Moujuddin Khan (1875-1926), known as the ’emperor’ of thumri and dadra, was born at Nalagarh in Punjab, and died in Benares. It is said of Moujuddin Khan that India has not produced another thumri singer like him. Nobody knew his gharana, people used to whisper he had no training, but when he would start a thumri, his superb rendering would sway the entire audience through his singing of a single line. He learnt music initially from his father Ghulam Hussain Khan, then from Bade Dunni Khan, Rahimat Khan and Bhaiya Ganpat Rao. He did not like school and spent more time over music. In 1901 the family settled in Benares, where his father was given a position in the Durbar.
Moujuddin Khan was proficient in pure and light classical music and began to sing in concerts from the age of 15. At a very young age he became addicted to wine and women, and he was also fond of expensive clothes and perfumes. Once Bhaiya Ganpat Rao attended his concert and liked his singing. He persuaded and helped him to settle in Calcutta. Moujuddin Khan was then 25 years old. Calcutta, at that time, was famous for great singers like Gauhar Jan, Malka Jan, Badi Moti Bai and many others. Soon he joined this group and began to teach them thumri, dadra, hori, kajri, bhajan etc. He was involved in a one-sided and unsuccessful affair with Malka Jan, who in turn was in love with the master of the Agra gharana, Ustad Faiyaz Khan.
It is believed that around 1907, Gauhar Jan brought him to the studios of the Gramophone Company for cutting records. This was to help him out financially. He cut nine records for the Company and a couple of records for the Nicole Record Company. At the end of some songs, listeners from the studio audience can be heard shouting ‘Wah Wah Moujuddin, Wah!‘ His powerful fast taans and delicate thumris made him famous in the music circles. His voice was on the high-pitched side and some found it fairly feminine in timbre.
Around 1920, his father and Bhaiya Ganpat Rao passed away. There was no family life to occupy him, and as a result he became more and more addicted to alcohol and ultimately died in 1926. What is left today is the music preserved in over 10 gramophone records and a lone photograph that shows him wearing a fur cap. Though little is known about Moujuddin’s family, it is a well-known fact that Jaddan Bai of Allahabad and Badi Moti Bai of Benares were his prominent disciples.