Bismillah Khan (Urdu: استاد بسم اللہ خان صاحب; March 21, 1913 – August 21, 2006) was a legendary Indian musician of the wind instrument the Shehnai which he popularized and brought it to a pinnacle of glory and for which he got the honorific Ustad prefixed to his name. The Shehnai, which was a folk instrument played primarily during traditional ceremonies was elevated to the status of playing solo on the concert stage. During his life time he was one of the few artists who received all the four Padma awards, and topped with the India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001. He was a pious Shi'ite Muslim, but an Indian devotee of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of wisdom and arts. He often played at Hindu temples, including the famous Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi on the banks of the river Ganga.
- Music lets me forget bad experiences. You cannot keep ragas and regrets in your mind together.
Harihar Swarup (1 January 2010). Power Profiles. Har-Anand Publications. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-81-241-1525-1.
- After a year and half Mamu told me if you see anything don’t talk about it. One night I was playing deep in meditation. I smelled something. It was an indescribable scent, something like sandalwood and jasmine. I thought it was the aroma of Ganges but the scent got more powerful. When I opened my eyes , there was Balaji standing right next to me, exactly as he is pictured. My door was locked from inside; nobody was allowed to enter when I did riyaz. He said ‘play my son’ but I was sweating. I stopped playing.
- Khan used to do riyaz (practice) before the temple of Balaji as advised by his mamu (maternal uncle) who had also told him not talk to any body about anything that might happen. But when he told his mamu about his seeing Balaji, mamu was annoyed and slapped him.
- If music is haraam then why has it reached such heights? Why does music make me to soar towards heaven? The religion of music is one; all other are different. I tell the Mullas that this is the only haqeeqat (reality). This is my world. My Namaaz is the seven ‘sudh’ [pure] and five ‘komal’ [soft] surs
- His reply to the hardliner Shia mullas who wanted to ban music.
- Allahee...Allah-hee... Allah-hee....I continued to raise the pitch. When I opened my eyes I asked them: Is this haraam? I am calling the God. I am thinking of him. I am searching for Him. Why do you call my search haraam?
- In reply to the Shia Maulvis in Iran who were arguing with him that Music should be banned, he sang the song in Raag Bhairavi and posed a question to them to which they had no answer.
Encyclopedia of Bharat Ratnas
Murthi, R.K.. Encyclopedia of Bharat Ratnas. Pitambar Publishing. pp. 215–216. ISBN 978-81-209-1307-3.
- God knows no religion. God belongs to mankind. I realized this while playing at the Balaji temple.
- I wish I could hold a concert....It is unfair that the Shehnai is not played at concerts. Why should not the Shehnai be played at the concerts?... Then let me do it now. Let me break tradition....May Lord Balaji help me.
- When he was perturbed at not being invited to play in concerts when other instrumentalists held solo performances, and it is when Lord Balaji whispered in his ears “All good things begin with Shehnai”.
- Tradition takes time to change. But it changes, all right. All that I have to do is to keep trying.
- Sukriya. An image can never be the real thing. Varanasi is where the Ganga flows, where I can play the Shehnai for Lord Balaji. I shall be at home, nowhere else but in India.
- When he was asked to stay back in America following his concerts there, even with a promise that a Varanasi would be replicated for him there.
About Bismillah Khan
- Khan saheb’s music has found its way, penetrating barriers of religion, caste and class, to the hearts of millions of our people, uniting them in a shared ecstasy....He has never accepted that there is any contradiction between music and his religious faith, rather he sees perfect unity , a connection between the two....
- K.R .Narayan, former President of India quoted in Ahuja, M. L. (2006). Eminent Indians : Musicians. Rupa & Company. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-81-291-1015-2. </ref>
- Along with the steady diet sitar, sarod, and tabla, several new instruments and players came to my attention. The first of these was Ustad Bismillah Khan, master of the sonorous double-reed instrument known as shehnai. This beautiful wind instrument, with finger holes and a bell-shaped opening at the bottom, sounded to me like a hybrid of sopranosaxophone and oboe, and Bismillah Khan’s tone very much influenced what Coltrane and Terry Riley would do with the soprano sax. Primarily used at weddings, the shehnai had been rejected as a classical instrument until Bismillah Khan elevated it to a higher status among listeners. His unique fingertips and sublime breath control produced the necessary range of sounds for raga making shehnai one of the more popular instruments in North India.
- These are the people who made the instrument become identified with them. If you said shehnai, you said Bismillah Khan. You did not say anybody else, it became synonymous.
- Zakir Hussain, the famous tabla player quoted in "The Dawn of Indian Music in the West" page=121
- Ustad Bismillah Khan’s specialization lies in his ability to produce intricate sound patterns on the Shehnai, which was hitherto, considered impossible on this instrument.
