Ustad Nisar Hussain Khan was one of the last gharanedar ustads of Hindustani classical music. Born in 1906, in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, his early training from the age of five was under his famous grandfather, Ustad Haider Khan whose ustad and cousin was Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan. Inayat Hussain Khan, in his turn, had learnt from the rababiya, Bahadur Hussain of the Senia gharana whose taranas were later popularised by Nisar Hussain. However, the major part of Nisar Hussain`s training was from his own father, Fida Hussain Khan.
Held as a phenomenon when he gave his first recital at the age of 11, Nisar Hussain Khan went on to receive a scholarship from the maharaja of Baroda. His father was simultaneously appointed court musician, enabling him to look after his son and put him through a gruelling training schedule for many years thereafter. By the age of 18, he had become such a confident singer that the maharaja of Baroda appointed him a court musician – a post which he held for nearly three decades.
He received all his taleem within his family circle and inherited a rich stock of ragas, bandishes, khayals, and taranas. Inspired by the masterly sitar playing of Ustad Imdad Khan, he felt inspired to enrich the tarana, borrowing from Imdad Khan’s sitar jhala. Nisar Hussain`s Rampur-Sahaswan gharana was enriched also by contact with musicians of the Gwalior and Agra gharanas. The former influence came through Ustad Haddu Khan, who was the father-in-law of Inayat Hussain Khan, who himself went on to become Nisar Hussain`s father-in-law and the latter, through Ustad Faiyaz Khan, one of the most revered court musicians of Baroda.
By the 1940s Nisar Hussain had become a very well-known broadcaster and concert-artiste. After he left Baroda, he settled down in his quiet birthplace Badaun in U.P from where he continued teaching, performing and broadcasting for AIR. He had definite ideas about an artiste`s life and art, and was strictly of the view that only an artiste who leads a clean and disciplined life and has an upright character, can become a high class musician.
Among his earlier disciples were his sons in law, Hafeez Ahmed Khan, Ghulam Akbar Khan, his cousin Ghulam Mustafa Khan and his own sons, Sarfaraz Hussain Khan and Zulfiqar Hussain Khan.
Nisar Hussain`s last years were spent in the security and comfort of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Calcutta, where he had joined as a senior resident guru in 1977. Here he groomed some of his disciples including the now reputed Rashid Khan. Honours came to him in abundance such as the U. P. and Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards, a Doctorate from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Tansen Award from the Government of M.P., the ITC Award, the Padma Bhushan and invitations from Nepal and Afganistan.
Nisar Hussain Khan Saheb continued to perform till the end of his days and will long be remembered for his rich, resonant voice cultivated through years of arduous training, his robust and forceful gayaki with its amazing virtuosity and his peerless tarana-renderings. He died in Kolkata on July 16, 1993.