Cassius Khan

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Cassius Khan, performing at Kollam, Kerala, India

Cassius Khan (born 7 June 1974), is a Juno and WCMA nominated Canadian Indian classical musician known for playing the Tabla while singing.

Early years[edit]

In Vancouver, Canada, the young Khan met Mushtari Begum, a Ghazal singer, Sheikh Mohyudean, a harmonium / Qawaali singer, and Ustad Rukhsar Ali, a Tabla player. Khan mastered the ability to sing Ghazal and play the Tabla simultaneously. Khan's repertoire also include the Tarannum Ang Gayaki while playing the Tabla, and has made this aspect his trademark style. Khan has been crowned as the chief architect in this rare style of performance, and he was crowned "Ustad" or Maestro in 2016 by Pt Salil Bhatt during the 5th Annual Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance in New Westminster, BC, Canada.

Khan's early career met with limited success after the recording and international tour of his first album "Cassius Khan-The Young Tabla/Ghazal Wizard." He would continue on to college and university and had thoughts of pursuing a career in Law or Psychology however due to tough circumstances in his life Khan decided to stick to music. He started by touring the folk festival scene in North America, South Pacific, Europe and South America soloing and collaborating with artists of various genres from around the world as both a Tabla player and vocalist. In his young career and to date, Khan has performed in over 25 countries.


After performing as a sideman in bands for years, in 2001, Khan composed the "Asia Music" for the IAAF World Championships in Athletics under the guidance of composer Jan Randall. The piece he composed gained him international recognition as a soloist and composer. The same year, he was ranked top in the charts of radio stations across Europe and was labelled as “Top 25 World Artists to look out for” by BBC Radio 2.

In 2005, Khan was the only Canadian musician of Indian heritage invited to perform Ghazal and a Tabla solo recital at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as part of Alberta Scene Festival. Khan was then invited by the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival to present his first classical Ghazal and Tabla recital concert in a Canadian Folk festival in 2006. Khan was also among few selected out of 8,000 applicants to showcase Ghazal/Tabla at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas in 2008. That same year Ellen McIlwaine and Cassius Khan were invited to perform for Juno Fest as they were shortlisted for the 2008 Juno Awards for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year and were invited to perform at the Juno Awards in Calgary alongside Ellen McIlwaine. The following year Khan was a featured artist for the Canadian Music Week. Khan's recordings were also selected for the Japan Trade Mission in 2009. Khan is also the first Canadian who performed at the Sa Ma Pa Music Festival at the Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi India on 23 November 2013. Since then, Khan has performed in festivals around the world.

Khan was signed by the Yarlowe Artist Group in 2008 but, in 2009, Khan fired his management and hired Reboot Management in 2016 but terminated their service four months later.

Khan's Ghazal album "Mushtari, a live concert" released in 2011, was nominated for 'World Album of the Year' by the Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMA) and was a tribute to his guru and teacher, the late Mushtari Begum, with a selection of choice classical Ghazals and a tabla solo recital. This was the first ever album recorded in the world with Ghazal and tabla simultaneously by one artist. He also released a tabla solo single titled "Sparks of Energy" in 2011. Both of these albums feature Khan's wife, Amika Kushwaha as the brilliant Harmonium soloist.

Other selected collaborations include the ground breaking collaboration "Dark Clouds" (2006) with Jazz pianist Stu Goldberg ( the lead keyboardist to John McLaughlin's Maha Vishnu Orchestra) a prized collaboration with Slide Guitar legend Ellen McIlwaine to record "Mystic Bridge" which is a ground breaking Blues/Indian music album which was shortlisted for the Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year in 2008 , "I Feel Love Again" (2002) with Mediterranean Guitarist Pavlo, "Mani Licks" (2002) with Heavy Metal/Shredder Guitarist Dan Mani,"A Demon's Dream" (2002) with Acoustic/Electric Guitar wizard Dave Martone, and "The Alchemists" (2002) with Dave Martone, and "Angel of Sevilla" (1990) with the late Spanish Guitarist D'Arcy Greaves.