- I just acted in the role but Ustad Bismillah Khan is the real soul of the film. He gave life to the character I played in the film.
- Raj Kumar in whose film Sanadi Appanna Khan had given the background music in Shehnai.
- He was the undisputed jewel in the crown of Indian music; one who will not be born in the next few centuries. He gave a new meaning to shehnai.
- He did not even leave his favourite Banaras where the notes of his shehnai wafted across the Kashi Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan temples and intermingled with the placid waters of the Ganga,"
For the Pakistani cricketer, see Bismillah Khan (cricketer). For the Afghan army officer, see Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.
Ustad Bismillah Khan (21 March 1916 – 21 August 2006) (born as Amiruddin Khan), often referred to by the honorific title Ustad, was an Indian musician credited with popularizing the shehnai, a subcontinental 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.
Khan was born on 21 March 1916 in a family of traditional Muslim musicians in Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, Dumraon, in what is now the eastern Indian state of Bihar, as the second son of Paigambar Baksh Khan and Mitthan. While named Amiruddin at birth his grandfather Rasool Baksh Khan exclaimed "Bismillah" and thereafter he came to be known by this name. His father was a court musician employed in the Dumrao palace by the Raja of Bhojpur. His great grandfather Ustad Salar Hussain Khan and grandfather Rasool Baksh Khan were also musicians in the Dumrao palace.
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.
The Government of Bihar has proposed setting up of a museum, a town hall-cum-library and installation of a life-size statue at his birthplace in Dumraon.
Khan was a pious Muslim, and was also a symbol of communal harmony. He also performed for spiritual master Prem Rawat.
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 the almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai are almost synonyms.
Khan is one of the finest musicians in Indian classical music. He played the shehnai to audiences 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.||”|
Performances at Red Fort
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 26 January 1950. His recital had become a cultural part of India's Independence Day celebrations, telecast on Doordarshan every year on 15 August. 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 Jawaharlal Nehru.
Khan had a brief association with movies. He played the shehnai for super star Dr.Rajkumar's role of Appanna in the Kannada movie Sanaadi Appanna which became a blockbuster. 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. In the 1967 film The Graduate, there is a poster advertising "Bismillah Khan and the seven musicians" on a busy street of Berkeley, California. The most recent use of his shehnai music in a Hindi film was in Rockstar (2012).
Khan seldom accepted students. He thought that if he would be able to share his knowledge it wouldn't be useful as it would only give his students a little knowledge. Some of his followers include S. Ballesh, as well as Khan's own sons, Nazim Hussain and Nayyar Hussain.
On 17 August 2006, Bismillah Khan was taken ill and admitted to the Heritage Hospital, Varanasi for treatment. He died after four days on 21 August 2006 because of a cardiac arrest. He is survived by five daughters, three sons and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his adopted daughter Soma Ghosh (a 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.
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
Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from
- Sanaadi Appanna – Played shehnai for Rajkumar's role in the movie.
- Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) – shehnai recitals throughout the movie for Rajendra Kumar's role.
- 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)
- Contributing artist
- 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
- ^ ab"Virtuoso musician who introduced the shehnai to a global audience". The Independent. 22 August 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- ^ abc"Indian music's soulful maestro". BBC News. 21 August 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
- ^ abMassey, Reginald (22 August 2006). "Bismillah Khan". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
- ^ ab"Ustad Bismillah Khan passes away". ITC Sangeet Research Academy. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
- ^ abBismillah Khan: The Shehnai Maestro by Neeraja Poddar, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2004.
- ^"Ustad Bismillah Khan's Birthplace in Bihar faces wrath of negligence". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
- ^Bismillah Khan Performs Music For Guru Maharaji Prem Rawat on YouTube
- ^"A Dying Fall: Is the shehnai on its way out?". The Indian Express. 2017-02-12. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- ^Lalithaa Krishnan (20 August 2009). "Clear and sparkling". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
- ^"Ustad's son chosen to carry on his legacy". The Times of India. 23 August 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- ^"Ustad Bismillah Khan hospitalised". Times of India. 17 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
- ^"Bismillah Khan". Personalities. webindia123.com. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
- ^"India mourns legendary musician". BBC. 21 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
- ^Sangeet Natak Akademi, Youth Awards, Feb 2007[dead link]
- ^ abc"Padma Awards"(PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original(PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- ^"Standard IX Textbook – Step to English, Chapter 13: Shehnai Maestro Bismillah Khan"(PDF). National Council for Education Research and Training. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2006-09-21.
Bharat Ratna laureates