Friday, June 04, 2010

Bismillah Khan : piper of Benares

Ustad Bismillah Khan (1916-2006) was perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous and popular instrument and bringing it into the mainstream Indian classical music. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai were almost synonymous. Bismillah Khan was born in a small village called Dumraon in the state of Bihar, on November 21, 1916. His early childhood was spent in Benares, on the banks of the Ganga, where his uncle was the official shehnai player in the famous Vishwanath temple. His father was a musician for the Dumraon state.

He started his training under the guidance of his maternal uncle, Ali Bux, at the age of six. He often accompanied him to perform at marriage celebrations or music conferences. Bismillah Khan made a recording for the first time in 1930. However it was sold in the name of a relative, Vilayat Hussain, a more popular musician at the time. He made his first major public appearance in 1930 at the age of 14, when he played along with his uncle at the All India Music Conference in Allahabad. His second performance was at the Music Conference at the Lucknow exhibition, where he won a gold medal for his recital.

Bismillah Khan - Kajri Keharwa :  Download

Bismillah Khan - Chaiti Dhun :  Download

Bismillah Khan - Thumri Bhairavi - Aaye Na Balam :  Download

Bismillah Khan - Dhun (from the film 'Goonj Uthi Shehnai') :  Download

Bismillah Khan - Dhun - Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram :  Download

Bismillah Khan had the ability to produce intricate sound patterns on the shehnai which, till before his time, were considered impossible on this instrument. The Government of India bestowed on him the title Padma Shree in 1961, and later, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. In 2001, he became the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, after M S Subbulakshmi and Pandit Ravi Shankar. Bismillah Khan died of cardiac arrest on August 21, 2006. He was 90. The Government of India declared one day of national mourning on his death, an event unprecedented for any musician.


karma_hard said...

Dear Guptagi,
I have sent u message on esnips regarding mehandi haasan live please please let me know who is the tabla player

Chaitan said...

Thanks for Bismillah khan's posting. His shahanai brings freshness to life, Sweet melodies lifts up the sprit, and a joy creeps up somewhere inside the soul. Indeed a soulful music.

shivaji said...

he was simple and great personality forever..

Anupam said...

Some person never dies. He is alive in our memory

Anonymous said...


soumya ghosh said...

soulful shahnai -- soulful Bismillah --
shahnai without Bismillah Khan is like milk without its whiteness.Shahnai speaks oneness-- Bismillah Khan spills oneness.

Rana Safvi said...

As a 16 year old Bismillah Khan played the shehnai at my mother's Roza Kushai in Baneres, Unfortunately no picture remains. Only memories related by my mother and aunts

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