Khan has also collaborated with the inventor of the Mohan Veena, Grammy Award artist Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Satvik Veena exponent Pandit Salil Bhatt, Kathak artist/Harmonium soloist Amika Kushwaha, amongst other greats of Indian classical music and Ghazal singers. Khan has also worked in television and is featured in a commercial for Nanak Foods as a tabla player who finds musical inspiration after being served the halwa sweet dish by his wife, Amika Kushwaha.[1]


Khan was awarded the 'Salute to Excellence Award' in 2005 by the City of Edmonton for his contributions and honour he had brought in Indian classical music, a Juno nomination alongside Ellen McIlwaine for their album Mystic Bridge’ in 2008, a WCMAward nomination for his album ‘Mushtari-a live concert’ as well as the “Bernie Legge Artist of the Year" by the City of New Westminster Chamber of Commerce in 2019. He has lent his hands and voice to almost all genres of music, from Pop to Rock, to Electronica to Country, to World and Heavy Metal, to Blues and Roots. Khan is also the very first Canadian Indian classical musician to perform fusion collaborations with musicians from all genres of music since 1990 and has been recognized as "Canada's Multifaceted Musician." Khan also performed for the United Nations, WIPO and the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva Switzerland for Namaste Geneva, an initiative created by the Indian Ambassador to the UN, His Excellency Rajiv Chander in 2017/2018.

In the hopes that Indian Classical musicians and dancers have a proper platform for public performance in Canada, he along with his wife, Amika Kushwaha, founded the Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance, debuting on 25 August 2012 at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster, BC, Canada. Already, however, the Mushtari Begum Festival has become recognised as Canada's most elite festival of Indian Classical Music.

A respected critic, Khan has sat on many panels as a judge and has also adjudicated for the Shastri Indo Canadian Scholarship fund. He is also an honorary Cultural Ambassador to the City of New Westminster. He hosted "The Cassius Khan Show-Connecting Classical Music to Your Hearts" on a radio station for a year.

Khan is also endorsed by Sangeet Natak Akademi award recipients, the tabla makers Ustad Qasim Khan Niyazi and Sons in Laxminagar, New Delhi, India as their official spokesperson and is also endorsed by Aman Kalyan’s Lehra Studio apps based in Sydney, Australia. He is also the Curator of the ‘Massey Unlimited Global Tea Series with Cassius Khan’ at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster BC, Canada and was a 2021 Artist Resident at the Anvil Centre in his city, New Westminster. Khan is also a visiting music instructor at the International private Mulgrave School where he teaches young students Indian Classical music.

Personal life[edit]

Khan was born in Lautoka, Fiji in 1974.

Khan takes a major interest in politics, art and sports. He played goal in hockey, was a 100 meter sprinter and enjoyed weightlifting.

Khan refused to perform in Israel in 2009 in solidarity with how Palestinians were treated. He has been publicly critical on his intense dislike to the term World Music and is disappointment on the fact that the Canadian Music scene needs to open its doors to music of non-Western disciplines. He was also critical about the 2005 Albertascene Festival which stirred up a lot of controversy, in which he bluntly told the media about his disappointment on money mismanagement on the festival's behalf as the artists who performed there were misled about receiving music contracts, wages, accommodation and food. He worked undercover for the Edmonton Journal to expose racism in some local nightclubs, which also stirred a lot of controversy at the time.

Khan is an avid Mercedes Benz diesel enthusiast, and has owned a number of the 300D models. His trademark Mercedes are a 1973 W114 220D and a 1992 W124 300D 2.5 Turbo. He also owns a 1991 Nissan Figaro. He also loves to paint stylized Indian art, and has had some of his works on public display in art galleries. Khan has donated a portion of his earnings to orphanages around the world and was the very first human being on earth to donate $10,000.00 of his concert earnings to the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

Cassius's music has been illegally used by Vancouver rapper and composer Pranaam Chin Injeti, who released an entire album, "D'Tach" by stealing Khan's tabla, voice and compositions without his permission.

Cassius received the honorary title of "Ustad" or Maestro for his unique ability to play the tabla and sing ghazal.

Khan lives in New Westminster, British Columbia. He married Kathak dancer Amika Kushwaha in 2006 and are each other's chief accompanists in either her solo Kathak dance concerts or his Ghazal and tabla concerts and teach privately from their home studio.


External links[edit]

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