This illustrious gharana (stylistic school or lineage) extends multiple generations into history, in India and now Pakistan. It began primarily as vocalists, and later into a lineage of sitarists including Ustad Ashraf Sharif Khan, his father Ustad Mohammad Sharif Khan and grandfather Ustad Rahim Bakhsh Khan. As many gharanas established their names with a geographic location, Poonch Gharana began to become established in Poonch (in Jammu and Kashmir) as Rahim Bakhsh was a court musician for the maharaja, and later Sharif Khan.
Stylistically, the Poonch Gharana of Sitar playing is rooted in the Etawah Gharana (also known as Imdadkhani), as Rahim Bakhsh was a disciple of Ustad Imdad Khan, one of history’s most pivotal sitar players. With Rahim Bakhsh, the lineage converted to sitarists.
Then Sharif Khan learned from his father and became a disciple of Ustad Enayat Khan, the son of Imdad Khan. Sharif Khan also mastered the Vitchra Veena. The mastering of Veena influenced his unique character, accent and flavour of sitar. As well utilizing two mizrabs, as used for Veena, on sitar instead of only one, thus further developing characteristics of the Poonch Gharana. Tragically, he passed away too young, rushing to train his son Ashraf Sharif Khan before succumbing to illness.
Despite his father’s early passing, Sharif Khan successfully trained Ashraf Sharif Khan into a virtuoso and he became a prodigy at a young age. Today, Ashraf Sharif Khan is the torchbearer, carrying on the legacy as an internationally performing musician, based in Europe and Pakistan. Ashraf Sharif Khan regularly performs throughout the world, sharing the rich tradition of Ragas in South Asian classical music, as well many world music and fusion groups.
Recently, he designed a modification to the headstock of the sitar (with the sitar maker Shahidali based in Miraj, India), by removing one of the tuning pegs and shifting the Baaj tuning peg to the side. Providing ease to tuning adjustments, while preventing it from being pulled out by extended string bends.