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We like to remember the 97th birthday of Shehnai legend Ustad Bismillah Khan (03/21/1916-08/21/2006)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on March 21, 2013

English: Photo 1964, by Robert Garfias; Anthro...

English: Photo 1964, by Robert Garfias; Anthropology, UCI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bismillah Khan (Urdu: استاد بسم اللہ خان صاحب‎; March 21, 1916 – August 21, 2006), often referred to by the honorific title Ustad, was an Indian musician credited with popularising the shehnai, asubcontinental wind instrument of the oboe class. While the shehnai had long held importance as a folk instrument played primarily during traditional ceremonies, Khan is credited with elevating its status and bringing it to the concert stage.

He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001, becoming the third classical musician after M. S. Subbulakshmi and Ravi Shankar to be accorded this distinction.

Early life

Bismillah Khan was born on 21 March 1916 in DumraonBihar in northern India. He was the second son of Paigambar Khan and Mitthan. His parents had initially named him Qamaruddin to rhyme with their first-born son Shamshuddin. However, his grandfather, Rasool Bux Khan, the shehnai master of the court of Bhojpur, exclaimed “Bismillah!” (“In the name of Allah!”) at the sight of him and thereafter he came to be known by this name.

His ancestors were court musicians and used to play in Naqqar khana in the princely states of Bhojpur, now in Bihar. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate, Bihar.

At the age of six, he moved to Varanasi. He received his training under his uncle, the late Ali Baksh ‘Vilayatu’, a shehnai player attached to Varanasi’s Vishwanath Temple.

Religious beliefs

Though a pious Shi’ite Muslim, he was also, like many Indian musicians, regardless of religion, a devotee of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of wisdom and arts, and often played at Hindu temples, including the famous Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, on the banks of the river Ganga. He also performed for spiritual master Prem Rawat.

Career

Live in London

Live in London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bismillah Khan was perhaps single-handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument. He brought the shehnai to the center stage of Indian music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai are almost synonyms.

Khan is one of the finest musicians in post-independent Indian classical music and one of the best examples of Hindu-Muslim unity in India. He played shehnai to audience across the world. He was known to be so devoted to his art form that he referred to shehnai as his begum (wife in Urdu) after his wife died. On his death, as an honour, his shehnai was buried with him. He was known for his vision of spreading peace and love through music.

Even if the world ends, the music will still survive.

Music has no caste.

Performance at Red Fort

Naqqar Khana at the Red Fort, Delhi

Naqqar Khana at the Red Fort, Delhi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Khan had the rare honor of performing at Delhi’s Red Fort on the eve of India’s Independence in 1947. He also performed raga Kafi from the Red Fort on the eve of India’s first Republic Day ceremony, on January 26, 1950. His recital had become a cultural part of India’s Independence Day celebrations, telecast on Doordarshan every year on August 15. After the prime minister’s speech from Lal Qila (the Red Fort,) in Old Delhi, Doordarshan would broadcast a live performance by the shehnai maestro. This tradition dated from the days of Pandit Nehru.

Popular culture

Khan had a brief association with movies. He played the shehnai for Rajkumar‘s role of Appanna in the Kannada movie Sanaadi Appanna. He acted in Jalsaghar, a movie by Satyajit Ray and provided sound of shehnai in Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959). Noted director Goutam Ghose directed Sange Meel Se Mulaqat, a documentary about the life of Khan.

Students

Khan seldom accepted students. In 1985 he had a meeting with Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji (the present master of the Namdhari Sikhs), where he saw a talented young boy called Baljit Singh Namdhari playing the tarshenai, and welcomed him as a student. Ustad Bismillah Khan & Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji had great mutual respect for each other. In 1999 he adopted two more tarshenai students, named Kirpal Singh and Gurbaksh Singh Namdhari.

Personal life

On August 17, 2006, Khan was taken ill and admitted to the Heritage Hospital, Varanasi for treatment. He died after four days on August 21, 2006 due to a cardiac arrest. He is survived by five daughters, three sons and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his adopted daughter Dr Soma Ghosh (famous Hindustani shastriya sangeet exponent).

The Government of India declared a day of national mourning on his death. His body along with a Shehnai was buried at Fatemain burial ground of old Varanasi under a neem tree with 21-gun salute from Indian Army.

Legacy

Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, instituted the ‘Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar’ in 2007, in his honour. It is given to young artists in the field of music, theatre and dance.

Awards and recognitions

Awards

Recognitions

Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from

Others include:

Discography

  • Sanaadi Appanna – Played shehnai for Rajkumar‘s role in the movie.
  • Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) – Provided shehnai
  • Maestro’s Choice (February 1994)
  • Megh Malhar, Vol. 4 (the other piece in the album is by Kishori Amonkar) (September 1994)
  • Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (September 2000)
  • Live in London, Vol. 2 (September 2000)

Biographies

  • Bismillah Khan: the shehnai maestro, by Neeraja Poddar. Rupa & Co., 2004. ISBN 81-291-0351-6.
  • Monograph on Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, by Amar jyoti, Shivnath Jha, Alok Jain, Anjali Sinha. Pub. Neena Jha & Shivnath Jha, 2005. ISBN 8175256400.
  • Bismillah Khan and Benaras: the seat of shehnai, by Rita Ganguly. Siddhi Books, 1994.
  • Shahnai Vadak Ustad Bismillah Khan, by Murli Manohar Shrivastava. Prabhat Prakashan, 2009. ISBN 173157359.
  • Bismillah Khan: The Maestro from Benaras, by Juhi Sinha. Niyogi Books, 2011. ISBN 978-81-89738-91-4.
(Source: 03/2013 – Wikipedia.org)

Different Videos at YT: http://www.youtube.com/artist/bismillah-khan

Raga Kalyani = Yaman Kalyan (together with Dr. N. Rajam on violin)

Raga Madhuvanti…

Raga Purab Ang…

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One Response to “We like to remember the 97th birthday of Shehnai legend Ustad Bismillah Khan (03/21/1916-08/21/2006)”

  1. Roshan Francis Martis said

    I have no words to describe the greatness of this man and his music… He is greatness and simplicity personified.

    Like

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