaq`. He also authored “Sangeetagyon ke Samsmaran”, a collection of biographical sketches of a large number of musicians. His significant contribution has been in the Drut-Chhota Khayal in some uncommon ragas, in which till then, only Vilambit Khayals were available. His command over difficult and complicated ragas made them seem deceptively easy.
Khan Sahab had several disciples in Maharashtra, and the region owes its eminence in Hindustani music to the work of generous teachers like him. Some of his well known students were Mogubai Kurdikar, Jagannathbuwa Purohit (Gunidas), Menaka Shirodkar (mother of Shobha Gurtu), Ram Marathe, Gajananrao Joshi, Sumati Mutatkar, as well as his sons in law, Sharafat Hussain Khan and Latafat Hussain Khan and his son, Yunus Hussain Khan. His most famous guru-shishya relationship was with Jagannathbuwa Purohit and each of them composed several bandishes dedicated to the other.
He was a court musician of Mysore for sometime and also lived in Kashmir for a while, as tutor to the young prince Karan Singh. After independence, he was appointed as a Sangeet Salhakar (Advisor) to All India Radio, Delhi. Ustad Vilayat Husain Khan was conferred the title of `Sangeetacharya` from Mysore Darbar and received the `Sangeet Ratnakar` from Allahabad Sangeet Parishad.