The son of a farmer, Rakha was born in the Phagwal village of Jammu, 80 km from Lahore. Leaving home, at the age of 12, he moved into an uncle's home in Gurdaspur. Inspired by the playing of local musicians, he convinced tabla player Mian Qader Baksh of the Punjab Gharana (school) to take him on as a disciple. He also studied with Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan, who taught him the melodic vocal style Raag Vidya.
Rakha mastered his lessons quickly. By his 15th birthday, he had begun working with a theater company. After working as an accompanist in Lahore, Rakha accepted a position with All India Radio in Delhi in 1936. He remained with the station until 1940 when he became involved with the Hindi film industry as a session musician. He eventually rose to the position of music director for Rangmahal Studios.
Moving to classical music in 1948, Rakha resumed his career as an accompanist. In addition to working with Ravi Shankar throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, he collaborated with sitarist Vilayat Khan and American drummer Buddy Rich, with whom he recorded the East-meets-West album Rich A La Rakha.
Rakha's legacy is continued by his sons Zakir Hussein and Fazal Quereshi. His beloved daughter, Razia, died of a sudden heart attack the night before his own death. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi
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